By now, big retailers have dumped the last of their holiday decorations ande-marketers have already started making plans to boost revenue the next timearound.

This makes it the most wonderful time if the year to look at the data to findout what worked and what didn't in e-commerce for the 2014 holiday season.Conveniently, two predictive marketing vendors, Custoraand Kenshoo, just releasedcomplementary studies that are chock full or data points.

Taken together, they confirmed the generalities that other studies havereported: e-commerce is growing rapidly, mobile is grabbing a bigger share thepie and desktop is still dominant. However, they also threw in some granulardetails about such things as ROI on paid search, revenue in social channels andthe growing role of product listing ads (PLA) in the increasingly competitivee-commerce marketplace.

Detailed Data

2015-28-January-Kenshoo-rev device.jpg

Both reports are available online -- you'll find Kenshoo'shere, and Custora'shere. But we'll share you a few highlights, startingwith devices.

The desktop still accounts for most the revenue, though spending and ROIin  mobile is rising.

"During the festive season, mobile phone ad spend increased by 77percent year-over-year (YoY), driving a 120 percent YoY increase in revenue," reported Kenshoo,citing data gathered from customers that accounted for 60 billion impressionsand clicks during the final two months of 2014.

"While impressions, clicks,spend and revenue increased dramatically for mobile devices YoY, desktopcomputers still drive the highest conversion rate -- 6.9 percent," the report stated.

Custora noted that one of four purchases came from a phone or tablet duringNovember and December, up from 18.6 percent a year earlier.

Search is (Still) King

Search -- organic or paid -- remains the greatest source of revenue. Custora,which based its study on data from 100 million anonymized shoppers at 100 onlineretailers, said 38.5 percent of transactions began that way. It attributed 17.5percent from paid search and 21 percent from organic. Email came in with 17.7percent, affiliates at 10.9 percent and social with a modest 1.9 percent. Lastyear, social accounted for 2.3 percent.

"Similar to the trends last holiday season and throughout 2014, socialmedia -- including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest -- is still notdriving a substantial share of e-commerce transactions," Custora reported.

2015-28-January-Kenshoo paid search clicks.jpg

However, Kenshoo noted retailers took advantage of a higher inventory onsocial channels, eliminating "wasteful" impressions and generatinggrowth in both clicks (up 35 percent) and revenue (up 42 percent). The cost perclick (CPC) fell 6 percent to 35 cents, with a return on ad spend of $2.58.

Learning Opportunities

Timing Matters

In the holiday season, as in life, it appears that timing is everything. Andhere the two studies appeared to conflict, with Kenshoo finding data to suggestThanksgiving is now among the most important days of the shopping season whileCustora found just the opposite.

"Despite strong year-over-year revenue growth (+17.7 percent ofThanksgiving 2013), Thanksgiving did not even make it to the top 20 biggestshopping days this holiday season," noted Custora.

2015-28-January-paid search ctr cnv dates.jpg

Kenshoo's charts showed a huge spike in clicks on Thanksgiving. "Althoughretailers did not increase spend greatly on Thanksgiving, the revenue generatedalmost equaled that generated on Black Friday, making this day a greatopportunity for retailers to target customers," it said.

Doubling Down

Spending on PLAs more than doubled during the season,according to Kenshoo, resulting in a doubling of revenue on Black Friday andnearly as much on Cyber Monday.

"The format is only going to continue to grow -- the consistent returnretailers are seeing with PLAs combined with the search engines continuedexpansion of product ad capabilities will lead to further engagement andinnovation," Kenshoo said.

Kenshoo added a few "imperatives" for marketers as take-aways:

  1. Consumers are relaying on multiple devices as they interact with brands,and that should not be viewed as a threat but rather as an opportunity toengage with shoppers more often. "To meet KPI goals, marketers need tobe sure to provide consisten, relevant messaging across all channels andcreate a seamless, mobile-optimized experience for consumers, even throughthe post-click," it said.
  2. Interest in products throughout the shopping season is "veryhigh," presenting a strong opportunity to benefit from PLAs. "Bututilizing this ad format is the first step," it warned. "The realchallenge is enhancing your product feed and optimizing these ads to promoteyour best-performing products to drive sales, revenue and conversions."
  3. While social media is on the rise, "there are a shrinking number ofslots to get in front of audiences organically," it said. "Thegood news: social ad formats are becoming more engaging and audiences areresponding."

 Title image by Tom Murphy.