Jan 18 2017
usps ground shipping

December 14: The Day Shipping Blew Up Sales

Gray Thursday, Black Friday, Cyber Monday – these are all common shopping holidays known to drive some of largest amounts of revenue. Over the past few years, these days not only began to merge with one another, the promotional periods became longer. Some retailers, notably Amazon, have gone so far as to make the holiday promotional period last nearly a month.

Beyond the typical, most retailers can expect a consistent increase in revenue during the holiday period; however, through our data scientist’s research, Blue Acorn identified one more specific day worth recognizing. On December 14, many online retailers saw a drastic increase in their overall key performance indicators (KPIs), including revenue, which was the last day ground shipping was guaranteed gifts to deliver gifts before Christmas. Therefore, we dub December 14 “Ground Shipping Day.”

“Three dates jump out as outliers: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and December 14,” said Blue Acorn Data Scientist Samantha Previte. “Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a given, but from a cursory glance, December 14 has no special meaning. We dug deeper and found that the deadline for packages to be guaranteed by Christmas by USPS retail ground, was December 15. It seems like no accident that these would be linked and suggests that shipping deadlines influence or dictate shopping patterns.”

Ground Shipping Day

Based on the aggregate data of around 25 Blue Acorn clients that are ecommerce brands, there is a noticeable spike in both site traffic (sessions) and revenue on December 14 and the two days leading up to it. This is an indicator that brands were utilizing the ground shipping window as a form of urgency-based promotion.

“This overall trend may indicate a global pattern of procrastination in holiday shopping online.  More than 41 percent more revenue was spent in the second week of December versus the first week (12/1-12/7 versus 12/8-12/14), and 170 percent more revenue was spent month-over-month (11/8-11/14 versus 12/8-12/14),” said Previte. “The revenue for December 14 alone was 72% higher than the average of the first 13 days of the month, 89% higher than the average of the following week, and 53% higher than the previous day.”

sessions“Consumers have shifted more of their holiday spending to the web as retailers look beyond Black Friday and Cyber Monday to offer promotions and discounts. The widening of the highly promotional shopping window–in some cases as early as November 1–has smoothed the spikes previously reserved for a few days in November and December. The widening of the window resulted in increased revenue and order volume while at the same time cutting into retailer profit margin and average order value (AOV),” said Blue Acorn Senior Engagement Manager Dan Forno.

revenueGround Shipping Day could also be confused with Free Shipping Day, a promotional retail holiday focused on offering consumers free shipping. This year, Free Shipping Day was on December 16; however, through both tracked promotions and aggregate data, it appears many did not focus on that particular tactic this year.

Promoting Urgency

Some, but not all, retailers take advantage of Ground Shipping Day. As noted by several promotional emails distributed via our partner Bronto, many take advantage of the day as a last-minute push with a focus on urgency.

“We haven’t uncovered specific revenue trends in our customer data; however, in our research for our upcoming report on holiday emails, we found that many retailers send email reminders about shipping deadlines,” said Bronto Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst Greg Zakowicz. “And, in hopes of catching online sales even after the standard free shipping deadlines had passed, many retailers offered free or low-cost priority, expedited and one-day shipping – sometimes with no minimum order value.”


Beyond highlighting the last day for ground shipping, many brands also focused consumers attentions to either gift cards, free expedited shipping, or in-store pickup.


“And even after all chances of shipping a physical gift had passed, retailers were still creatively urging procrastinators to shop by promoting reserve online, in-store payment and pickup (see Bed, Bath & Beyond example attached), post-Christmas delivery (see Loveless example attached) and gift cards, which are delivered electronically (see UGG example attached). It’s clear that retailers were willing to do whatever it took to ensure that shipping wasn’t a barrier to sales in 2016,” said Zakowicz.

Elliot Volkman

Digital Marketing Manager

Elliot is Blue Acorn's Digital Marketing Manager. He hold a master's degree in communication from Gonzaga, and has several awards for journalism and digital marketing. In his spare time he is a long-distance runner and triathlete.

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