Much to the relief of many marketers, this year’s Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday sales have displayed a spectacular performance. Thanksgiving online sales posted a 17% gain to $1.3 billion, while Black Friday jumped 19% to just under $2 billion pushing holiday season-to-date growth rate to 12%. Cyber Monday, meanwhile, broke e-commerce records with $3.45 billion! The numbers aren’t as readily available yet for in-store results, however. But amidst the clamour of all the numbers and success stories, Black Friday lessons deserve contemplation. So, let’s understand what exactly they are.
Let’s get the most obvious takeaway over with: Whether it’s customer service, promotions, loyalty programs, buying activity or product search from the customer’s side, mobile is inevitable. The two main holiday events of Black Friday and Thanksgiving has reaffirmed that inevitability and the growing clout of mobile in the shopping scenario. 39% of online purchases made this year were done so via mobile device (smartphone or tablet). Mobile sales totaled an incredible $449 million, an increase of 58% from this same time last year.
It was a reflection of the fact that people increasingly try to shop online from the comfort of their own homes. Plus, they often shop on the sly. In 2014, a full 10% of respondents in a Paypal survey admitted to shopping during their Thanksgiving dinner in order to find the best deal on a product online. Now that two years have passed and mobile technology is even faster and more ubiquitous, that percentage must be higher!
Certainly, mobile emerges as the best candidate to fulfill both the above-mentioned demands. And that’s why this lesson of becoming mobile-friendly is not something that must be utilized only during the holiday season. This should be like an ever going act from the marketer’s side.
All throughout this week of promotions, marketers kept trying to outdo themselves with richer content. It was much beyond the traditional ways of discount offers, coupons and vouchers. Marketers went ahead with interactive and gamified campaigns not just to differentiate themselves from the competitors, but to attract the customers who are vulnerable to get swayed by the competitors counter-campaigns.
Many online sellers used video and GIFs in their marketing emails to get attention. Forever 21 even used GIFs instead of static images for certain products on its category pages to boost click-throughs!
And this trend wasn’t only observed during the American holiday season. Even Singles’ Day in China experienced brilliant creative ways of giving one-of-its-kind experience to the customers. Alibaba launched an AR game to market the electronics it sells, in which customers can chase its mascot cat around their cities to find discounts. Watch an example of a customer playing it below.
Today’s shopper is inundated with price-comparison apps, alerts, browser add-ons and sites. Within a moment, they can know which retailer is offering a better offer…and those who are price sensitive will make a move towards a retailer who is offering a better bargain. This leads to a significant dent in the customer footfall. That’s why we saw that most of the retailers posted Black Friday specials on their websites ahead of time. It’s one of the most important Black Friday lessons to follow throughout the year as even when we’re saving money, we still want to make sure we’re saving the most money.
Along with the creativity and messaging in the Black Friday communication, the equally important factor is the timing of the promotion of the Black Friday offers. It has always been a conundrum for many retailers. If they start to post about the offers too early, they risk the chance of missing the excitement…and if they begin to post too late, there is a fear of getting lost in the noise. But this season has shown that the best time to post information about Black Friday sales is about 10 days before Black Friday. Marketers should repeat it several times over the next week and a half. It sounds logical as shoppers begin the research about the products that they want to buy at least 2 weeks before the Black Friday. And if your communication meets the shopper somewhere in between his research journey, he may finally end up buying from you.
FOMO (fear of missing out) has always worked well irrespective of the product segment, market conditions or holiday season. This is because people generally like to have best things at the lowest price possible and they have the fear that others might be having rewarding experiences from which they are absent. They don’t want to miss out.
Thus, it didn’t surprise us to see that Black Friday promotions were also designed in the same fashion. Lands’ End’s subject line of the offer email, hence, was like this. “Today only: 50% off sweaters + 40% off everything else.” And really people fall for such offers. Otherwise we wouldn’t have seen people waiting up in a long queue in the middle of the night to grab a Playstation, Hatchimal, or iPhone.
It’s not a rare sight that the marketing machine winds down once the big holiday events end along with the year. The excuse for this lethargy is that not many are going to buy now. But this is actually naive thinking.
Due to the multimedia nature of the current business world, shopping journey has become more complex than ever and it can be a bit longer sometimes. That’s why the engagement with prospects need to be ‘always’ on. There is no dearth of customers who like to take time to think and let the dust of the fury of holiday season settle. Meanwhile they take note of the stock and go for it after the holiday season.
We understand how much importance the holiday season has for marketers like you. And that’s why we have created this blog where you will get to know what millennial holiday shoppers want. We have also documented The Biggest Holiday 2016 Retail Trends here. And, for a consumer’s and marketer’s point of view on Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers, don’t miss “Where Black Friday Went Wrong: A Personal Take.”