It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again, and I for one am ready for a little holiday joy, in all its forms — including doing a little shopping for those fun-to-buy-for teens in my house! Like every year, I’ve been looking forward to hearing what Adobe Digital Insights (ADI) predicts for the season, and this year didn’t disappoint: consumers are feeling pretty good — holiday budgets are expected to be up 17 percent this year, with a whopping 41 percent of shoppers believing their hauls would be bigger (and pricier) than last year’s.
But now we’re here. Now the “Big Three” shopping days are behind us — Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And that means now, we’ve got a more spot-on view into consumers’ mindsets and, equally importantly, their wallets. The verdict? So far, so good. Consumers spent $5.27 billion online by the close of Black Friday, up close to 18 percent year-over-year. Black Friday even set a new spending record, cracking the $3 billion mark for the first time, and representing a 22 percent growth since this time last year. And Thanksgiving? While it didn’t break $2 billion as expected, it came pretty darn close at $1.93 billion.
Not to be outdone, Cyber Monday also broke records. Not only did consumers spend $3.39 billion online but, as of now, November 28, 2016 has a place in the record books as the largest online sales day in history. Not too shabby. Another amazing feat? On Black Friday shoppers spent $1.2 billion in mobile purchases, an incredible 33 percent lift from last year. Cyber Monday trailed slightly behind at $1.19 billion, up 48 percent from last Cyber Monday.
Even today is slated to be a big one — #GivingTuesday is expected to hit $2 billion in sales for the first time ever, all part of the $91.6 billion shoppers are expected to plunk down this season.
I’d rather be shopping?
It’s particularly ironic for me to be writing this on #GivingTuesday because, I’ll be honest, when Adobe released its preliminary shopping projections a few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure if I was all in or not. I admit it.
Why? Given the draining year we’ve collectively had — what with wars, terrorist attacks, shootings, all the RIO drama and a U.S. presidential race and outcome that has left many Americans pretty fatigued — it was all enough to make me wonder if people were going to be in the mood to partake, to celebrate and to spend. So writing this post on a day that’s all about giving back and focusing on the joy and goodness of it all wasn’t lost on me.
But despite all the apathy and downright negativity swirling around, ADI’s predictions remained up, up, up. Two weeks after the election we did start to see a slight departure from the sky-high figures, though, and I wondered what would come next — the November 1st to 22nd sales period indeed missed the projected mark a bit.
Looking at the numbers coming in from the holiday weekend, it’s clear that was just a pre-holiday hiccup. Shoppers are clearly welcoming the momentary respite the holidays bring with open arms. And judging by all the dollars flooding the marketplace, this Thanksgiving wasn’t just about turkey, turkey and more turkey. It was also all about shopping — and lots of it. Even with the earlier November dip, spend was still 3.5 percent above last year’s going into the holiday weekend, and the trend continued. So far, 27 of the first 28 days of the shopping season broke the $1 billion mark, and Adobe is expecting this month to fall just shy of $40 billion, up 7.4 percent from 2015. Election downtown? Hardly.
What does this mean for sellers this year?
It’s all great news for retailers and e-commerce sites who count on the holidays to get them in the black. But that doesn’t mean you can kick back, relax and wait for the Lego and Playstation VR orders to come rolling in. You need to roll up your sleeves and do everything you can to convert all the incredible holiday traffic that’s, no doubt, already rolling in across your virtual thresholds. Because even though they’re primed to buy, they don’t have to buy from you. There are endless retailers and endless opportunities to purchase. And if you dole out a mediocre experience, you’re all but guaranteeing yourself a less than jolly holiday.
If you’ve read my posts before, you know this is a bit of a departure from my usual CRO commentary — those squeeze-every-last-drop-out-of-your-conversion-funnel conversations. Here’s the new reality: be that single-minded and you’re going to get kicked to the curb. Focus on something other than experience delivery and you aren’t doing right by your audience, and they’ll know it. In short, (insert choice expletive verb) with your customers and their ability to get it done — especially this year — and your holiday season is going to suck, plain and simple. Here’s why — and what to do to not be a Grinch this year…
1. Don’t be THAT site.
This one’s simple: don’t disappoint. Don’t leave consumers feeling empty or robbed of their last bauble and bow. To achieve that — to be your holiday best — start by focusing on site performance. Nearly three in five shoppers will abandon a site if it doesn’t load in three seconds. Do you want to lose three in five shoppers? Neither do I. So make sure your site is up to speed — literally — and can keep up with those busy and impatient shoppers.
Holiday shoppers also want to feel safe and secure. Yes, they’re more comfortable than ever turning over sensitive information, but they’re still keenly aware of fraud. Your job? Reassure consumers that it won’t happen on your site. Tell they you’ve always got their back. Because half are taking more security precautions when shopping online, and seven in 10 worry about having their identities stolen while connected. If you can be the safe option, you’re in good shape to scoop up these fraud-weary customers.
2. No bad mobile experiences — period.
Your mobile experiences had better not be a turn-off this holiday shopping season because, according to ADI, 53 percent of all holiday shopping traffic will come from mobile this year — which means that a heck of a lot of purchases will at least start from mobile. In fact, in just over a year from, mobile is expected to overtake desktop in terms of overall traffic share. Get on board this season, or be prepared to miss out big time.
So before it’s too late — before you start turning off those all-important holiday shoppers (and shoppers in general), ask yourself:
- Is my mobile site responsive? Is my app engaging and useful?
- Am I personalizing mobile experiences?
