Online Apparel Sales: A Case Study in Micro-Seasonality

By — 08.17.11

MasterCard Advisors recently released a report on U.S. retail sales in 12 categories. The sales data for one of these categories—apparel—nicely illustrates the concept of micro-seasonality that I mentioned in an earlier post. Certain months and even specific days can have significantly different levels of traffic for a particular subset of products.

Online sales of apparel dipped suddenly in June 2011. In that month, 16.6 percent of all apparel sales occurred online. That represents a 12 percent jump in online sales year-over-year, but was not as high a year-over-year lift as seen in the previous three months (over 16 percent). According to the report, lower gasoline prices, better weather, and in-store promotions in June may have driven more people into apparel stores.

At a more granular level, the report noted that Wednesdays were the best online sales day for apparel in June, and Saturdays were the worst. Online sales accounted for over 20 percent of total (online plus offline) apparel sales on Wednesdays in June. In the same month, online sales represented only 7 percent of apparel sales on Saturdays. Perhaps buyers were browsing in stores on the weekends and purchasing online during the week.

And while online apparel sales overall were up over 12 percent year-over-year, some sub-categories outperformed. For instance, sales of children’s apparel jumped 15 percent, while footwear sales soared 27 percent.

Retail is complex and volatile. Successful retail PPC campaign management hinges on tracking and quickly responding to shifts like these in category and product demand. In another earlier post, I discussed some of the limitations of using AdWords or adCenter in a retail environment, and this is a good example. In the case of apparel, dayparting would not be sufficiently agile. Since dayparting is set at the campaign level, it would be incredibly difficult to structure an account in AdWords or adCenter to effectively daypart based on the myriad of shopping behavior changes that are happening within a category like apparel. The limitations of AdWords and adCenter are why we built Deep Search to allow retailers to react to customer buying behavior regardless of whether it happens at the campaign, category, or product level.


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