Toy Retailers Should Prepare for the Long Holiday Season

Holiday toy research already underway

Author: Toby McKenna, SVP Advertising, Bazaarvoice

October 9, 2017

This post was contributed and sponsored by Bazaarvoice.

It wouldn’t be the holidays without children making their lists and checking them twice. With shopper spending expected to approach $930 billion in total 2017 holiday sales, according to eMarketer estimates, it’s clear advertisers and marketers will have a head start if they align data powering campaigns when and where consumers begin researching toys.

In the months leading into the holiday season, consumers begin product research in order to find safe, high-quality toys for their little ones. We dove into our unique shopping data, based on traffic trends that we tracked throughout the 2016 holiday season on our network, to unearth the biggest takeaways for toy brands and advertisers in 2017. Here’s what we found out.

In September 2016, toy promotions ahead of the holiday season helped spur 74% more traffic than what is typically seen on brand and retailer websites during that month.

Holidays see large shopping increases starting with Halloween at 2.6X (or 260%) typical traffic, Thanksgiving at 5.9X, Black Friday at 6.2X, and Cyber Monday at 4.2X. Interestingly, Black Friday yielded 38% more traffic than Cyber Monday did, revealing a blurring of lines between the traditionally separate brick-and-mortar and “online-only” shopping milestones.

However, the Thanksgiving sales weekends were merely a kickoff to the longer toy shopping season as pageviews didn’t truly peak out until the week before Christmas with the final rush maxing out at 8x typical traffic – much higher than Thanksgiving weekend sales – with the final rush on December 26th for after-Christmas sales and gift card spenders.

A Checklist for Advertisers and Marketers

Get an early start. The shopping season formally begins with the release of the Fall Toy Preview, an industry event at which companies preview their hot toys for the holidays. This milestone sparks initial product research, with pageview traffic to brand/retail websites steadily increasing throughout the fall.

The pre-Thanksgiving peak. The vast majority of holiday shopping interest gains momentum the week before Thanksgiving (and the subsequent Black Friday milestone).

Due to the long shopping and consideration phase for this category, advertisers should look to be in-market with their campaigns early in the fall to influence consideration before shopping season kicks into high gear. The 2018 Fall Toy Preview took place last week (Oct. 3-5), so advertisers should expect an increase in toy interest then.

Reviews matter. With product information (quite literally) in the palms of their hands, parents and heads of households rely on research to find the perfect toys for their little ones. With children’s shifting tastes and safety in mind, parents spend even more time and effort gathering information on toys than they might for other purchases. In fact, the typical holiday shopper will research toy purchases over the course of six days. More than half of all toy shoppers, both online and off, read product reviews before making a purchase.

Given the importance of word-of-mouth when it comes to toy purchase decisions, marketers should promote and elevate review content in their creative.

Don’t underestimate the long shopping season. Shopping for this category extends well beyond Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which merely serve as the kickoff to peak holiday shopping season. An increase in web traffic continues throughout the month of December with volume growing towards the end of the holiday sale season. In fact, the week before Christmas drove 110% higher traffic volumes for brands and retailers when compared to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Traditionally, Black Friday and Cyber Monday existed as concentrated promotional windows for marketers. Digital media and online shopping have upended this model, allowing shoppers to get ahead of their toy purchases or wait until the very last minute. For toy retailers to succeed today, they should seek to influence consideration and conversion throughout the long season and be prepared to target and convert shoppers at all stages.

Check out our “Holiday Headquarters: An Overview of Toys & Games” for additional insights on the toys and games category. This infographic will help you learn more about this important season and how Bazaarvoice can help.