Christmas does not receive the same treatment from one country to the next, which is important to remember in the world of international e-commerce.
There is a very slim chance you will be able to carry a winning formula between regions. In Russia, for example, the festive season is very different as there is no Christmas celebration.
However, there is a tradition before New Year’s Eve where Russians get a bonus salary known as their 13th salary. It is basically a premium for the year’s results. Also, amazingly, cash on delivery is still the main method of payment for online shopping here.
In Italy, retail firm Coop is giving Amazon a real run for its money in the e-commerce space - intensifying competition. Here, Paypal is also the most popular form of payment online, more readily used than prepaid credit cards, normal credit cards and bank transfers.
For more useful Christmas-related nuggets of information, we decided to speak to a few different publisher heads to see how they plan for Christmas in their native land and how it might differ to other regions.
PerformanceIN sought the opinion of Kamil Brożek from kodyrabatowe.pl in Poland, Stefano Trani from codicedisconto.com in Italy, Nikolay Kashcheev MoiPromokody.ru in Russia, Denis Miroforidis from kouponiaekptotika.gr in Greece and Tomas Jagoda from zlavovekody.com in Slovakia.
What local factors should be considered for Christmas campaigns in your country?
Kamil Brożek: First of all, the Christmas campaign cannot start too early in Poland. The earliest day to consider for any pre-Christmas activities is November 1, All Saints Day! Before this date, any Christmas-related activities must not take place. Every year this date is becoming closer to early November and so nowadays we can see a busy time for retailers around the second part of November. Poland is a very religious country, celebrating its rich and old culture rituals.
Stefano Trani: If we look at the whole country from north to south, in Italy, unlike the Eastern European countries, where the same way religion is deeply felt, Christmas is more than a symbolic celebration, It is above all a cultural phenomenon rich of pittoresque customs and full of regional traditions. Two of the main local factors: Santa Claus is celebrated on the December 24 together with Christmas Eve, instead of December 6 on the day of St.Nicholas as in some other European countries. Gifts are not only for children, but for all. The second local aspect, which is interesting from a commercial point of view is undoubtedly the day of Epiphany. For this event Italians buy gifts for an amount almost comparable to Christmas.
Nikolay Kashcheev: First of all, there is no Christmas in Russia, so there are no Christmas celebrations as such! What could be considered as festive time celebrations similar to Christmas is a New Year Event, which is the main winter holiday in Russia. It takes place on December 31. So-called Christmas Day in Russia is set to be on January 7 and it is not popular at all. On that particular day people have their days off and gather their families to sit, eat and enjoy time together, but they do not seem be in a rush. The very interesting fact about December 31 celebrations is that the special dinner usually starts at 10 PM or even 12AM after the President's speech on TV.
Denis Miroforidis: Although Greek orthodox religion is a bit different to the Roman Catholics, Greeks adopted the European way of spending Christmas with a mix of their own traditions. Greeks consider Christmas as a good occasion to spend time with their family, which is important in Greek culture therefore they love buying presents for each other. Greeks also like to go on trips with their family during Christmas.
Tomas Jagoda: The majority of Slovaks are Christians and that is why the main factor that should be considered for planning any Christmas campaigns for the Slovakian market is the spiritual, not material aspect of this seasonal time. Having said that, we cannot forget that this is also a time for giving and receiving, when people want to share gifts with beloved ones and therefore giving presents is very important for the Slovakian nation. The giving season starts early in December with Saint Nicholas coming over to bring a bag full of presents for good kids.
Which particular days in and around Christmas are the busiest?
KB: In Poland, presents are being given and received twice during December. The first time is during our unique and famous December 6, a day when Santa Claus is visiting our homes. The second time is December 24, so Christmas Eve. That is why the busiest and the most profitable periods of time for retailers are just before those dates.
ST: The Christmas atmosphere is felt for the entire month of December until January 6, the Epiphany. With regard to marketing strategies, companies launch Christmas campaigns already, from mid-November. Usually the two weeks before Christmas are a real hell, very busy days, but Italians often buy gifts at the last moment. For this reason, it may be convenient to also have an additional last-minute sales strategy.
NK: You should keep in mind two characteristics about Russia: problems with national post services and the fact that many people still prefer not to pay online (trust to over internet). Online shopping needs to get arranged and organised some time in advance. In order to get their shopping and presents for New Year Celebrations, Russians need to start online shopping in November. December is a busy time for Russian in terms of work load. They all stay at workplaces until December 30. Beginning of January brings holidays for Russian people, they stay off work until after the January 8, festive time. They spend it mainly eating, watching TV, socialising with friends and family, drinking their beloved vodka and travelling (mostly around Europe).
DM: Greeks are not very strict about the Christmas present “deadline”. They sometimes buy their Christmas presents even a few days after Christmas. That is why online Christmas buying lasts over two months. Their festive season starts from November 30 and lasts until January 6. This date marks Epiphany on the Greek calendar. December 25-26 is a public holiday in Greece. Some Greeks will then start serious online shopping in November, some will buy gifts in January.
TJ: There are few important dates before Christmas, which make people occupied with other things rather than shopping activities. The very important Slovakian holiday is All Saint Day and St Nicholas on December 6. Slovaks start to seriously think about Christmas gifts just before December 6 and buy mostly over weekends.
