John Puterbaugh, Ph.D.: Director of Mobile/Digital Strategy, BlueSoHo
The numbers are in and it’s more than official, we are multichannel shoppers. This year Americans bought more online during Black Friday than we did last year on Cyber Monday, but also visited actual stores on Thanksgiving Day — not just Black Friday. And Cyber Monday 2018 ranked as the largest shopping day in U.S. history.
Amazon now calls this Thursday-through-Monday stretch “the Turkey 5.” This shift at the end of November illustrates a reality retailers already know — consumers are channel-agnostic. Marketers need to be the same and commit to centralized content and tactics that are effective across all channels.
Consumers are channel-agnostic
What’s the objective of all that work? To make it easy for customers to buy products. They expect convenience and clarity — what they want, when they want it, wherever they look for it. Retailers need to tell a clear, consistent story across broadcast, email, direct mail, catalog, social media and paid media, online and offline. Stores that alleviate the time and hassle to make a purchase will win no matter the channel.
Bigger and better numbers
As for the 2018 Turkey 5, more people shopped than experts predicted, and online sales for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday surpassed last year. Black Friday spending was up 9 percent to $23 billion, with $6.2 billion of that coming from online, an increase of 24 percent. The average online order was $146, up 8.5 percent from last year, and multichannel shoppers outspent their single-channel counterparts this year by $93 on average.
All told, more than 165 million Americans shopped during the Turkey 5, and spent a record $7.79B on Cyber Monday. Of this total, 34 percent came from mobile orders, an increase of 25 percent over last year. And for the first time, mobile accounted for more than half of Thanksgiving ecommerce sales. More than 89 million Americans shopped both online and in stores, up nearly 40 percent, with toys and electronics as the top product categories.
Now digital frustrations
The traditional hassles of in-store shopping during the holidays (long lines, bad weather, limited inventory, etc.) have equally frustrating virtual counterparts. Downed websites, checkout errors and product shortages costed some big name retailers millions on Cyber Monday in particular.
Brands need to be ready and reliable across all channels
Retailers can prepare for traffic spikes and technical glitches with collaboration between departments to forecast demand and build technical system backups.
This is critical because there are plenty of alternatives for consumers if a website goes down. Some still prefer traditional retail and are perfectly willing to stand in line for one to two hours on Thanksgiving at brick-and-mortar stores like Kohl’s and Best Buy. Sales aren’t an either-or proposition — brands need to be ready and reliable across all channels.
Amazon’s record sales
Amazon avoided major technical issues and broke its own sales records as customers ordered more than 180 million items over the Turkey 5. Cyber Monday alone was its best one-day total ever according to the company, and toys drove much of the sales without Toys”R”Us on the scene.
Amazon has also grown as an ad platform and should surpass both Google and Facebook as the dominant option in the next five years. It offers more direct data than either Facebook or Google on what people buy, how they search for products, etc. Sooner rather than later, ads will be Amazon’s most profitable business. Other retailers do and should think of the online giant as a channel to strategically boost their business. In a pre-holiday shopping survey by CPC Strategy this year, 80 percent of consumers said they began their product search on Amazon, versus 26 percent who started on Google and 33 percent who went to a brand or retailer’s site first.
The new normal
The highly anticipated Thanksgiving holiday shopping kickoff is a longstanding retail reality, now for both online and in-store shopping. Consumers want options, and retailers are both aware of and responding to their mindset.
Those consumers increasingly expect deals that start Thanksgiving week to continue and even improve throughout December. They also are more likely to buy big-ticket items that have the biggest discounts online now instead of going from one retail location to another to compare.
Single-day and seasonal events will give way to continuous campaigns
Virtually all online retailers offer free shipping for the season, which gives shoppers one more reason to skip visiting a store. To level the playing field, stores have put their in-store deals online. Traditional retailers have also adopted “buy online, pick up in store” (BOPUS) as a way for consumers to avoid shipping charges and to increase foot-traffic.
What stands out beyond the numbers is that the shopping experience both online and in-store matters more than ever. Convenience counts maybe as much as price and promotions to create loyal customers. That’s true not only for the Turkey 5, but for the future of retail.
Single-day and seasonal events will give way to continuous campaigns that are tailored to the most loyal shoppers. To win, companies need to rethink workflows to bring marketing, consumer analytics, digital and in-store experts together to deliver what customers expect — a convenient, personalized brand experience.
John founded Nellymoser in March of 2000, one of the first mobile agencies to build apps and mobile services. He is Managing Director, Digital for BlueSoHo. Educated at Princeton University, Dartmouth College and Oberlin College, John has taught courses and lectured on interdisciplinary topics related to cognition, video, interactive print and mobile.