Black Friday, Bright Day: Lessons for Marketers

People love to shop. Period. That’s what makes the annual cornucopia of sales events, better known as Black Friday, such a delicious time of the year. Yes — it’s absolutely all about the bling. From gadgets to games and toys for the tots, it’s not “if” so much as how much, when and where we spend our loot.

This year, we spent rivers of cash, and did it online.

ComScore reports that for the holiday season to-date, $13.7 billion has been spent online, marking a 16 percent increase compared to last year. Black Friday saw just over $1 billion in online sales, making it the heaviest online spending day with a 26 percent increase over 2011. Thanksgiving Day increased 32 percent.

“Despite the frenzy of media coverage surrounding the importance of Black Friday in the brick-and-mortar world, we continue to see this shopping day become more and more prominent in the e-commerce channel – particularly among those who prefer to avoid crowds at the stores,” said comScore chairman, Gian Fulgoni. “With Black Friday online sales up 26 percent and surpassing $1 billion for the first time, coupled with early reports indicating that Black Friday sales in retail stores were down 1.8 percent, we can now confidently call it a multi-channel marketing phenomenon.”

Go to Walmart…or Stay Home?
So there it is: Shopping online is better than getting punched in the face at Walmart.  Traffic to stores actually decreased this year, while online shopping zoomed ahead and looks to continue the pace. In fact, a survey of 4,000 shoppers conducted by the National Retail Federation revealed that the average person spent $172 online over the weekend, or 40 percent of their total weekend spending. More than 25 percent of holiday shoppers said they shopped online on Thanksgiving Day, and 47.5 percent said they did the same on Black Friday. “There’s no question that millions of people were drawn to retailers’ aggressive online promotions this weekend, making sure to research and compare prices days in advance to ensure they were getting the best deal they could,” said BIGinsight Consumer Insights director Pam Goodfellow.

It’s a beautiful thing: online and offline marketing working together to get the word out, drive sales and build brands. It is indeed multi-channel marketing, at it’s best, and underscores the reality that digital storefronts and marketing efforts have become just as important as offline executions tied to brick and mortar locations. In some ways, they’re more important, especially when it comes to first impressions. The physical front door to your business is no longer as important as the digital front door, be that search, social, or website. Indeed, the weekend’s online frenzy tell us that if people can’t find you on the web — well, you did want to go home early, right?

Mobile Eats Social Media
The weekend also showed in stark fashion how different digital channels are used by consumers in shopping mode. Clearly, mobile is the key bridge people use to cross from rich online content and research to storefront test drives and purchase. To that end, IBM found that mobile store visits increased to 24 percent and sales came in at over 16 percent — almost double that of last year. The company also reported that multiscreen shopping — where consumers shop in store, online and on mobile at the same time — also increased.

Then there’s social media, and the blues. Black Friday pulled the curtain back on platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, and exposed them as non factors: IBM found that just .34 of all online sales were referred by a social network. Twitter even scored a zero in referring people to purchase. Compared to 2011, that’s a decrease of 35 percent — otherwise known as driving off a cliff and into the upper funnel.

All in all, Black Friday served up a valuable lesson for dealerships struggling with priorities and  budgets for the coming year. The days of keeping digital marketing and communications in the dark have long since past. From awareness to engagement and purchase, today’s marketing only works when online and offline work hand-in-hand to get the word out, get people interested and get them to buy.

And please — for goodness sakes — invest in mobile.


–Brian Chee
Source: comScoreIBMNational Retail Federation

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