The exponential growth of Black Friday in and of itself is not a news story. It has become the discounting day to end all discounting days and in the process has well and truly stolen the holiday season’s thunder.

In our own network which encompasses over 20,000 merchants and over 1.5 million publishers, for the past three years we’ve seen ever-increasing concentration of purchases on Black Friday and the Thanksgiving weekend, and that’s given us five key learnings we think affiliate marketers need to know to make the most of the holidays this year.

1. The Thanksgiving weekend needs to be your centrepiece

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the biggest discounting days in the year – in our network Black Friday alone accounts for 5% of all purchases during the holiday season. It’s the single most important period throughout the season and if you aren’t making the most of your affiliate marketing efforts here, you stand to lose out during the rest of the holidays.

In the past three years, purchases have become more and more tightly concentrated on these five days. For publishers this means creating content well in advance, through November, to ensure you’re  positioned to influence and inspire purchasing decisions in 2016.

2. Think bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Because as important as Cyber Monday and Black Friday are, they aren’t the only discounting days in the calendar. Manic Monday 2014 – the second Monday in December – for example saw US shoppers convert in around 36 seconds (Internet Retailer, December 2014). Christmas Day is a growing e-commerce day too, up 21% year-on-year in the UK in 2015 (Guardian, December 2015). Traditional sales days like Boxing Day are also making a comeback, so for publishers focusing on finding deals and content to engage consumers across these other discount days is key to performing well on the season. If you only focus coverage around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, your gains will only be short term. 

3. Cyber Monday leads the way in the US

Cyber Monday is the lead day in the US and last year became the first $3 billion dollar day in the retailing calendar (CNBC, December 2015). In our own network it has over 1% more purchases than Black Friday. For affiliate marketers it’s worth investing in bespoke content for Cyber Monday that focuses on the products and categories people most commonly buy during those days: electricals and technology. Amazon balances evergreen, seasonal and specific offers through the holidays, to ensure it takes full advantage of seasonal peaks and can engage customers day-to-day in-between (TechRadar, October 2016).

4. Some things just get better with age

As much as there are new trends every year during the holidays, sometimes the best course of action for affiliate marketers is to look to their historic content, see what has performed best every year, and look to replicate and renovate that content for success. Brands like John Lewis and Target consistently look to refine their strategies every year, taking past successes and exploring new options to enhance their chances of success. John Lewis for example, have managed to incorporate Black Friday without losing margin in the rest of the holiday season unlike other UK retailers through smart promotion like their narrative focused annual advert (PRWeek, January 2016). In one of the most hectic times of the year, understanding what strong assets you have before you start creating new content can save your commercial team time and ensure engagement that newer content might be less well placed to guarantee.

5. The window to influence people is shrinking

In our network the December peak for shopping has moved earlier and earlier for the past three years and now falls around the 13th of December. That means the window to influence people’s purchasing decisions is shrinking and will likely shrink again this year. Your content has to be ready in advance and concentrated in a timely manner, to come out on top of the competition and ensure you are reaching consumers while they are still interested in making holiday purchases.