One third of e-commerce companies are opting out from peak season activities, new research shows

One third of e-commerce companies are choosing to opt-out of participating in peak season campaigns this year: an unprecedented rise from only 6% in 2019, according to research published by Yieldify. However, consumer demand is trending in the opposite direction, with 34% of shoppers planning to increase their peak season spending year-on-year. These combined insights indicate a significant opportunity for e-commerce businesses that choose to execute peak season campaigns. 

The report, “Peak Season 2020: predicting eCommerce patterns”, reveals what the e-commerce industry can expect during Black Friday, Cyber Week, and December’s holiday shopping season in the wake of the industry’s changes as a result of COVID-19. Based on research conducted with over 400 US and UK eCommerce leaders and 2000 consumers in August of this year, it unveils a significant disparity between e-commerce marketers’ predictions and consumer intent. 

E-commerce leaders were found to be largely pessimistic about their peak season prospects: while in 2019, nearly 90% of marketers expected to outdo their previous year’s results, only 45% are so positive this year. However, only 18% of consumers indicated that their peak season spending would decrease – in fact, the data showed an 8pp. growth in the proportion of consumers shopping mostly/only online. Consumers also indicated that their changed behaviors as a result of COVID-19 would continue, with over half (52%) planning to shop on sites new to them since last year’s peak season.

Waleed Al-Atraqchi, chief executive Officer at Yieldify, commented:“In times of such uncertainty, it’s natural that many eCommerce leaders feel cautious ahead of peak season.However, this report shows that this disruption could present a golden advantage for the e-commerce leaders who ‘opt-in’ to peak season activities. Consumer appetite is bigger than ever and the competition for this demand may be quieter than this year: with tactics such as strong personalization in place, the potential rewards are huge.”

The research showed some of the reasons behind e-commerce leaders’ hesitance. Over 25% cited a lack of consumer demand as their reason for non-participation, with increased competition the second most popular reason. With both these objections largely debunked by the wider findings of the report, some e-commerce companies appear to be overly conservative. This was even seen in perceptions of Black Friday: while 23% of e-commerce leaders were concerned that the holiday is seen as a marketing ploy, only 3% of consumers agreed. 

The atmosphere of caution is reflected in the strategies that participating eCommerce companies will employ this peak season. The proportion of companies who will offer discounts as part of their peak season campaigns fell from 70% last year to 41%, while the most common level of discounting dropped from 21-30% to 11-20% this year. The overall wariness can also be seen in the changes to the planning cycle: by September last year, nearly 70% of e-commerce companies had already started their peak season planning: this year, that number sits at less than 40%.