Consumers aren't just expecting great deals this holiday season; they're expecting a great shopping experience. And retailers had better deliver.
"12 hours, 12 great deals!"
"Up to 50 percent off and free shipping!"
"Today only! Free gift with every purchase."
There's no need to question the basis for these online offers. They all ran on Cyber Monday this year. It's been a bona fide shopping holiday since 2005, when a study drew attention to the major increase in sales retailers were seeing on the Monday following Thanksgiving. In the years that have followed, brands have consistently been upping the stakes by offering more outlandish and irresistible specials in an attempt to get their share of holiday dollars.
Their efforts have been well rewarded. Last year, comScore reported that Cyber Monday sales in the U.S. reached $1.028 billion, breaking the $1 billion mark for the first time and becoming the biggest online spending day in history. This year, sales were up by 33 percent, IBM says, and estimates already put online sales for the day at well over $1 billion.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a brand that wasn't participating in this now infamous event. Some sought out partnerships with other brands known for their good deals; Wine.com, Bluefly, Electronic Arts, Incase, and Snapfish all featured special prices in Monday's LivingSocial email, while Crocs offered deals in FamilyFinds. Even local attractions like the Chicago Architecture Foundation and Canadian brands like Roots were promoting discounts under the Cyber Monday moniker.
For consumers, the day represents a holiday shopping opportunity that rivals Black Friday. For retailers, however, it amounts to a lot of pressure. Heavy site traffic and additional strain on order fulfillment processes mean that if they're going to satisfy shoppers, brands have to be on their game. While some fared well this week, others weren't as prepared as they could have been and suffered in the social media space because of it.
So what can retailers do to prepare for the remainder of the holidays? How can they ensure they're equipped to handle what's adding up to be a record-breaking shopping quarter? "Continue to engage with consumers throughout the busy season," says Martin Hayward, director of marketing for Mirror Image Internet. The edge computing, streaming, and content delivery solutions company has released a series of tips for online retailers that are - fittingly - right on the money.
Cyber Monday may represent a major boost for online retailers, but it also carries lessons for us all. Consumers aren't just expecting great deals; they're expecting a great shopping experience. And retailers had better deliver.
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Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.
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