Want to get a piece of the $3.45 billion Black Friday pie? Here’s how to get ready.

In 2016, US consumers spent $3.45 billion on Black Friday. Is your retail business set up to make the most out of this year’s Black Friday Cyber Monday sale period?

With more eCommerce retailers competing for shoppers’ attention, you can’t afford to cook up a last-minute promotion and hope for the best.

It’s more important than ever to plan ahead and get your retail business ready for Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

Here are a few things you can’t afford to ignore:

Start early

The National Retail Federation (NRF) has found that 40% of shoppers start doing their research for holiday shopping as early as October.

Plan to start promoting holiday shopping related content and products, such as holiday gift guides, during that time. Set up website personalization strategies that leverage data from your customer profiles to ensure that you’re displaying the most relevant content and offers to your visitors.

In addition, make sure that you have contingency plans in place. For instance, figure out what your options are if your shipping company is delayed by a higher volume.

Not only should you be planning for things that may go wrong, you must also plan for when things go well. For instance, can your website handle a surge in traffic? Is your fulfillment system set up well enough to handle a large number of orders?

Last but not least, forecast your sales and communicate with your suppliers to ensure that you’ll have the right products in stock to fulfill your orders.

Plan your marketing efforts

Decide on the products you want to highlight, plan out your sales schedule, and coordinate all the promotional efforts to maximize your sales:

  • Schedule email marketing campaigns ahead of time and don’t forget to include personalized content and offers that are most relevant to each recipient.
  • Set up your social media promotions and use strategies such as email retargeting to deliver a personalized omnichannel shopping experience.
  • Connect with influencers early on so they can work any mention of your products or promotions into their schedule.
  • Do some social listening to find out what’s trending this holiday season and identify which products to promote.
  • Design a holiday-themed giveaway or contest with a viral component to help increase brand awareness and drive traffic to your website.

Be mobile-ready

During the 2016 holiday season, half of the web traffic and 30% of retail sales came from mobile sites.

If your eCommerce platform isn’t optimized for mobile, you could be missing out on sales and losing revenue this holiday season.

black fridayImage source

Mobile devices offer great opportunities to deliver personalized shopping experiences that will help you increase conversion rate.

Other than website personalization, you can deliver an omnichannel experience by using technologies such as geofencing (if you have a physical store) or mobile apps and leveraging data from your customer profiles.

You can also facilitate the mobile purchasing process with features such as tap-to-call or auto-fill by using location services to deliver a seamless customer experience.

Don’t get left behind this holiday season

An omnichannel personalized shopping experience will be the key to success for retailers this holiday season as well as for the ones in the coming years.

Thankfully, implementing these strategies are getting much easier with sophisticated technologies that will help manage customer data, personalization automation, and omnichannel personalization so that you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting yourself.

So the numbers are in, and Cyber Monday was actually America’s biggest online shopping day ever according to Adobe. Shoppers spent $3.07 billion on Monday alone, bringing total eCommerce revenue to $11 billion for Thankgiving Weekend.

Now, here’s the catch: while total spend nationwide increased, the average order size actually decreased from $69 to $67.30. This trend suggests that customers are shopping around and purchasing specific products from various retailers, as opposed to visiting a one-stop destination for all of their gifts. Here are some crucial points where companies should employ personalization to take maximal advantage of their eCommerce sites:

eCommerce features deals 24/7

It’s not about big single sales days anymore.

A telling trend we’ve observed in recent years is the extension of the holiday shopping season, which is no longer constrained to Black Friday/Cyber Monday but basically starts after Halloween and continues until Christmas (and possibly after).

What this means is that the most attractive deals and discounts are prompting customers to buy in smaller orders, but with increasing frequency. Today’s shoppers aren’t shy about buying a gift for dad on Amazon, picking up holiday cards in the store, and then downloading apps to look for deals on clothes that they can check out in person at the mall. Factors like greater smartphone and mobile device usage, an increasingly digital culture, and a lack of patience for the “Black Friday at 5:00 A.M. mosh pit” experience have pushed customers towards embracing the convenience, selection, and value provided by eCommerce.

Mobile as a platform for advertising

This past Thanksgiving week showed us that mobile purchases are increasing in number, but the common pattern observed is that people enjoy browsing for products on mobile (up to 49% of shopping visits occur on from mobile devices) and then make about 75% of their actual purchases from a desktop.

