The holiday shopping season is upon us. We all know Black Friday unofficially marks the start of the buying frenzy, but the more recent phenomenon of Cyber Monday has brought a lot of attention to the increasing role of ecommerce in holiday sales. If there was ever any doubt as to whether it’s important to have an online store during the holidays, Cyber Monday is a testament to the answer: a resounding yes!
Cyber Monday, which occurs on the Monday after Thanksgiving, is the virtual world’s equivalent of any busy mall’s Black Friday. Consumers are becoming more and more aware that shopping deals aplenty are to be had on November 26, and now they have two post-Thanksgiving spending days to consider. How can ecommerce businesses make the best use of Cyber Monday?
Cyber Monday Marks A Shift Toward Online Retail
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is usually the big fish of shopping days in the American calendar, but Cyber Monday is steadily making its mark. In 2011, the U.S. experienced $11.4 billion in sales on Black Friday, even despite the 9% unemployment rate. By comparison in 2011, Cyber Monday reaped $1.25 billion in sales, but this is not any amount to sneeze at, since the online shopping holiday has only been in existence since 2005. The cyber holiday began when Shop.org noticed a trend: Americans are buying more online on the Monday after Thanksgiving, presumably because they’re still in the resting and shopping spirit even while back at work. Why not, then, offer special deals to encourage this trend?
Now, Cyber Monday has become a holiday of its own, in some ways a continuation of the Black Friday spirit, but without any waiting in line or pushing and shoving, instead allowing shoppers to point and click from the comfort of their own computers. Many retailers, both online and traditional, now offer special deals and discounts on Cyber Monday, so consumers can already expect to be loading up their online shopping cart. Cyber Monday is becoming synonymous with great online deals, and even big names like Walmart and Bed Bath & Beyond are being forced to shift their focus online.
The Advantages Of Shopping Online
Though Black Friday still takes the cake for biggest retail day, more and more consumers are becoming aware of the advantages of shopping online, and technology is only furthering this trend. In a survey conducted by Discover, consumers plan to spend about $100 more, on average, this holiday season than last, and 75% of those surveyed plan on shopping online and choosing to buy based on special online deals.
In a tough economy, people seek the best value, and oftentimes they find it online. Or, if they find an item they want in a store, they may realize the benefit of ordering that item less expensively online instead of in person. With mobile devices and tablets, online shopping and comparison-shopping have never been easier. With incentives like free shipping and free returns, buying online can make a lot more sense than standing in line for hours in a crowded mall. Some surveys even project that Cyber Monday sales will go up to $2 billion this year.
Marketing Tips for Making the Most of Cyber Monday Sales
Alright, so you’re on board with the idea of Cyber Monday and don’t want to be left out of the potential for great sales. This train is moving forward, so if you’re an online retailer, you’d better be on it. Here are a few ideas to entice the customer to choose your brand or business on Cyber Monday. There will be a high volume of shoppers surfing the Internet on that day, so you’ll want to stand out from the crowd.
Clear the Hurdles
First of all, there are going to be some things that will be taken for granted on Cyber Monday. People are looking for great deals and won’t settle for less. If you can’t provide the basics, there would be no reason for a shopper to choose you over someone who is savvier about the competition. Here’s what you should know about the basics to offer:
- Free Shipping: No longer just a cherry on the top of the cake, it’s basically accepted that holiday deals occurring on Cyber Monday will offer free shipping. Why else would someone choose to buy online rather than driving the 5 miles to their local Wal-Mart for the same item? Offering free shipping in some form or another is the foundation for Cyber Monday deals. In fact, Nordstrom has become so aware of how important free shipping is that they offer free shipping on every item, no matter the size or cost. You can imagine the sort of traction they get. If this isn’t feasible to you, offer at least free shipping with a minimum purchase requirement.
- Free Returns: One of the biggest hassles of shopping online instead of in-store is the potential for receiving a damaged item, the wrong sized item or simply something different what the customer imagined, and then they have to pay to ship it back. Many will simply choose not to buy it online in the first place to avoid the drag of paying for returns. Beat this feeling by offering free returns on all products.
- Promotions: Obviously, crafting some sort of attractive special promotion, like a certain percentage off special products, is a necessary part of Cyber Monday package deals. You might consider 2-for-1 specials, 50% off specials, or dramatically lowered prices for a limited time while supplies last. If you offer some sort of service, perhaps include an extended free trial or free upgrade for signing up. Having superb specials that really entice your customers is key to a good Cyber Monday sale.
Start Early And Stay Solid
Some shoppers start holiday shopping before Halloween, believe it or not, and it would be a smart idea to start advertising Cyber Monday deals well before Cyber Monday rolls around. Also, offering deals before and after Cyber Monday is a surefire way to retain interest in your product, especially since shoppers tend to be constantly looking for holiday deals during the months of November and December. In 2011, according to one eMarketer study, 54% of shoppers already completed one quarter of their holiday shopping by the time of Black Friday. Not to worry though, the procrastinator shopper will hurriedly snatch up deals well into December. And there are plenty of shopper personalities.
