Cyber Friday: Why this is the year Black Friday will play out online

A record number of FedEx shipments, skyrocketing e-commerce video views, and overall spending of $630 billion are just a few of the milestones we can expect to see this holiday season.

It’s time to add another; this will be the year that Black Friday goes all-in with digital.

According to new findings compiled by Criteo, an increase in mobile shopping is “turning [Black Friday] into an online sales event.”

By analyzing last year’s data, the company discovered that retailer sales were 275 percent higher on Black Friday than on non-holidays, rivaling Cyber Monday revenue. What’s more, smartphone and tablet-based sales were 18 percent higher on Black Friday than on Cyber Monday, and at 32 percent overall, more transactions occurred on mobile devices on that day than they did on Cyber Monday.

With Black Friday now just a week away, marketers are keeping a close watch on the action.

“This will be the first Black Friday in which mobile makes up more than half of all digital shopping traffic,” Kurt Heinemann, chief marketing officer of digital commerce, marketing, and predictive analytics start-up Reflektion, said of the anticipated shift in consumer behavior. “In fact, we expect mobile browsing to account for over 50 percent of total e-commerce traffic on both these days.”

Heinemann adds that, because many consumers will be starting the Black Friday shopping process on Thanksgiving Day, getting a jump on delivering compelling messaging, offers, and tools that can facilitate holiday shopping will be more important than ever.

“Retailers need to be aware that Black Friday is more than a brick-and-mortar event, it is a digital event too. Mobile is your secret weapon to dominate in your competitor’s stores, as well as for all the digital traffic you will generate,” Heinemann said.

From beacons to store closings, brands opt-in…and out

The past few years have seen brands adopt some interesting strategies for connecting with shoppers on Black Friday, and 2015 will be no exception.

While Macy’s has recently been a topic of conversation for its decision to open store doors earlier than most on Thanksgiving Day, the retailer has other tricks up its sleeve.

Back in October, Macy’s alluded to its “Black Friday; Walk-In and Win” game, which combines beacon technology with in-store shopping and the Macy’s mobile app. Come Thanksgiving Day, those consumers in some 700 Macy’s locations who have installed the brand’s mobile app will get push notifications based on their proximity to in-store beacons.

“Via the Macy’s mobile app, customers will have the chance to instantly win $1 million in Macy’s gift codes and prizes,” the company explained.

The retailer also provides mobile users with the ability to build a shopping list on their smartphones through both its mobile site and app.

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Macy’s surely won’t be alone in its use of mobile beacons this year. A recent study from Retail Systems Research (RSR) shows that 70 percent of “retail winners” – which RSR defines as companies that enjoy consistent sales performance – consider beacons for in-store customer communications to be a “high value” technology.

Interestingly, club-style retailer Jet.com is taking the opposite approach and will be encouraging consumers to visit offline stores this year.

According to reports, the company will offer shoppers “JetCash” vouchers if they can prove that they spent $50 or more in brick-and-mortar location of stores like Toys”R”Us, Sports Authority, and Brookstone.

The offer is a PR stunt in disguise: Jet.com is working to rebrand Black Friday as “Purple Friday,” in an effort to increase brand awareness and promote its retail partners.

jetdotcom-purplefriday

As ClickZ‘s Mike O’Brien reported earlier this week, other brands are shuttering their physical locations for the day. Is this a risky move, or a calculated one?

According to O’Brien, industry experts believe that temporarily closing up shop offline could result in an online win. “[Closing] helps differentiate brands in some way and they’re certainly not closing their online channels,” Brian Hoyt, vice president of communications at RetailMeNot, said.

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3 strategies for Cyber Black Friday success

Regardless of your offline plans, to prepare for what we might soon be thinking of as Cyber Friday Heinemann recommends three strategies:

  1. Unify your pricing and discounts across all channels on Black Friday, and offer your best deals on the web rather than just in stores. Consumers won’t respond favorably to an inconsistent offering.
     
  2. Ensure that shopping on both your mobile site and mobile app is a breeze. Small screens create enough of a barrier to purchase without layering on additional check-out snags.
     
  3. Format promotional holiday emails for mobile devices. MoveableInk’s U.S. Consumer Device Preference Report for Q4 shows that 66 percent of all U.S. email is now being opened on a smartphone or tablet. Make sure that yours are as appealing and functional as they were intended to be.

Wherever consumers go this Black Friday, know that they’ll end up online.

Homepage image via Flickr. 

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