What are the biggest verticals for Christmas sales in your country?
KB: The most popular products in the run up to Christmas (but not only) are electronic goods, clothes, shoes, books and games. All these are ideal as Christmas presents and that is why December is the month when we can see increased sales for those categories. Having said that, these categories are the most popular when it comes to online shopping habits for Poles throughout the whole year.
ST: Fields that have grown the most in 2012 and 2013 are clothing and electronics in addition to the consolidated and timeless empire of gambling. That's why German e-retailer, Zalando, has invested significant resources in Italy over the last two years. It has strengthened advertising campaigns on national Italian TV channels, making the brand stronger (not an easy job in a country famous all over the world for the fashion and clothing industry). Several pop-up stores were also opened, which attracted high street customers to the online shop.
Let us look at the consumers. "The Italian consumer has changed deeply and for the first time, digital, is ahead to businesses. The shopping list explodes, before you buy a product you go to see shop reviews on the web and consult people on social networks," Fabio Vaccarono, country director of Google Italy was recently quoted as saying. Despite this, Christmas will probably be leaner, the most desired Christmas gifts are the latest video game consoles and the latest smartphones, a triumph of electronics. However, the value of the food industry should not be underestimated given the fact that Italians love to gather around and organise great dinners for both Christmas and New Year's Eve.
NK: The most popular verticals around winter holiday season are fashion (23%), electronics (20%), jewellery, interior design.
DM: The most popular and biggest vertical for Greek online Christmas shopping is: fashion, toys, travel. They also like to buy electronics online and food in stores.
TJ: During the whole pre – Christmas season Slovaks would buy more small electronic goods, cosmetic and beauty products as well as lingerie and books. Money vouchers and alcohol are also very popular Christmas presents ideas for Slovakian people.
Do you find some publisher types excel more than other over Christmas?
KB: During Christmas time, all types all publishers generate increased activities and gain additional revenue. The most successful are all those who help with online shopping, such as voucher code sites, products review websites. Also, portals featuring cheap flights become really popular. We need to remember that Christmas is a time we all want to spend with our families that’s why we plan to come back home to celebrate this festive time together. In doing so, we search for the cheapest travelling options.
ST: Nowadays, many Italians find portals and forums that allow you to compare prices on the web market very useful. These sites like i.e. ciao.it, forum.chatta.it e shopmania.it give considerable visibility to the most desired items.
NK: The most popular and useful for holiday shopping and gifts buying ideas for Russians tend to be websites which offer discounts, free competitions and coupons. The publishers who help find cheap travelling deals are also doing very well in the pre-festive time.
DM: Greeks are very price sensitive. The economic crisis has made Greeks reduce their expenses in a large scale. The last three years have seen Christmas sales decrease a lot. Around 22% of Greek parents state that they have not got the money to buy presents even for their children. They want to save money, as they feel very unsecure and don’t have too much money to spend in general. That is why they love sales, offers and any other ways that will help them to make good savings. They will search a lot before they buy anything online. That is what the most popular and successful types of publishers are the sites which bring them to deals and voucher codes.
TJ: The most successful types of publishers for the Christmas period are those who offer the best choice of gifts and wider products assortment. The most popular websites visited by Slovakian people during pre-Christmas time and the ones that generate the most sales are discount and offers portals, price comparison websites and product review sites.
What is the best affiliate Christmas campaign you've seen?
KB: This will be pre-Christmas action with one particular electronic shop. It is well known for low prices and anti- discount policy. However, last December, they launched few vouchers and beat their competition significantly in terms of revenue generated. The company shocked many with its great result, reaching 26% uplift which is unusual for electronic products.
ST: For sure web users are attracted by voucher codes and voucher gifts. Promotional codes can be both a good bait and an infallible remedy to save cash.
NK: There has not been too much online activities happening in the past. But my attention has been driven by two particular online actions, both run by online coupons sites: Aкции-и-скидки.рф & VSE Promokodi. They made a success by increasing the number of fans on vk.com. Another successfully conducted online campaign was done via Ozon.ru, which had 200% increases in sales of electronic goods.
DM: Greeks’ online activities for Christmas haven’t been too exposed in the past, but what I have noticed is the fact that online competitions get very popular in the run up to Christmas. Greeks want to feel lucky and win some freebies or money to spend. There were two particular online contests that drew my attention. Both were run by Epithimies; one let people win €200 in vouchers, the second one gave them opportunity to win real prizes: electronic goods. Both competitions turned out to be very popular and successful for the client.
TJ: I have seen a few good online pre-Christmas campaigns for Slovakian internet shoppers during the past years. The most successful focused on offering huge and unexpected discounts or voucher codes to use. They were run by shops from the fashion and electronics sectors mainly.
What was the last voucher you used?
KB: That was 15% off in one of online book store - fabryka.pl. As for me, a week without a book is a week wasted.
ST: The last voucher codes I used were in the fields of electronics, clothing and food.
NK: The last voucher code I found on Russian mobile phone retailer Svyaznoy (Связной). They had a good discount and I used their 30% off code to get my new Apple MacBook.
DM: The last voucher i used was the spartoo Christmas offer: buy 2 products and get 20% off!
TJ: The last voucher codes I have used were undoubtedly for cosmetics and fragrance items.