Now that Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are history for 2015, what did we learn from the annual shopping extravaganza?
Many industry news reports focused on shoppers' mobile habits, but benchmarking data from Silverpop and IBM's Watson Trend revealed more complex scenarios. Below are my takeaways, a deep dive into daily data and ways you can use the information in your 2016 marketing programs.
4 Shopping Trends in 2015
1) Once-distinct shopping days — Black Friday and Cyber Monday — have evolved into "The Five Days of Digital Deals" beginning on Thanksgiving Day. However, actual shopper behavior shifts significantly from Thursday to Monday.
Cyber Monday continues its reign as the biggest online shopping day of the season in the United States, beating sales from Black Friday by 25.5 percent. Also, Black Friday outpaced Cranberry Red Thursday (Thanksgiving) by 52 percent.
Customers are more likely to be on their mobile devices on Thursday and Friday, but the busiest online shopping days are also the days with the highest desktop share of both traffic and sales.
2) Smartphones crossed a milestone this year, by surpassing tablets' share of sales on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, signaling that it's time to rethink the classic mobile-versus-desktop data match-up.
The digital divide is real, but it's not so much mobile versus desktop but smartphones versus tablets and desktops. Conversion rates are roughly 2 to 2.5 times higher on larger-screen devices, but smartphones drove more than three times the traffic to websites.
Also, shoppers on both of those larger devices are in "lean back" shopping mode, giving tablet shoppers more in common with desktop users than "lean forward," on-the-go users on smartphones.
3) Thanksgiving strengthened its role as the "table-setter" for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Although smartphones claimed a larger year-over-year share of sales on Cyber Monday in 2015, and the YOY mobile conversion rate was 20 percent higher on Monday, desktops continued to drive more purchases.
Despite smartphones' significant growth in share of traffic and sales, computers still dominated all metrics on Cyber Monday, from traffic (52 percent) to sales (72.4 percent) to conversion rate (7.5 percent).
Thanksgiving Day online sales posted strong gains over 2014, but higher conversion rates on Friday and Monday indicate that the holiday is primarily a research period for shoppers.
On that day, they're scanning their inboxes, browsing offers and doing research online, but they won't get really serious about buying until they see what merchants offer up from Friday through Monday.
Retailer behavior enabled this longer consideration time. Many retailers branded their promotions for Black Friday or Cyber Monday but launched them days before or extended them for several days after.
4) Email behavior likely contributed to online conversion behavior.
Shoppers who started their purchase journey on one device were more likely to convert on that same device. As an example, mobile opens and clicks beat out desktop rates on Friday, but desktops scored higher rates on Monday.
Daily Data: Cyber Monday
- Cyber Monday rang up record sales, growing by 17.8% from 2014.
- Online sales via mobile devices grew 25% on Cyber Monday compared with 2014, but far less than the 75% increase we saw on Black Friday versus 2014.
- Mobile's share of sales declined from a high of 36.2% on Friday to 27.6% on Monday.
- The average mobile conversion rate was 3.6%, nearly 20 percent higher than Friday's conversion rate of 2.97%.
- Average order value on both desktop and mobile sales was lower compared with Black Friday.
- Mobile share of traffic reached 47.9% and surpassed one in four purchases at 27.6%. This was significantly lower, however, than mobile traffic (57.2%) and sales (36.2%) via mobile devices on Black Friday.
- Share of sales from mobile devices peaked on Thanksgiving (40%) and declined on each shopping day from Black Friday (36.2%) to Cyber Monday (27.6%).
- Share of sales via smartphones increased to 15.2%, a 67% increase over 2014, while tablets' share of sales declined to 12.4%, down 3.9% from 12.9% in 2014.
- Smartphones are widening the gap with tablets over driving traffic. This year, share of traffic (36.8%) more than tripled tablets' share (11.4%), a YOY increase from 2014, when they drove twice as much traffic.
- Share of email opens on desktops was 51.2%, compared with 48.9% on mobile. Share of click-throughs was proportionately higher on desktops: 55.9% on the desktop and 44.1% on mobile.
Daily Data: Black Friday/Thanksgiving
- Although mobile devices drove stronger traffic and sales over 2014, the conversion rate remained roughly half of the desktop rate. More specifically, Black Friday conversion rates on smartphones (2.4%) are significantly lower than those on tablets (5.2%) and desktops (6.3%).
- Mobile traffic and sales have expanded 10X on Black Friday over the past five years, from 5.6% of traffic and 3.6% of sales in 2010 to 57.2% of traffic and 36.2% of sales in 2015.
- For the second year in a row, mobile drove a larger percentage of traffic and sales on Thanksgiving than it did on Black Friday. Mobile accounted for 60% of all online traffic on Thanksgiving Day.
- Share of online sales grew 24.2% on Thanksgiving 2015, from 32.3% in 2014 to 40% this year.
- 57.6% of emails were opened on mobile devices, compared with 42.4% on desktop.
- Share of mobile email clicks rose 22.8% on Friday over 2014, while mobile opens grew only 2.7%. Clicks from mobile devices were 54.9% compared with 45.1% on desktop.
Two Steps to Increase Conversions Across Devices
This year, mobile browsing prevailed on Thanksgiving and Black Friday while desktops ruled sales on Cyber Monday. Make this device shift work in your favor by optimizing two key points in the customer journey:
- Streamline mobile checkout so that mobile shoppers who find what they want, whether from your emails or search, can buy quickly, easily and securely. Add one-click payment options, allow guest checkout, and encourage shoppers to store their shipping and payment information with you.
- Make conversion seamless across devices. Add "email my cart" or "save for later" options that allow customers to break off a session on one device and then pick it up on another.
Closing the mobile experience gap is still a major challenge for retailers. It begins with optimizing email messages for mobile viewing and action and continues on through the website landing page, other interior pages and the checkout process.
The reward will be capturing more sales when customers are in the hot zone instead of forcing them to wait until they can switch devices.
1) White Paper: “10 Key Marketing Trends for 2016 and Ideas for Delivering Exceptional Customer Experiences”
2) Blog: “The Email Experience Audit: Why You Need One”
3) Tip Sheet: “Transactional Emails: 10 Tips for Driving Value and Engagement”