The holiday season is widely recognized as one of the biggest online shopping periods of the year. eCommerce revenue from the upcoming year-end sales is predicted to be 13% higher than 2017. For merchants, it’s an incredible opportunity to bolster annual revenue over the course of just a month or two, and to dramatically grow their customer base.

But managing the influx in traffic and shoppers is no easy task. With large order volumes on the horizon, merchants need to make sure their fraud operations can handle massive amounts of transactions without suffering fulfillment delays, false declines, or costly chargebacks. Reviewing data from previous years is crucial to forecasting and ensuring preparedness, and our new guide offers a novel approach to analyzing holiday performance.

Analysis of Riskified data from previous holiday seasons revealed that shopping behavior and fraud trends are not homogenous throughout the holiday season. In fact, the data suggests that the holiday season is comprised of four ‘sub seasons’, each with unique consumer preferences and fraud trends.

In our new guide, we’ll explain how eCommerce merchants can identify and determine what their own holiday ‘sub seasons’ may be, in order to make the most of the end of year online sales.

The Holiday Sub Seasons

The growing importance of preparing for the holiday rush motivated us to challenge the assumption that the holidays are just a single, long period of intensive shopping. We analyzed our historical data and identified four distinct ‘sub seasons’, each with unique shopping trends and fraud methodologies: Cyber Weekend, Pre-Christmas, Christmas, and Post Christmas.

Cyber Weekend

When: November 24-27

What: Four days worth up to 8.4% of annual revenue

Who: Self-gifters – from home and abroad, buying themselves high-priced items they’ve been eyeing for months

Pre Christmas

When: November 28 – December 23

What: 26 days worth up to 22% of annual online revenue

Who: Gift-givers buying gifts for friends, family and everybody else


When: December 24-25

What: Two days worth up to 1% of annual online revenue

Who: Desperate, last-minute shoppers, under-the-table-mobile-shoppers

Post Christmas

When: December 26-31

What: Six days worth up to 4% of annual online revenue

Who: Opportunistic shoppers happy to get a bargain on whatever stock is left, as long as it’s a big enough mark down

By optimizing fraud management for the holiday sub season, merchants can enjoy higher revenues, lower customer acquisition costs, and reduced fraud-related losses. The key to accurately distinguishing friend from foe, and to maintaining high approval rates throughout the holidays, is identifying how and when legitimate consumer behavior changes. What’s unusual or high-risk in April may be completely legitimate, or even typical, in December.

For more details on preparing your fraud team for each sub season, and for tips on extending the holiday season opportunity check out these resources.