Cyber Monday Lessons for Retailers

“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;, 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.

  1. Detect user device and optimize content delivery. As Hayward points out, matching content to delivery device is essential to ensuring a smooth user experience. Busy retailers might be tempted to cut corners by recycling images, ads, and apps that may not be appropriate for all mediums, but this approach will only sabotage their media buying efforts by diminishing the overall effect of the campaign on consumers.
  2. Be mobile: engage with users on the go. We know that mobile device users plan to shop on their phones this year, and the National Retail Federation confirms it: over 52 percent of smartphone owners plan to use their phones to research products, redeem coupons, and buy holiday gifts, and 70 percent of tablet owners will do the same. To leverage this opportunity, brands should consider both presence and practicality. In other words, increase your exposure on mobile devices with apps and ads, and build in functionality that helps consumers make their way down the purchasing funnel.
  3. Log both ad view and content view data for campaign analysis. In addition to device type and geographic location, “It is important to know how many ads were viewed in their entirety, dropped before the end, (and) clicked on,” Hayward says. Don’t let the rush of traffic and boom in sales let you lose sight of what’s important. Instead, analyze your 2011 holiday campaign not just for the purposes of calculating your current return on investment, but with an eye toward preparing for all of the future campaigns to come.

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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