Hey, how about that. It’s Christmas in December. Gather round. Enjoy whatever you are celebrating and take a read of the the last Datacember edition of the BloomReach Relevance Report for 2015.
Christmas bonus track
OK, it’s Christmas and as Datacember’s gift to you we’d like to present a moment to think about what data can’t easily measure. Dec. 25 is a day on which many reflect on peace, joy and love — the sorts of things that you might be able to measure, but which are often best contemplated in a know-them-when-you-see-them kind of way.
For years, the BRRR has had its own tradition of reading one particular newspaper column that seems to capture those three attributes better than any spreadsheet could. Go ahead and read Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass’ Christmas Eve column (which is reprinted annually). We’ll wait. And then we’ll get to the numbers. Oh boy, will we.
How’d we get here — or how did our stuff get here, anyway
Christmas is finally here, after weeks of shopping, days of planning, months of anticipation for the youngest among us. That we know. But how did we get here? Or better still: How was it that holidays got to us this year?
We’ll leave the deeper and more spiritual discussion to that John Kass column. The BRRR now turns to a more practical answer. While it’s not the whole answer, the Associated Press did a bang up job of telling the story of holiday logistics when it wrote about the “shipping mania” experienced annually by UPS.
The story by Scott Mayerorwitz masterfully tells of a precision operation carried out at a frenetic pace at the delivery company’s Worldport, located at Louisville International Airport. The operation is UPS’s global hub and it handles a mind-boggling number of packages — peaking at about 4 million a day.
Of course, UPS isn’t the only outfit delivering holiday packages. UPS and FedEx together handle nearly a billion packages in the holiday season, the AP says. And The U.S. Postal Service says it will move about 591 million packages this holiday season.
Deliveries by UPS and FedEx are expected to rise 8 percent this year over last. The post office says it will be up 10 percent, all of which is a sign of the growing strength of e-commerce. In fact, the National Retail Federation says consumers will spend about $105 billion online this year, up by 6 to 8 percent over last year.
The steady shift to digital shopping — and particularly the use of smartphones for hunting and gathering during the holiday season — has sparked rapid and sometimes unexpected changes in the relationship between shoppers and retailers. Consumers now buy when they want, using the device they want to use, changing the nature of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and beyond. The transformation that e-commerce is driving can, of course, be seen in the numbers. And this being Datacember, we’d like to offer something of a series of holiday Harper’s Index-type graphics looking at this year’s holiday stats.
The delivery hub and FedEx’s similar operation in Memphis are the middle of a journey that begins in stores and online and ends in family living rooms around the country. As consumers take to the mall and the Web, reporters, analysts and, of course, retailers watch them every step of the way, counting sales and dollars day-by-day to get a sense of whether it’s going to be a down year or an up year — or even how much of an up year it will be.
Consumer spending is a big part of the U.S. economy and holiday shopping is a big part of consumer spending. Some retailers see as much as 30 percent of their annual revenue in the last two months of the year, according to the National Retail Federation.
Behind all the numbers are consumers and their rapidly changing habits. During Datacember we realized that consumers no longer respect the traditional boundaries of the holiday shopping season nor are they as willing as they once were to play along with designated shopping days, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Quote of the week
“I have always thought of Christmastime, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.” — Fred, Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew, in “A Christmas Carol.”
Photos by Mike Cassidy. Chart on holiday spending courtesy of the National Retail Federation.
Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.