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  • December 1, 2015

Cyber Monday - Was It Good for You?

Brenna Johnson
Senior Product Strategist

Pardon the gloating, but I can happily say I’m 90% done with holiday shopping before the advent calendar hits the fridge. Is it because I’m super-organized? Or carefully planned my Door Buster Deals on Black Friday? No. And heck no.

Like most other people in my age group, I don’t buy Black Friday. And to be honest, Cyber Monday isn’t all it’s cracked up to be anymore – and that’s a good thing. The one-day sale event is fizzling out, and this year, that became pretty clear.

Yes, I’m viewing holiday shopping as a millennial consumer who doesn’t get why people brave the mall Thanksgiving weekend. But our age group will take over the purchasing power, and the one-day, mass sale frenzy online or otherwise just doesn’t do it for us. We know the Web is always ripe with deals.

Early results say Black Friday 2015 was average, and while the analysts are still tabulating the Cyber Monday results, I thought I’d share a few unofficial observations from your average 30-something shopper with a bazillion gifts to buy:

Email overload. We get it. Email is an incredibly effective tool for driving conversions and loyalty. But this year racked up an especially impressive number of swipe-deletes (and this is after bracing for the season with unroll.me). The strangest part of email experience was the fact I got 3-4 emails from the same retailer in about 24 hours, without differentiating their email content at all. The offer was the same. Subject lines were largely the same. It seemed like sending the email was simply a “bump” to stay on top of the email heap - and shopper’s minds.

There’s a difference between being communicative on the right touchpoints, and talking just to talk.

The email winners played an entirely different game. They sent a couple emails (earlier in the week and Cyber Monday Eve) with tailored offerings based on my loyalty status, past purchase history, and made their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals transparent; there wasn’t any waiting to see what I’d get day-of. They made an impact by not harassing me with general content. Duly noted!

Skimping on the Savings. Now – the contents of the email. At a certain point every retailer has to ask the question: “what is compelling savings without cutting too deep in to margins?” And then of course there are competitors who with one fell swoop can make your offer look fantastic, or fall flat. It’s got to be hard. But if you’re going to play the Cyber Monday game, it’s time to man up. Give people real savings! There were a number of “15% off” banner images and emails – which frankly, don’t incite much excitement at all. Or the dreaded “Free Shipping!” subject line – which, isn’t exactly pulling out all of the stops in the eye of the consumer. It’s expected. I actually saw an email for “5% off and free shipping over $25.” Ouch.

The “magic” discount number seemed to be about 30% this year (at least, the stores I was getting correspondence from). In my very unscientific methods, 25% - 30% qualifies as “openable / shoppable.” Now, if something says 40% or greater (which a few major retailers rolled out site-wide) you bet I’m opening it, even if I don’t love the products (hey – the gifts aren’t for me). If it’s not substantial savings, don’t bother. Especially when your house list is people who are already interested in your brand or have done business with you. Make it compelling! Keep their business. If deep discounting is just not possible, tailor email content, curate an online gift shop, or deliver personalized flash offers to VIPs. Find ways to be exclusive without being cheap or cheesy.

Big Baskets, Few Retailers. Like a lot of people who try to shop exclusively online, I bought 80% of my gifts from a small number of retailers: two. It cuts down on the hassle, millions of boxes showing up at my door, simplifies exchanges, and frankly – it’s just easier. If I was compelled enough to pick a retailer to do business with, chances are their offer was good, and so are their products and inventory. The other 10% of gift recipients (my creative “Etsy-people”) would be horrified with a big box gift, so I’m still on the hunt. And the remaining 10% is for the relatives who will judge me if their clothes don’t run true to size.  I hope to be in and out of the mall in 30 minutes flat. Gift-wrap included.

A Holiday Miracle! One Day Became Five. In perhaps the biggest shift from Cyber Monday 2014, the days-long savings event took over. Hallelujah. I not so secretly love that fewer people (and now retailers) are giving in to the one-day hype. Largely, online prices from Friday (or even Wednesday in some cases) remained same through Monday.  It just makes consumers (and retailers) lives simpler. 

Full disclosure: just in case I could save a few more bucks (yes, I must hold on to a shred of single-day sale hope) I loaded my carts throughout the weekend, but didn’t check out. In between scrubbing pans and draining the Reddi-Whip, I would add items, check inventory levels, and waited to see if, when Monday hit, any additional super-secret savings would get applied. No dice.  And that’s quite alright. Prices were transparent, they stayed the same, and to my relief – inventory levels for my 48-hour carts prevailed. Got the gifts. Checked out easily. Task complete.

So, all in all, a pretty awesome Cyber Monday. As a consumer, if you can cut through the noise, find your go-to retailers and get a deal you’re pleased with, moral victory. And as a retailer, you’ll win the millennial crew (and others) if you communicate with relevant content, extend desirable offers (or experiences), be transparent with pricing, and extend beyond one crazy day. Spreading the love out over a 5 to 30-day shopping frenzy also means less internal strife and less spiky demand on your systems. With crazed crowds at the door Friday morning and millennials sipping their organic wine while shopping on the sofa – retailers can’t risk anything. Gotta keep them happy. One and all.

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