This means that the majority of customers who interact with your brand on mobile devices are probably there just seeking some basic inspiration and information. Since the screen space and attention span of a mobile user is so limited, it’s essential for your brand to maximize its impact on the viewer by showcasing for them the products that they’re most likely to buy.

Of course, mobile shoppers (especially impatient Millennials) will abandon your app or site if it’s too slow or acts buggy, so make sure that your brand’s tech presence is on point. Target’s site, for example, went down several times during Cyber Monday and it’s impossible to say how much potential business they lost for it.

Black Friday/Cyber Monday were huge days for eCommerce, but this isn’t the end of the story. What we’ve learned from this past weekend is that, regardless of how you slice it, eCommerce and the omnichannel shopping experience is becoming the de facto process for the modern holiday season. That means that today’s brands should invest heavily in personalization software to create a shopping experience that’s fast, functional, and provides relevant product offers to their customers. It’s only going to become more important next year and the year after, especially as more and more shoppers become comfortable with eCommerce as a whole.

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, and this year’s Black Friday saw more shoppers make purchases online than ever. According to the National Marketing Federation, $4.45 billion dollars worth of revenue was generated in online purchases this weekend, an overall 14.5% increase since last year.

The NRF’s latest survey estimates that 103 million Americans did at least some of their shopping online from Thanksgiving Thursday to this past Sunday, which probably had a role in the decreased foot traffic that we saw in shopping malls and retail stores. The inevitable Cyber Monday statistics should confirm the overall trend that more people are opting out of shopping in person in favor of eCommerce, and the shoppers that still do enjoy visiting stores in person are increasingly going for the whole omnichannel experience via digitally-assisted purchases.

This shift could also be the result of an extended “holiday” shopping season that now starts just after Halloween, which means that shoppers who would have braved malls and Wal-Marts nationwide are now choosing to do their gift-buying earlier and online. Either way, we can see that more than ever shoppers have the luxury of making purchases based on price (always) and the convenience of the overall shopping experience year-round, instead of waiting participating in the Black Friday mosh pit for a couple of deals.

It’s not difficult to see a future where Americans start doing the bulk of their holiday shopping online as discounts on the goods they want start popping up in early November, perhaps even right after Halloween. Through eCommerce, shoppers have a wider variety of product choice, research tools, and access to a wider inventory than might be available in-store. And with the overall trend of extending the availability of holiday discounts, it’s likely that we’ll see a continued growth in online and mobile commerce while the Thanksgiving spike in brick-and-mortar stores continues to level off for everyone else but tactile shoppers that insist on seeing products in person and for whatever reason, enjoy the strange, contemporary American tradition of Black Friday.

Omnichannel Today – Black Friday Edition

Happy Thanksgiving from NectarOM! As we gear up for the eCommerce holidays of Black Friday and Cyber Monday these are the latest news articles we’ve been paying attention to:

JC Penney’s Retail Reinvention

Unlike Nordstrom’s and Macy’s, JCP is on course to exceed holiday expectations during a season where eCommerce and digital platforms are taking away business from retail. The secret, as CEO Marvin Ellison puts it, is finding the balance between the “art” and “science” of retail. JC Penney is taking a completely different approach to their in-store experience, developing attractive new features such as store-within-a-store kiosks for both younger shoppers and the upcoming cohort Millennial-age parents. Next up for the department store? Focusing on the science side of things by making improvements to their eCommerce, supply chain, and data processing abilities.

Amazon’s ingenious scheme to undermine Black Friday

Black Friday and its younger sibling Cyber Monday are a major source of income for the retail industry every year. Since this last Friday, web giant Amazon has taken advantage of the holiday shopping fervor to entice customers with constantly updated deals and featured items, hoping to sway buyers that won’t miss the authentic “Black Friday Experience” of elbowing through crowded stores. That said, certain stores such as Best Buy and Target have responded to Amazon by making their in-store discounts apply to their eCommerce platforms as well.

Facebook Says Nearly One Third of Online Shopping Transactions Are On Mobile Devices

New data from Facebook suggests that its users are becoming much more comfortable with using mobile devices to shop and make purchases. The social media titan expects a 30% increase in the percentage of users who buy on mobile by the end of the fourth quarter. Facebook researchers also observed that about 45% of all shopping occasions involve mobile devices in some fashion, such as during product research that results in a purchase on a desktop.

