The 2014 holiday shopping kickoff traditionally bracketed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday saw significant shifts in the way consumers browse and buy, which marketers should heed as they fine-tune 2014 holiday campaigns and plan for 2015.
As the numbers rolled in via IBM's ExperienceOne Benchmark Live application available on the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark Hub, I saw four trends emerge:
1) The “Season of Mobile” has arrived.
2) Smartphones are closing the "browse to buy" gap with tablets.
3) "Cranberry Red Thursday" is starting to gobble up "Black Friday."
4) "Black Friday" has evolved into "Cyber Week."
Below, I'll explain each trend in detail and show how you can leverage each one to boost your digital marketing programs.
1. The "Season of Mobile" has arrived.
Mobile browsing and buying saw its biggest season yet in 2014. Every indicator tracked in IBM's ExperienceOne Benchmark Live program shows mobile gaining on desktop in driving both browsing and buying.
The numbers: From the Big Three shopping days:
- Thanksgiving: Mobile traffic crossed the chasm this year, with 52.1 percent of all online traffic coming from smartphones and tablets. This is a 22.4 percent increase from 2013. Mobile also drove nearly one-third of online sales, up 25.3 percent from 2013.
- Black Friday: Mobile drove 49 percent of online traffic (up 25 percent) and 27.9 percent of sales, up 28.2 percent.
- Cyber Monday: Mobile drove 42.1 percent of online traffic, up 30 percent from 2013, and 21.9 percent of sales, a 27.6 percent increase.
Takeaway: Unless you know for sure that your customers are still tied to their desktops, your marketing plans for 2015 must factor in mobile at all stages, from responsive email design that renders and functions correctly regardless of screen size or device to mobile-friendly product pages.
Also, test forms and processes from new-account registration to checkout to be sure they function correctly on smartphones as well as desktops.
2. Smartphones are closing the "browse to buy" gap with tablets.
We saw a big change in the number of people who were browsing on smartphones but buying on tablets or desktops. Although the larger screens still rule when closing the deal, smartphones' share of sales grew this year.
The numbers: On Thanksgiving Day 2014, smartphones drove 36.3 percent of traffic and generated 14.4 percent of sales, while tablets accounted for 15.4 percent of traffic and 17.9 percent of sales.
By Cyber Monday, smartphones drove 28.5 percent of traffic and 9.1 percent of sales, while tablets accounted for 12.5 percent of traffic and 12.8 percent of sales.
Your customers are growing more comfortable with shopping and buying on their smartphones. In addition to being that much more confident using their devices, they are encountering fewer hurdles such as unfriendly product pages and cumbersome checkout processes.
Retailers who took the plunge to update their websites, processes and payment options are seeing their efforts pay off.
The takeaway: Look for every opportunity to make your brand appealing on smartphones as well as desktops and tablets. Continue reaching out to shoppers who begin their journey on a smartphone but break off before sealing the deal. Browse abandonment and cart abandonment emails can bring shoppers back or notify you of problems they encountered.
3. "Cranberry Red Thursday" is starting to eat away at Black Friday.
Thanksgiving Day in the United States has traditionally been the calm before the Black Friday storm, but that changed this year, thanks to a combination of heavy pre-Thanksgiving and pre-Black Friday promotions and major retailers opening doors on the holiday.
The numbers: Online shopping on Thanksgiving Day 2014 grew 14.3 percent over 2013. And, as usual, sales increased from Thursday into Black Friday. However, the rate of increase shrank a bit this year. On Black Friday 2014, sales were 63.5 percent higher than on Thanksgiving Day. In 2013, sales were up 70 percent.
The takeaway: Earlier and earlier Thanksgiving-related promotions via email, web, SMS and print can lead to shopper fatigue. Add "white space" and behavior-triggered emails to grab attention and change the pace.
Consider a heartfelt "Thank You" to customers or a shopping guide with valuable information on store hours, locations, shipping deadlines, services and customers support.
4. "Black Friday" has evolved into "Cyber Week."
Anybody with an inbox saw more pre-Black Friday and "Black Friday Week" promotions going out ahead of time as well as post-Cyber Monday deal extensions.
Although we saw significant sales spikes on Black Friday itself as well as Cyber Monday, we’ve moved beyond the old notion that Black Friday promos are designed to move shoppers into stores while Cyber Monday promos are residual promos aimed at people once they got back to their desktops.
Also, retailers stressed online Black Friday deals as well, making it clear that they didn't care where or how you shopped, just that you purchased in one channel or another.
The numbers: Black Friday online sales grew 9.5 percent over 2013, while Cyber Monday online sales grew 8.5 percent.
The takeaway: Black Friday and Cyber Monday remain powerful branding devices, but they might be losing meaning for people who started shopping earlier in the week and took advantage of sales and other promotions without waiting for Black Friday.
Now that "Black Friday" dominates your customers' inboxes weeks before the big day, perhaps it's time to shift gears and find a new brand for your Friday-after-Thanksgiving sales.
Are you seeing any significant shifts in your customers' browsing and buying behavior so far this holiday season? Let me know @LorenMcDonald and please check out the video below for more thoughts on notable Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2014 trends:
1) Tip Sheet: “10 Tips for Using Email to Drive Mobile Engagement – and Vice Versa”
2) Website: “IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark Hub”
3) Infographic: “Infographic: Black Friday and Cyber Monday Email Trends”