Attract Many Demographics
There are so many different types of shoppers, but knowing your demographic can only serve you well. In general, women tend to out-shop men both in stores and online, but there are even different mindsets of shoppers. Some wait until the last minute, some scope out the products early and know what they want, and some are attracted to the biggest and flashiest promotion. You’ll want to have something for everyone.
- Promote Widely: Knowing who your customers are, as well as when and why they’re shopping can make your sales pitches that much more fruitful. Since you will probably have a few different demographics in mind, be sure to offer multiple types of deals catered to each one. Diversification of discounts is important to reeling in as many people as possible. Then see what works best.
- Notice Trends: An eMarketer survey of last year’s Cyber Monday shoppers revealed that most people are shopping online before 9 a.m. and then between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. This makes sense, as the windows of opportunity fall before and after the typical work day, so perhaps consider offering special deals for early birds, or for people during the evening.
- Give A Deadline: There’s nothing like a limited time offer to light the fire underneath some shoppers’ purses. For those who are impulse buyers, or for those who just don’t want to miss out, offering a sale that ends at, say, 2 p.m. might be the final push they need to click “Checkout.”
So now that you have an idea of which basics to cover, you can up your game by adding cool incentives to your repertoire without sacrificing your profit margin. In addition to the basic percentage discounts, you can pick and choose from some of the following ideas:
- Gift Cards: Though November and December are high-profit months for retailers, January and February are much slower. Offering free gift cards for use after December 31st can be a great way to make the customer feel like they’re getting a deal while also keeping them interested in shopping with you after the rush.
- Free Gifts: Many shoppers find something they like for themselves while searching for loved ones, so offering a free gift might be that push needed to get them to buy. Be sure to make a minimum purchase requirement so your profit margin can be high, and don’t overvalue the free gift.
- Insider Subscriptions: Offer an e-mail list that will inform subscribers of special deals, such as early access to Cyber Monday sales, and this way they can be in the loop, while allowing you to have their contact information for continued marketing even after the holiday frenzy is over.
Don’t Underestimate Social Media And Mobile
A great way to spread the word about your Cyber Monday deals is to be active on your social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and any hosted blogs. Offering a buddy discount is a great way to generate traffic to your site. For example, offer a special discount if you Tweet your deal or recommend it on Facebook. Social media contests are also a great way to raise awareness of your brand and your sales.
Though mobile isn’t yet the dominant platform for ecommerce, it is certainly gaining steam. Forrester Research approximates that 3% of total online holiday shopping this year will be conducted on mobile devices, and it will be up to 7% by 2016. Since tablets have been increasingly prolific and their qualities duly recognized as a natural advertising and marketing ecommerce platform, they will be a medium to definitely consider as significant in the coming years. In fact, tablets top the list of hot holiday gifts for 2012. If you want to be ahead of the game, craft a beautiful and strategic web strategy for tablet users.
Keep Your Website Running Properly During the Rush
If you’ve done your advertising well, there will be increased traffic to your website on Cyber Monday, which means that making sure your website and shopping cart platform are in proper working order is imperative. There’s no better way to blow it than to experience technical difficulties during critical buying time. Just as Black Friday retailers hire extra staff, arrive early, and offer bonuses to employees during the stampede, your online store should be extra prepared for the increased traffic and revenue. This includes:
- doing a site audit before the big day, making sure everything is functioning smoothly and also looks attractive to customers
- avoid making major changes to your site & technology during holiday shopping season
- start using Google analytics if you’re not already (it’s free)
- make sure your servers can handle the extra traffic; you may want to consider storing data in the cloud
- check on all aspects of your shopping cart to ensure it is easy to use and bug-free
If your website and shopping cart are difficult to use, you may lose customers that you could have otherwise converted. Internet shoppers are increasingly savvy about web presence, so make sure you can compete in style, design and functionality.
Why Cyber Monday Is Here To Stay
Cyber Monday may have started as a response to increased online revenue as a result of lingering tryptophan, but it’s not the only special online holiday anymore. In fact, Cyber Monday started in America but is now also recognized in various countries, including the United Kingdom, Portugal and Chile. Here are some interesting promotional days happening this year:
- “Facebook Monday” occurs on the same day as Cyber Monday and is a term used by Facebook to promote social commerce, a relatively new concept for online shoppers. It aims to let retailers create special deals within the Facebook platform.
- Australia is instituting “Click Frenzy,” which will occur the Tuesday directly after Cyber Monday and aims to offer similar deals to promote internal Australian business.
- “Giving Tuesday” will also occur on the Tuesday directly after Cyber Monday and is an effort started by World Vision to ask Americans to give back to those in need. This year, any gift of food, clothes or school supplies bought from the World Vision catalog will go to aiding those affected by Superstorm Sandy.
It can only improve your brand and business to play up the trends around holiday gift giving. If there’s one thing Americans love, it’s shopping. But not everyone loves the lines, stakeouts or crowds of typical Black Friday chaos. Many are realizing there is a much more relaxing way to sweep up great deals – online. And the entire world is your store when shopping virtually. Even other countries have joined the American post-Thanksgiving shopping craze, making the conversation about ecommerce during the holidays even more interesting. How will you make Cyber Monday work for you?