Retail enters third phase of digital evolution: ‘Emotional’ eCommerce

A new article from the Financial Times discusses how modern shoppers expect brands to develop a relationship with them over social media and other digital platforms. The thought leaders interviewed point to the success of apps like Instagram, Etsy, and Olapic, who offer businesses the ability to showcase their “human side” to potential customers by using memes, shareable posts, and conversation starters to promote fan engagement over social media.

Other stuff we read this week:

How James Murdoch thinks the ad industry should innovate: ‘Empower the Consumer.’
Here’s how advertisers will be able to target TV viewers who see competitors’ ads
Goodbye privacy, hello ‘Alexa’: Amazon Echo, the home robot who hears it all
Volvo Wants to Use Microsoft’s Sci-Fi Glasses to Sell Cars

Check back next time for the latest developments in omnichannel! We’ll bring you news, facts, opinions, and infographics that will help you gain a broad perspective of the industry. Drop in, stick around, and subscribe to our newsletter – and who knows? You just might learn something.

The biggest shopping day of the year is quickly approaching; and no, we aren’t talking about Black Friday. Cyber Monday 2014 is just a few days away.

Based off patterns from past Cyber Monday sales, we’re confident that Cyber Monday 2014 will provide record-breaking sales for every type of retailer. USA Today says “Black Friday will get crushed by Cyber Monday,” arguing that any special deals on Cyber Monday “will outshine most of the offerings on Black Friday.”

An IBM study analyzes historical and real-time data from retailers, showing a 20.6% increase in Cyber Monday online sales from 2012 to 2013. The study also showed that 2013 Cyber Monday sales were 31.5% more than those from Black Friday in the same year. What’s even more interesting is that Cyber Monday shoppers spent 5% less per order than Black Friday goers, with an average order value of $128.77 vs. $135.27. If these patterns continue, retailers can expect to see a significant uptick in traffic this year on Cyber Monday.

Importance of technology and marketing automation

These findings show the public’s shift from in-store to online sales, as customers rely on technology for purchasing products on these special shopping days.

As new developments in technology begin to influence marketing strategies, implementing a marketing automation plan is necessary for companies who wish to stay competitive. Marketing automation is the best innovation for raising product awareness among customers and keeping customers interested in products. The success of your company on December 1st could be determined by marketing automation tactics.

How will you use marketing automation to your advantage for Cyber Monday?

Create excitement for your customers.

Will you offer any special deals on Cyber Monday? Are there any promotional codes your customers may want to take advantage of? If so, let them know! Give your customers a brief preview into your Cyber Monday specials, offering special promo codes via your automation suite. Establishing interest in exciting sales ensures your customers remember to visit your site during the shopping holiday.

Make it special.

To ensure that your communication with shared clients is better than their communication with competition, take advantage of marketing personalization techniques. Personalization is necessary for a successful automation campaign in order to ensure the email does not come off as robotic, impersonal spam. Make sure communication is tailored differently to suit each customer. Provide recommendations for products that each customer may prefer, based on their past interests. A personalized, 1:1 messaging approach that is relevant to the customer will strengthen their relationship with your company.

Send reminder emails to checkout

Your customer visited your site, selected items for purchase, and is ready to buy…until they abandon their shopping cart at checkout. Whether customers are leaving your site to compare prices with your competition, or simply because they forget to return to the site for checkout, the abandonment of a shopping cart can be a tough loss. However, we recommend triggered emails to customers who have abandoned their shopping carts. These emails should be sent immediately after, the following day, and a week after the customer leaves the site. Sending three emails over this time period gently reminds the customer to buy, without being too pushy.

Why are we so sure marketing automation is the answer?

Companies that use marketing automation tend to perform better than those who do not. The Lenskold Group 2013 Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness Study determined that 63% of companies that are outgrowing competitors use marketing automation. The same study showed that 78% of successful marketers attributed improvements in revenue to marketing automation.

Here is an impressive list of statistics that show the success of a marketing automation campaign. These statistics reveal it’s not only wise to use marketing automation for Cyber Monday, but absolutely necessary.