©iStockphoto.com
©iStockphoto.com

Increasingly the discussion of holiday e-commerce shopping turns to Cyber Monday, which has become one of the most significant marketing events of the year. It seems that millions of Americans, fully stuffed from the long Thanksgiving weekend, not only enjoy a solid round of window shopping during Black Friday, but are even more in love with their high-speed Internet connections and buy like demons during Cyber Monday—many of them doing so from the comfort of their employee desks. Does this mean the end of Black Friday? Hardly. But it does mean the paradigm has shifted.

Since 2006, comScore has reported annual sales and subsequent increases relating to Cyber Monday, a term which made its debut on November 28, 2005 in a Shop.org press release entitled “Cyber Monday Quickly Becoming One of the Biggest Online Shopping Days of the Year”. comScore chairman, Gian Fulgoni, said that “data has shown that Cyber Monday online sales have always been driven by considerable buying activity from work locations. That pattern hasn’t changed.” Indeed, the pattern, as well as sales, has continued to increase substantially for all but one of the seven years that comScore has been keeping tabs:

Cyber Monday Online Sales
Source: comScore, Inc.

Day

Year

Sales
(millions
of US$)

% Change

November 27

2006

$610

N/A

November 26

2007

$730

20%

December 01

2008

$846

16%

November 30

2009

$887

5%

November 29

2010

$1,028

16%

November 28

2011

$1,251

22%

November 26

2012

$1,465

17%

Why the Shift from Black Friday to Cyber Monday?

Although in its earliest years (2005-2007) Cyber Monday wasn’t one of the top ranking sales days, in 2008, its overall importance to the world of holiday shopping surged; that year it ranked #3; in 2009 it was the second heaviest spending day, culminating in 2010 as top dog for the year.

Blue Fountain Media Director of Corporate Marketing Thom Prewett
Blue Fountain Media Director of Corporate Marketing Thom Prewett

“I think the shift is occurring because online shoppers have become savvy and understand the ability to shop around for the best deals,” says Thom Prewett, Director of Corporate Marketing at Blue Fountain Media. “People are coming to expect deals from niche retailers online, pretty much across the board. I think as that expectation increases, retailers will be inclined to meet that need more readily.”

It’s not hard to understand why. The recession that began in 2008 saw a considerable drop in retail spending. The results of which were significant discounting during the holiday season. Consistent media coverage  solidified heightened consumer awareness of Cyber Monday; increased awareness leads to increased participation—for retailers and consumers alike.

With mobile smartphones on the rise, once again the world of high tech has changed everything. And each generation becomes more and more savvy when it comes to tech and shopping. Even my three year old cousin knows how to shop online. He knows what he wants, where he wants it from and definitely what he does not want. He’s not being led by online advertising; he’s leading it.

“I don’t think Black Friday is dying,” says Prewett, “but clearly the future is more firmly rooted in Cyber sales. That huge shift towards Cyber Monday will continue to rise, but retailers would be foolish to let either opportunity slide.”

Effects and Affects

Cyber Monday hasn’t only influenced when and how people buy, but where. And it’s not sitting well with employers. This “buyer-at-work” pattern has forced U.S. employers to crack down on employees using company equipment and time for non-work-related purposes, and that includes Cyber Monday. comScore surveyed employers and human resource managers in November of 2011 and found more interesting facts:

  • 22% of employers have fired at least one employee for using the Internet for non-work related activity.
  • 7% of human resource managers surveyed had fired an employee for holiday shopping.
  • 54% of employers were blocking employees from accessing certain websites.

And anyone who thinks the Cyber Monday pattern is exclusive to the USA needs to think again. Since, 2008, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Chile, Colombia, Australia, Japan, India, Germany and other parts of Europe have developed their versions of this seeming sacrosanct shopping season, with Canada’s National Post noting in 2010 that “the parity of the Canadian dollar with the US dollar caused many Canadian retailers to have Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales of their own.”

Eight Tips for Cyber Monday (and Black Friday, too)

So what can retailers, both large and small, do to make the most of this shopping pattern? Here are Prewett’s eight tips for big and small retailers, online and in the stores:

  1. Focus on their email campaigns. Build up an email subscriber base beforehand. Encourage people to sign up for alerts so that when the sales come up, you have a larger base of potential buyers to market to.
  2. 30% of consumers are looking for holiday deals prior to Halloween. Retailers both large and small should take note and provide them.
  3. Take advantage of the benefits of Google Ad Words.
  4. The digital consumer rules. Retailers need to focus on delivering consistent customer experiences across multiple channels: Mobile devices, online and the show floor.
  5. Mobile smartphones account for 16 percent of online sales—sooner or later, most retailers are going to need an app.
  6. For Black Friday, stores can ease long lines with roaming Tablets. Customers in line can use them to make their purchase. This is a way to bring the point-of-sale (POS) to the customer and to create goodwill. And in case you have customers who aren’t the most tech savvy, hire some people who are so they can bounce around and give assistance.
  7. Provided you understand the various patterns and platforms (iPhone versus Android, etc.), another strategy is Geo-Fencing. This is a way to tempt local customers into your store with hyper-local campaigns that send offers to customers’ cell phones.
  8. Last but not least, go and see what the competition is up to.

What experiences have you had with Cyber Monday as a shopper or retailer? I’d love to hear about them.