The logic behind Black Friday has long evaded me. Families gather on Thursday to give thanks for and recognize all they have -- then go out on Friday morning and shop as if they had nothing.
As an entrepreneur, I am not opposed to Black Friday. I have, in fact, participated in my fair share of shopping on the day, and I still have a few lingering items around the house that have thus far avoided the office White Elephant Gift Exchange.
Since Black Friday has morphed into Thanksgiving Thursday, however, and infringed on my once annual Thursday culinary indulgence, nap and football game -- not to mention the increased threat of bodily harm at the stores -- I have become disenfranchised with the whole idea.
More important, as a consumer, I now have Cyber Monday to satiate my holiday shopping and deal-seeking habit. Falling on the first Monday after Black Friday, Cyber Monday is the day when online retailers offer Black Friday-like deals to online consumers. It has become my most anticipated shopping event of the season.
You see, shopping online is like a sport for my family. Any time we need something, we open multiple browser tabs to compare prices and availability across websites and assure we land the best deal. I personally have become adept at calculating price per unit, amortizing shipping costs and comparing return policies on the fly.
More important, as two working parents, waiting two to three days for an item to show up at our doorstep is a small price to pay to avoid fighting patrons for parking places (or actual products) and clerks for attention.
What does all of this mean for retailers? For starters, in order to capitalize on the online shopping trend in general, a business needs a great website and a digital-marketing plan. For Cyber Monday, however, businesses need to have a strategy specifically for this event, just as retailers have for Black Friday. Here are five things your Cyber Monday strategy needs to consider.
On Cyber Monday, your visitors are not interested so much in your site as they are in getting the best deal. Your landing page and call to action, therefore, needs to be clear, concise and compelling. Navigating from page to page should be easy, and adding items to a shopping cart and checking out should be seamless and quick.
Sounds obvious, right? The problem is that most entrepreneurs do not understand all the important elements that make a website clear, concise and compelling. Therefore, you should strongly consider hiring a professional web designer who can design and create your site.
Perhaps the most useful aspect of having a professional developer is the analytics he or she can set up, such as bounce rate and abandoned shopping carts.
Once you have your great site, you need to offer your visitors a great and competitive deal. Because shoppers (such as me) are probably browsing on multiple tabs and comparing, this is the time to get creative and aggressive. Remember also that while the goal for Cyber Monday is to maximize sales, it is also an opportunity to raise visibility for your site, gain followers and return shoppers and build your brand.
More important, this focus is not static. Since it may be difficult to know in advance exactly what your competition will do on Cyber Monday, you should consider checking in with your competitors regularly during the day and adjust your offers accordingly to stay competitive. Doing so may get customers who purchased earlier miffed that they missed out, but you can turn this issue into a customer-service gesture -- one that large companies do not have the flexibility to do -- and make the offer to them as well.
Since visitors to your page will most likely be tabbing back and forth between pages, looking and waiting for the right deals, you need to create the fear of missing out (FOMO), which is the psychological strategy retailers employ to create urgency and encourage people to buy right away. Cyber Monday is in itself a strategy for creating urgency, but you can offer specials throughout the day as another way to encourage prompt action from your website visitors.
When retailers offer in-store specials for Black Friday, the goal is to get people in the store who may also buy ancillary products. For an online business, this is more difficult to achieve because of the ease at which shoppers can come and go.
For this reason, set up your shopping cart to make suggestions, much like the Amazon, for other products that are complementary to your customer’s purchase or that are popular with other shoppers. If your company and shopping selection is small, take this opportunity to offer a special to increase the quantity purchased, such as a gift for someone else.
5. Follow up
Visitors to your site on Cyber Monday are purchasing items and providing valuable contact data. If they have not selected to opt out of being contacted, take the opportunity to send your customers a thank you note -- a nice change from the black eye they get at Target during the Black Friday frenzy.
For the foreseeable future, Cyber Monday will continue to lure shoppers away from retail stores and put a dent in Black Friday sales. Not convinced? Consider that during Cyber Monday in 2014, online sales were up 17 percent from the previous year, with shoppers buying a record $2.04 billion worth of goods. It was the first time online sales in the U.S. had surpassed $2 billion on any single day.
Consider also that Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba reached an astonishing single day sales total of $14 billion (including 180,000 robot vacuums) this November for its annual Singles' Day (an "anti-Valentine’s Day" for single people). This was a 60 percent increase from the previous year’s total.
China's Singles' Day is a recent holiday, tracing its roots back to 1993. Cyber Monday, which only picked up momentum after being coined in 2005, is much younger and has a long way to grow. The trend in each is clear, and it is time to face the fact that in the near future, Cyber Monday (or some iteration of it) could take the place of Black Friday as the premier shopping day of the year, and businesses need to be prepared.
The next obvious question? What do we all do during the Thanksgiving holiday? Perhaps spend time with family, give thanks, eat, take a nap and watch football.
Now there's a novel idea.