Holiday hot sheet – Biggest winners of the 2013 holiday season

The 2013 holiday season has officially ended and we’ve compiled a recap to help you understand what worked, what didn’t and how you can improve your holiday campaigns for 2014. Read on for more insights, and watch our recent webcast to get an analysis of the top performing retail sites and the most effective channels driving traffic during the 2013 online holiday season.

What’s hot this week:

  • Consumers took a brief pause from shopping, but they were back online Christmas Day looking to redeem gift cards, take advantage of post-holiday sales and get the most out of gifts received.
  • Online traffic to Fitbit.com, one of the season’s hottest gifts, jumped 150 percent between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
  • Every week of the season, up until the very end, there were new toys making the hot toy list.
  • Brands sent 23.6 percent more holiday-themed emails between September 29 and December 28, 2013 than they had in the 2012 holiday season.

Top transaction days

Shoppers started buying earlier this holiday season as two of the top ten transaction days occurred in the first half of November. In 2012, the earliest top ten transaction day was the day before Thanksgiving. In 2013, November 8th and November 15th made it into the top ten (7th and 5th respectively). Both of these November dates ranked higher in transactions than in volume.

Thanksgiving will be similarly late in 2014, so there is an opportunity to mail more on these earlier season days next holiday season. Thanksgiving ranked 15th in volume in 2012, but rose to third in volume in 2013 as more stores opened on Thanksgiving Day. Four of the top ten days occurred on a Friday (compared to only three Fridays in 2012), showing that customers’ minds were on shopping just prior to the weekends.

Tuesday, the day after Cyber Monday, also made it into the top ten this year. A combination of extensions of Cyber Monday sales and the fact that it was only twenty-two days until Christmas likely boosted the transactions for this day.

Comparing top ten transaction days for the past three holiday seasons

  • Five of the top ten days occur between the day before Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday each holiday season.
  • Cyber Monday and Black Friday rank first and second for transactions every season.
  • Thanksgiving, the day before Thanksgiving, and the Sunday after Black Friday rank in the top ten transaction days each season as well.
  • The day after Cyber Monday ranked in the top ten for both 2011 and 2013.
  • In the past three seasons, twelve days that were not part of the peak days before the Thanksgiving-Cyber Monday time period made the top ten list. Eight of those twelve days were Fridays, highlighting the importance of sending emails on that day during the holiday season.

Another look at mobile versus desktop

Back in October we reported that prior to the holiday season, 48 percent of total email opens occurred on a mobile device, but that this percentage varied by industry. We have now looked at the mailings sent during the peak of the holiday season (November 23rd through December 12th) by the same set of brands included in our pre-holiday study. The “all industry” percent of emails opened on a mobile device increased to 52 percent during this holiday time period.

  • The percent of total emails opened on mobile devices increased for five of our seven industries. Media and entertainment saw a decline in mobile, although it is still above the all industry average, and travel was basically unchanged for both opens and clicks.
  • Multichannel retailers had the highest percentage of mobile opens (65 percent), and were the only industry to receive more than half of their clicks on mobile (51 percent).


  • The increases in the percent of clicks received from mobile devices is likely a reflection of more emails being designed to be mobile friendly, as well as the increased use of tablets. Catalogers saw a 4.7 percent increase in the percent of clicks received on an iPad during the holiday season as compared to our pre-holiday study, and consumer products and services had a 3.7 percent increase in iPad clicks.
  • Windows still receives the overall highest percentage of clicks.


Top retailers

During the month of December, consumers made 3.5 billion visits to sites included in the Hitwise® Retail 500, a collection of the top retail websites. That’s virtually unchanged from 2012. Included in these numbers are visits from computers as well as from visits from mobile devices when the device is connected to a home’s wireless network.

The top performing retailer during the month of December 2013 was Amazon.com, which alone claimed 26 percent of all traffic to the Hitwise Retail 500 or 903 million visits. Amazon also impressively grew traffic by 30 percent compared with December 2012. Walmart.com, Target.com, BestBuy.com and Macys.com rounded out the top five retailers for the month with visits roughly equal to those registered in 2012. Boosted by the release of two new gaming platforms this season, the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4, gaming retailer GameStop had a very good season racking up 28.6 million visits during the month of December, up a relative 29 percent over December 2012.

Peak traffic days

Peak traffic days this year were the usual suspects with Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday with the Hitwise Retail 500 sites registering approximately 190 million visits on each day. Following the official start of the holiday season, traffic generally peaked on Mondays and declined from Tuesday through Sunday. In fact, the fifth highest traffic day of the season (between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day) was Monday December 16, 2013, about a week before Christmas. From that day, traffic declined more sharply than during weeks prior with traffic the following Monday (December 23rd) coming in nearly 25 percent below the previous Monday. Once the gifts were unwrapped on Christmas morning, consumers were back online looking to redeem gift cards, take advantage of post-holiday sales or get the most out of gifts they received. In fact, traffic Christmas Day was up a relative 23 percent over Christmas Eve and traffic on December 26th was higher than any day since the Tuesday after Cyber Monday.

Christmas winners

Among the retail sites that saw the biggest boost in visits between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were the LeapFrog Store and VTech Kids, which registered relative boosts in visits in excess of 350 percent between December 24th and December 25th. Fitbit.com also did well with visits on Christmas Day up 150 percent over Christmas Eve visits as Fitbit recipients went online to set up their Fitbit accounts and to download companion mobile apps. The Apple Store and Microsoft Store were also winners with visits up 82 percent and 38 percent, respectively, on Christmas Day when many consumers received digital tablets. Retailers popular among young consumers, like Hollister, Forever 21 and American Eagle Outfitters, also did disproportionately better on Christmas Day, likely as a result of shoppers looking to redeem gift cards or exchange clothing gifts for styles they prefer.

That’s a wrap!

Take a look back at the top retailers and hot products week by week during the 2013 holiday season.

Did you miss a Holiday Hot Sheet? Don’t fear, you can download all of the season’s Hot Sheets online.