With online sales dropping on the Saturday and Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend the question is: Should retailers offer the same discounts all weekend long or reserve the best deals for Friday and Monday?

Udayan Bose, CEO, NetElixir

Udayan Bose, CEO, NetElixir

While analyzing the purchase and search data from the Thanksgiving weekend and Cyber Monday, we noticed an interesting trend: There is increasingly less purchase activity on Saturday and Sunday. For example, last year Saturday and Sunday accounted for 29% of purchases and this year that dropped to 26 percent. We found that most of the consumer activity happened on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

While this might seem obvious, since these are the two days consumers are expecting deals, it doesn’t correlate to retailer promotions. Many retailers had sales throughout the entire weekend into Cyber Monday. The same offers and discounts were available to customers starting on Thanksgiving Day through midnight on Monday.

The question for retailers then becomes: Should they offer the same discounts all weekend long or should they reserve the best deals for Friday and Monday?

The rationale for limiting deals, or the best deals, to those two days is to incentivize consumers to buy. When consumers know they can put off buying and browse over the weekend, they will. When the time available to make a decision on a purchase is shortened, consumers are more likely to pull the trigger.

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Consumer Journey Patterns

Consumers were clearly determined to buy on Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year. When examining search impressions across the five-day period for the apparel, flowers & gifts, houseware, consumer electronics, gourmet foods and beauty products categories, we found consumers began searching for merchandise on Thanksgiving Day. Yet, consumers didn’t make purchases in those categories until Black Friday.

The same was true for search activity compared to purchase activity for Saturday and Sunday into Cyber Monday. Consumers were searching for merchandise on Saturday and Sunday, especially on Sunday evening, but purchase activity was mostly confined to Cyber Monday.

This activity is important for retailers to notice and act on. This year, the retail sector has been hammered by Amazon and consumers’ shift to mobile. Great deals are one of the key moments that retailers still must hold onto customers and demonstrate superb customer experience.

Consumers reflecting on the holiday shopping weekend expressed feeling that great discounts were now available all year round and that Black Friday and Cyber Monday were losing some of their exclusivity as prime shopping days. To bring some of the excitement back to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, retailers should look to make those two days stand out more with unique offers.

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Micro-Moments During Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Digging into the data revealed even more interesting nuances in consumer behaviors. For example, women’s apparel and beauty products were mostly purchased in the evening and night hours starting at 6 p.m. Consumers were also mostly using their mobile devices to search for products in these categories. In contrast, flowers and gifts were bought earlier in the day from 6 a.m. to noon. For more considered purchases like high-end electronics and houseware, consumers mostly searchesd on mobile but purchased on desktops. In fact, average order value on mobile was 40% lower than on desktop. A total of 37% of all orders over the Thanksgiving weekend were conducted on mobile devices.

Armed with this knowledge, retailers can cater specific offers to loyal customers and limit those offers to specific times of day on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It’s the 21st century version of doorbuster deals, but instead of people lining up in the middle of the night outside of a store, customers can stay glued to their mobile screens in the comforts of their own homes waiting for the best deal to become available to them.

Other helpful tips include using holiday sitelinks as opposed to traditional sitelinks in search ads. For example, holiday terms like “Black Friday Sales” versus traditional sitelinks yielded 55% higher click-through rates and 56% higher conversion rates.

Marketers should also be aligning their social strategy to shifting customer demographics throughout the day. Prospecting on mobile to acquire lookalikes, competitor fans and other interest-based segments early in the day, retargeting current buyers on desktop during midday and activating all customer segments towards the end of the day can help to maximize sales.

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As we look beyond the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and into the rest of the shopping season, it’s important to note that only 22% of all online holiday sales happened in these five days. Seventy-eight happens at other times. Retailers who utilize their CRM data and make special product offerings to their past customers are most likely to be successful and overcome the might of Amazon and other generalist retailers to whom consumers are drawn to for both convenience and cost savings.

NetElixir provides search marketing services to nine of the Top 1000 online retailers in North America, according to Top500Guide.com

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