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One of my favorite holiday traditions is the action news reporter coming to you live to tell you the holiday season is going be a boom or a bust based on parking lot activity. Like this guy in Tampa:
Is declaring that, “there was plenty of parking around the stores,” data? No, it’s the equivalent of planning your spring according to whether or not Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow. Well, the parking lot is empty…again.
FiveThirtyEight did a wonderful job warning you not to believe the Black Friday numbers. The piece cites last year’s doom and gloom report by the National Retail Federation, which said that Thanksgiving weekend shopping was down 11% compared to 2013. The problem was…that was most likely wrong. The U.S. Commerce Department eventually found that 2014 holiday numbers were actually up 4% over the previous year.
Funny thing is, our trusty reporter in Tampa actually cited those faulty NRF numbers and used them to warn that 2015 may be even worse! Unless it’s not.
So far, the reporting on holiday shopping results has been mixed. Some articles can’t even decide if it was a boom or bust, like this CNBC piece, which quotes a Deloitte analyst who seemed disappointed in the shopping turnout after observing “teenagers milling around the mall” at 6 a.m. on Black Friday in Braintree, Massachusetts. Later, it cites a Moody’s analyst who was upbeat about holiday outlook after seeing a New Jersey Best Buy shopper loading four flatscreen TVs into his truck.
Look, the point is that for the next few weeks, numbers – good, bad and ugly – will be flying off the shelf faster than this year’s must-have toy. Most will contain some modicum of truth, but the full context won’t be understood until the receipts have been tallied.
In the meantime, what’s a retailer to do? Breathe in. Breathe out. You most likely have the most actionable data in front of you already…your sales, inventory and traffic numbers. The rest is gravy if you can act on it now. And if not, file it away in a folder for January marked “ideas for 2016.”
Data analysis was conducted across a subset of BloomReach’s e-commerce customers.