- Am I offering a fluid experience for shoppers? Can they pick up right where they left off if they switch from mobile to desktop? Because nearly four in five consumers — and 90 percent of millennials — report switching devices while they shop.
More still, welcome these mobile customers into your physical store with open arms. Ninety percent say they use their mobile devices as part of an in-store shopping experience — so embrace it. Help them find your store via mobile, then help them leverage their devices in-store to continue that great experience. Location behavior is a major force in many consumers’ purchase decisions — engage and activate those customers and you could be opening your brand up to a totally new audience of active, engaged holiday shoppers.
That said, don’t let mobile do all the talking in-store. Just because shoppers are head-down, smart phone in hand, doesn’t mean you get a free pass. Say hi, wish them a happy holidays and ask if you can help. Everyone wants, needs and craves a little human interaction, even if their mobile-first mentality seems to say otherwise. Trust me.
3. Think about the entire customer experience.
Holiday shopping isn’t just about getting the sale. Instead, it’s about making or breaking a person’s gift-giving experience. Don’t squander that opportunity and don’t limit your efforts to pre-purchase marketing touch-points. Be there for your customers. Assure them they’re making the right choices with online, in-person and phone support, plus ample online reviews so they know that sweater runs a little small. Then offer them peace of mind through price guarantees, fast delivery, hassle-free returns and other experiences that make them feel heard, understood and valued. Make the whole experience great.
Two years ago I wrote about how focusing on your customers always pays off, especially at this time of the year. A lot has changed on the digital front in that time, but this hasn’t — in fact, the mandate has gotten even bigger, even deeper and even more imperative.
4. Be helpful & respectful of shoppers’ time — in short, be relevant.
Eighty five percent of consumers prefer personalized content, and four in five say they want retail sites to suggest products based on purchase history. And besides all that, this is the holidays — no one has time to wrestle with less-than-relevant shopping experiences. You want to get the goods and get out — fast. Be the facilitator — be the retailer that enables shoppers to achieve this goal — and you’ll come out on top.
That said, don’t be a creep either. Now isn’t the time to prey on consumers’ sometimes vulnerable holiday shopping states of mind. Lobbing content or recommendations in their direction just because they paid the slightest attention to a relevant product, or telling them this is what everyone is buying is just plain manipulative — and it’s annoying.
If you’re going to tell customers you’re paying attention, you might as well just do it — just pay attention. Pick up on cues your shoppers are exhibiting and use the data you’re culling to meet their needs, even if you aren’t standing across from them. This is your big chance to be helpful — to help your customers have the best shopping experience and best holiday yet. And that means using the power of personalization for good and never to stand in their way.
5. Tap into — but don’t take advantage of — consumer emotions.
The holidays are emotional — plain and simple. Take advantage of those emotions, though, and you’re a Grinch. And no one likes a Grinch.
Be mindful of how consumers are feeling at this time of the year, and use your digital experiences to ease those pain points, not to ratchet them up. Are shoppers feeling anxious and overwhelmed? Would free expedited shipping help soothe their nerves? Are they hurried and stressed? Would a countdown clock reminding them they’re running out of time be a little too much to handle right now? The tick, tick, tick might get them to click faster, but a calming experience will ensure they remember your brand next year. And that’s always a win.
I’d also argue that, this year more than ever, customers are going to be visiting your site as a welcome escape from everything swirling around in the “real world.” A little retail therapy is good for the soul, right? And besides, this year self-gifting is expected to make up 15 percent of holiday shopping, so those visits to your ecommerce site could be the break she needs to reset and get back in the game. You want to be the brand that connects those dots.
Another emotional indicator? According to ADI, 19 percent of holiday budgets will go towards decor and entertaining essentials. People are eager to have friends and family over, and they want to create those experiences and environments that feel warm, welcoming and festive. I know I do and, likely, the bulk of your customers do, too. Tap into that emotion, that warmth and that feeling of togetherness. Just look at this amazing commercial for Heathrow Airport. They’ve fully embraced the emotion of the season, and anchored their messaging in the excitement and appeal of celebrating with family. The result is pure emotion and pure joy — just tell me you don’t get a little teary watching those teddy bears make their way home…
6. Help your customers feel good!
But it’s not just tear-jerking travel commercials that are getting all the love. In that vein, some retailers are reporting upticks in “feel-good” items like candy, comfort food and spa products. Could this be attributed to the election? As Principal Analyst and Director Tamara Gaffney explains, states that went blue on election night have seen the biggest drops in spending since, with retailers losing more than $800 million in online revenue during the first two weeks in November. The biggest decline? After November 8 — Election Day.
This paired with the power of emotional marketing could make #GivingTuesday a huge day to watch — and could present a huge opportunity for marketers and brands who are ready to put even more skin in the charitable game.
7. Very simply, delight.
This one should be a no-brainer: make consumers feel good. Wrap them in a big, warm hug. Be their virtual Snuggie this year, ensuring they feel warm and secure from the minute they start shopping until the last gift is under the tree. Of course, the goal is always conversions — I won’t pretend it’s not. But instead of focusing on sales, sales, sales with total holiday blinders on, let’s get to those conversions by creating epically great customer experiences. Let’s go beyond the call of duty and make sure shoppers have the best holiday ever — they deserve it, after all. Let’s take a cue from brands like Patagonia, who are giving 100 percent of their Black Friday sales to charity. Let’s be ourselves, but better — especially this year.
And if you do it — if you really dig in and commit — it will pay off. Not only will get the sales, but your heart will grow three sizes that day. The momentum’s there — now it’s your job to keep it going.
Happy Holidays to you and yours.
Comments on this article are closed.