If you don't have a good head-start on your holiday shopping, don't worry: the coming weeks are bound to bring a bounty of sales. That said, the biggest online shopping day of the year has come and gone, and it has left in its wake some interesting results.
This year's Cyber Monday has been designated as the "heaviest U.S. online spending day in history," according to digital measurement company comScore. Online sales topped $1.46 billion, up 17 percent from last year. Consumers have this online shopping thing figured out. And retailers? They're well on their way. But every season brings with it a host of new discoveries.
Here's what we can glean from the biggest online shopping day of 2012, and how we can apply it to the year to come.
Tablet shopping is coming strong. In its Digital Analytics Benchmark for Cyber Monday 2012, IBM reports that iPads generated over 7 percent of Cyber Monday online shopping, more than any other tablet or mobile device. Last week, electronic gadget retailer Brookstone launched a website specifically for tablet users, allowing them to swipe, tap, and pinch their way to a purchase. We have to give the company credit for being ahead of the game: although most major brands are mobile-ready, many of them have yet to build sites that are optimized for a touchscreen device.
Add it to the 2013 resolutions list. A tablet-ready site isn't just appealing to tablet users who are familiar with - and fond of - its unique functionality, but it also puts brands at the forefront of the competition. Consumers are always apt to choose the site that offers the best experience for their specific needs. Increasingly, their needs include an iPad.
Consumers shop from home. Legend has it the term Cyber Monday was coined by Shop.org back in 2005 to describe the increase in online sales retailers saw when consumers returned to work the day after Thanksgiving weekend. This year, for the first time, at-home purchases outnumbered those made on a work device - but just barely. In a breakdown of online spending by location, comScore reports that home locations accounted for 47.2 percent of sales, while work locations represented 47.1 percent.
The difference may seem nominal, but work spending is down from last year, while at-home spending is up by four points. The scales have officially been tipped. It's further proof that consumers are beginning to prioritize smartphone and tablet shopping, and will be using these devices even more come the next holiday shopping season.
Don't count social media as your next big sales channel yet. Everyone's been anxious to see how social media would contribute to this year's holiday sales rush, but reports indicate that social sites and networks still aren't generating a significant number of sales for brands. According to Adobe Digital Index, of all Cyber Monday visits to retailer sites just 2 percent were referred from a social network like Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest (it's worth noting that Pinterest doubled its referral share since last year). IBM, meanwhile, says that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube combined generated just 0.41 percent of all Cyber Monday online sales (a decrease of over 26 percent from last year). Social media as a major source of referral sales is a long way from coming to fruition.
You don't have to sell out your brand. While retailers were clamoring to attract site visitors and sell their wares, one of them did something shocking: it baulked at the trend and chose instead to stay true to its brand message. On Cyber Monday, eco-conscious apparel brand Patagonia sent an email to its customers asking them to join the Common Threads Initiative, an effort to help consumers reduce their environmental footprint.
"This Cyber Monday…don't buy what you don't need" is a chancy message for this time of year, but guess what? It's still marketing. Those who clicked through to the site and Initiative information were told that, "Patagonia agrees to build useful things that last, to repair what breaks and recycle what comes to the end of its useful life." This mantra is in keeping with consumers' perception of the brand, and in large part it's this mindful attitude that built Patagonia's loyal customer base. The company generated $414 million in sales in 2011. Its founder recently told The New York Times that he's projecting a 30 percent increase this year. In short, if a fire sale isn't in keeping with your image, don't get caught up in the hype.
Nothing speaks to the next wave of digital trends like an event that puts consumer behavior on display. And few online events have more secrets to share than Cyber Monday.
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Tessa Wegert is an interactive media strategist with Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy and services agencies, serving such brands as Bioré, Bratz, Food Network, illy, Hunter Douglas, Jergens, and Olympic Paints and Stains. An industry veteran, Tessa has worked in online media buying and planning, marketing, and online copywriting since 1999. She is an active freelance writer specializing in interactive marketing who has contributed to U.S. and Canadian publications, including "USA Weekend Magazine," "Marketing Magazine," "The Globe and Mail," and "The Montreal Gazette." She is frequently quoted as an industry expert and speaks regularly at industry conferences and events.