We’re nearly two months into 2017 and already past the year’s first big shopping day — Valentine’s Day, a holiday that saw about $18 billion in spending, according to the National Retail Federation.
Such holidays are milestones in retail, a chance to attract new customers and a chance for consumers to establish new shopping habits. No red-letter days are more important in that regard, of course, than are the days leading up to the Christmas holiday, a period that is make or break for many retailers.
With that in mind, we looked at data from 75 million unique consumer visits, combing through a month’s worth of winter holiday e-commerce data and plucked out five of the most important lessons:
Cyber Friday is a thing: Black Friday is still a gigantic shopping day, but the way it’s gigantic is changing significantly. More people shopped online than busted doors and shopped in stores on Black Friday weekend this year, the National Retail Federation reported.
BloomReach data showed that more online sales were made on Black Friday than on Cyber Monday, the day that was named for online shopping. In fact, a relevant subset of data showed that online conversions were 6.8 percent higher on Black Friday than they were on Cyber Monday.
The data appeared to illustrate consumers’ embrace a shopping weekend, during which shoppers browse on Thanksgiving and get more serious about buying on Black Friday.
By Cyber Monday the pent-up demand is such that shoppers show their greatest intent to buy, the data shows.
We measured intent by looking at the ratio of product views to conversions. On Thanksgiving, shoppers viewed nearly 38 products per conversion. On Black Friday the number of products viewed slipped to just fewer than 34. By Cyber Monday, the number of products viewed for each conversion was just shy of 29.
Our thinking: The more product views for each conversion on a given day, the more consumers are intent on window shopping. The fewer products viewed, the more focused consumers are on actually buying.
The lesson for retailers? It’s best to avoid putting too fine a focus on historical trends involving traditional shopping days in a time when consumer habits are changing so rapidly.
Different devices for different circumstances: Consumers have become quite comfortable calling the shots. They’ll shop when they want to; where they want to and on the device they want to use.
But not all shopping circumstances are created equal. The data shows that — at least in 2016 — shoppers preferred particular shopping modes on particular days. Remember all the stories about what a huge mobile day Black Friday was?
It turns out that, by one measure, Thanksgiving was an even bigger day for mobile. On Thanksgiving, mobile (smartphone and tablet) accounted for 44 percent of online conversions. The figure on Black Friday was 36 percent.
Now, Black Friday, of course, was a much bigger day than Thanksgiving in sales overall. So, its 36 percent number was a smaller part of a much bigger pie. Nonetheless, it’s important to consider how consumers are shopping on a given day.
All in all, Black Friday and Thanksgiving numbers are another sign of consumers’ rapidly changing preferences — a fact that no retailer can afford to ignore — or even underestimate.
There’s something about a Monday: Not many would say that Monday is their favorite day of the week, but some retailers might be counted in that small number. It turns out, consumers are ready to buy on Mondays, at least Mondays during the holiday shopping season.
Mondays really shined in the holiday season just passed. As a group they were the leading day for consumers’ buying intent. Mondays made up four of the holiday season’s top six “buy” days, according to ratio of product views to conversions.
They were also leaders in conversions, all scoring above the holiday season daily average. And, as they did last year, when it came to conversions, Mondays outperformed Sundays, a day that has outshined Mondays through most of the year.
Retailers need to be aware of context. Sure Sunday is a big day for sales. And then comes the holiday season and it’s time to think about what you’re going to do for shoppers on Monday — a day when they’re ready to buy.
Desktop still reigns: Yes, mobile is your future and your franchise. Increasingly mobile is figuring into every online and in-store sale. It’s often how consumers are introduced to your brand. And if it’s not, it’s how they’ve come to think of it.
But guess what? The desktop is still where shoppers are making purchases — at least most of them, most of the time. Overall in 2016, desktop accounted for an average of 66 percent of daily conversions during the holiday shopping season. The figure neared 70 percent on some days.
We saw the same thing last year, not surprisingly. It could well be that the mobile experience hasn’t caught up with consumers’ desire to live on their mobile devices. That said, consumers seem determined to lead retailers into the mobile era.
While desktop dominated in both 2015 and 2016, its grip slipped ever so slightly this year, dropping to that 66 percent figure from 68.2 percent in 2015.
Yes, it’s all a reminder of just how hard it is to get retail right in the smartphone era. Sure, the desktop is where a majority of the money-making is happening (for now), but no retailer can afford to focus on desktop at the expense of mobile.
Not only is commerce moving to mobile devices, particularly smartphones, but as we’ve said before, the smartphone is fast becoming involved in almost every commercial transaction. And so the answer is to do both better.
Be prepared: We offer this lesson almost as a way to commiserate. We know, that you know, that the holiday season brings traffic and demands like nothing else.
There is an old, and somewhat exclusionary, saying that “you don’t build your church for Easter Sunday,” but in retail, you do. With its massive traffic, the holiday season is the opportunity to ensure a profitable year. It’s a chance to impress customers you haven’t seen before. That is, if you do everything right.
No, you don’t hire as year-round employees everyone you’ll need to handle the holiday crush. Nor do you run your operation at the same frenetic holiday pace all year.
But you do have in place the technology and practices that can scale up for a huge spike in online traffic beginning in November and carrying into the New Year. To put it in meteorological terms, it’s like preparing for the 100-year flood.
You don’t get that kind of rain every day. But when you do, you better be ready.
Bloomreach provides search marketing services to 25 of the Top 500 online retailers in North America, according to Top500Guide.com.