Online Marketing Trends to Harness this Black Friday & Cyber Monday
The holidays are once again upon us, and that means more shopping than usual. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), annual holiday retail sales since 2004 have been on the rise. The only exception was in 2008 when annual sales dipped due to the economic recession.
With economic recovery, consumers have since gone back to their usual spending habits. According to the NRF’s “Holiday Survival Kit 2014,” holiday sales will increase 4.1% in 2014, totaling $616.9 billion. [See Figure 1]
The biggest day of the holiday shopping season is, of course, Black Friday. This year, it falls on November 28. While the NRF does not track sales per day, it estimates that Black Friday draws an estimated 131 million unique shoppers every year. Businesses prepare themselves by securing stocks and shipping them to various retail outlets.
Black Friday has gained notoriety in recent years, with stories of early bird shoppers who’ve lined up outside stores for hours since Thursday scrambling to snap up heavily discounted goods. With so many big deals, limited supplies, and large crowds, fights break out in stores nationwide.
This is why, as early as 2005, Cyber Monday has acted as the online version of Black Friday, allowing shoppers to get the same deals they want from their favorite stores without having to go through crowds of people or having to physically fight others for discounted goods. The term “Cyber Monday” was coined by the NRF’s Shop.org division in 2005, and was based on observed consumer behavior in 2003 and 2004.
“Retailers noticed that many consumers, who were too busy to shop over the Thanksgiving weekend or did not find what they were looking for, shopped online that Monday to find bargains, often from work,” the NRF states.
With mobile technology and Internet speeds developing rapidly since 2005, Cyber Monday has also gained traction. The NRF says that in 2013, 131 million people said they planned to shop online on Cyber Monday, with 25 million of them specifically saying they would use their mobile devices to do so.
Online Marketing Trends for the 2014 Holiday Season
This makes a few aspects of Cyber Monday worth looking into. With 25 million shoppers saying they will be using their devices to shop on Cyber Monday, that leaves 106 million online shoppers on Cyber Monday unaccounted for.
With digital trends expected to shape online holiday shopping, retailers and brands will need to strategically invest in digital strategies—such as online video content, social commerce, and geo-targeted marketing campaigns—to reach out to and convert their target audiences. Retailers and brands will also need to carefully choose and invest in the social media platforms that effectively convert their target audiences.
Blueocean Market Intelligence—a leading global analytics and insights provider —has predicted some of the trends that will drive retail strategy in the United States this coming holiday shopping season. Listed below are their main predictions, with additional insight.
1. Visual content and interactions will play an important role in holiday campaigns.
Aside from convenience, the biggest advantage online shopping offers is the visual factor. Shoppers will get to preview different products, right down to product specifications. Savvy shoppers want to know exactly what it is they are getting themselves into, and it helps when retail websites provide clear descriptions with text, photos, and multimedia files, as well as demonstrations.
Consider the reach and influence photo sharing apps like Instagram and Pinterest have, and consider how other companies have begun using them as advertising platforms. For retailers and brands that want to tap into online video marketing, there is YouTube’s dominance in video sharing and viewing.
If used effectively, businesses can promote their upcoming holiday sales with appealing photos on their Facebook pages; promoted pins on Pinterest; or short, compelling videos on YouTube. These tactics will catch the attention of target consumers before Cyber Monday. Also, with Instagram recently announcing its first batch of video ads, one could certainly see the service rolling out to more brands as the holidays arrive.
2. Social shopping becomes a reality.
Businesses have begun leveraging mobile devices and apps, and when harnessed correctly, can yield great returns. As the use of shopping apps within stores has become prevalent throughout the year, some big name retailers could use the same function to drive more customers to their venues during Black Friday.
More importantly, with apps and websites putting more focus on Cyber Monday, some platforms are looking to make it easier for consumers to purchase products the right away and with little to no trouble. This year, Twitter began featuring a “buy” button, which lets users buy directly from tweets. Facebook has also begun extensive integration into e-commerce via apps.
3. Retailers will spend more on social- and geo-targeted campaigns.
The wants and needs of customers will differ based on where they are. For instance, clothing retailers like Macys and J.C. Penney will have Cyber Monday sales for winter wear in states like New York, Washington, and others that are likely to experience snow this holiday season. Promoting the same sale in drier, sunnier states would be highly ineffective. Instead, clothing retailers might promote sales for clothes that people could buy as summer gifts in 2015.
Retailers can also take advantage of location-specific events or trends to ensure better promotions for their sales. The San Francisco Giants recently won the World Series, and many businesses based in the Bay Area could have holiday promotions themed after their hometown win to attract people to their stores.
4. Consumers will shop early.
There will always be customers that want to start their shopping early in order to avoid going through crowds during Black Friday or risk running out of stock during Cyber Monday.
As seen in Figure 2 above, the NRF states that at least 12.4% of customers began their holiday shopping before September in 2013. So while the general consensus is that the holiday shopping season peaks during November, the NRF believes that it unofficially starts as early as September, long before Halloween. According to a survey conducted by the NRF in 2013, when asked why they chose to shop prior to October, most responded by saying they wanted to spread out their budget, avoid last minute stress, as well as avoid the crowds associated with big holiday sales. [See Figure 3 below]
5. Mobile commerce will experience a big turnaround.
There’s no denying that mobile is a fast growing industry today, and the potential it has as a platform is almost limitless. As we have previously reported, apps are now in the majority and are the main driver of mobile commerce. Without them, the devices that people have today would still be the same as they were ten years ago.
For the holiday season, Cyber Monday is when these apps will shine the most. With 25 million shoppers guaranteed to be using their devices to shop, retailers and brands can take advantage of those who are already planning to be part of Cyber Monday instead of Black Friday by offering in-app deals or exclusive content to those who’ve downloaded the app. This would also get other shoppers who were on the fence about Cyber Monday to think about their shopping plans, and consider what new deals they would get if they went with in-app deals instead.
6. Online retailers will use free shipping and in-store pickup incentives to drive more sales.
As customers look to Cyber Monday for their holiday shopping needs, retailers also need to optimize their holiday sales with additional incentives. Because Cyber Monday has always been about shopping from the comfort of home, and holiday sales mean different promos and discounts, popular incentives that can be given include free shipping and in-store pick ups.
The promise of free shipping not only has the potential to drive more sales, but with proper balance, businesses can keep customers loyal to them throughout the year. This benefits both the business and the customer, as it gives the latter what they need for the holiday shopping season. Offering free shipping as an option is one way of optimizing their shopping experience and ensuring long term loyalty.
Conclusion: Invest in Omni-channel Retailing
As Cyber Monday approaches, it’s best for retailers and businesses to focus on omni-channel retailing, as the Internet’s broad scope means that different platforms can be used to attract potential customers. Knowing where your business will get the most buzz is important, because it lets you prioritize the most effective channel for announcing promos and incentives.
If you are in the clothing industry, realize how important a presence on Pinterest or Instagram will be for you. If you have electronic devices to sell, take advantage of YouTube ads to show short ads, and let people know how they can avail of exclusive deals if they act now.
Any business, big or small, can now take advantage of the tools present today, enabling them to reach their biggest target audience possible. Whether it’s a nationwide campaign or a campaign restricted to a particular city or state, customers are always on the lookout for the best holiday deals. With the right positioning and execution, you can be the one that delivers their needs to them.
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