Lessons learned from Cyber Weekend

This year’s Cyber Weekend was everything we thought it would be: fast-paced, record-breaking, and largely digital. The event may only roll around once a year, but there are lessons to be gleaned from the way consumers shop during the holidays – and the way retailers service them, too.

Let’s take a look at what we learned, and what it means for marketing in 2016.

1. Smartphones are the future of mobile shopping

In advance of Black Friday, experts predicted that more than half of all digital shopping would occur on mobile devices. They were right: after measuring data from more than 150 million visits to 4,500 retail sites, Adobe reports that smartphones and tablets accounted for 53 percent of shopping visits, and generated more than $583 million in sales.

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Mobile devices also represented 34 percent of all online sales – but Adobe notes that the vast majority of these played out on smartphones. Sales originating on smartphones increased 70 percent over 2014, while sales on tablets decreased by two percent. In terms of shopping visits on Black Friday, 40 percent of them happened on smartphones, compared with just 13 percent on tablets.

For months now, the tablet market has been in decline. Larger smartphone screens facilitate the consumption of digital video, reducing the need for a secondary device. When it comes time to shop, consumers are reaching for their iPhone 6 Plus or Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 rather than an iPad or Kindle Fire.

This information will prove vital in 2016. While brands should still be optimizing content for both devices, ratcheting up smartphone advertising stands to boost sales in the New Year. Instead of lumping mobile ad dollars together, consider dividing your ad budget between smartphones and tablets. Two platforms, each with a distinct user experience and behavioral pattern, demand flexibility when it comes to percentage of budget spent.

2. An excellent site experience is paramount to sales success

Millennials entered into this holiday season planning to spend more online than ever before. As revealed in a survey conducted by performance management software company Dynatrace earlier this year, mobile users ages 18 to 34 are demanding exceptional digital experiences, the same way that their parents did with in-store experiences decades before.

According to Dynatrace, 81 percent of smartphone and tablet-toting millennials (and 75 percent of mobile users overall) won’t hesitate to abandon a slow or buggy site to shop elsewhere. In other words, subpar digital performance has a direct effect on sales.

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That said, Black Friday brought good news: by midday, Dynatrace was reporting that eight of the 10 leading retail sites in the U.S. were loading in under three seconds. This marked a “huge improvement over 2014 when we would have seen one or two retailers at most make the grade.”

Said David Jones, Dynatrace’s performance expert, “The key to Black Friday success is delivery simplification and optimization.”

Brands that prioritize site speed and functionality are sure to see big improvements in their online retail sales all year long.

3. Search marketing remains a must

Leading up to Cyber Weekend, search and digital marketing agency Merkle analyzed search trends to find that sales generated by search marketing increased 13 percent over 2014. What’s more, Google said that mobile-based shopping related searches have grown more than 120 percent over 2014.

What does this mean moving forward? It shows us that consumers still rely heavily on search when shopping online. Investing in paid search to get in front of shoppers when they’re actively researching products online can impact your online sales every day of the New Year.

4. When consumers shop, they tweet

In the wake of Black Friday, Adobe revealed that consumers generated 25 percent more social media buzz this year than last. Nearly four million mentions came out of the shopping event, and more than half of those were related to Amazon.

What’s most interesting about Adobe’s findings is that Gap, which the company says was particularly active on Twitter for Black Friday customer service, saw more buzz than any other retailer, with a 250 percent increase over last year.

The takeaway? Increasingly, online shopping and social media go hand in hand. It behooves retailers to fortify their social media marketing teams in preparation for questions and damage control; 51 percent of millennials will complain on social media if they don’t have a positive online shopping experience, Dynatrace says.

It’s been a big year for holiday shopping already. Next year represents a big opportunity to take what we’ve learned far.

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