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Cyber Monday – What is it, Why Get Involved and How to Maximise Cyber Monday Sales

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Cyber Monday – What is it, Why Get Involved and How to Maximise Cyber Monday Sales
Cyber Monday, which typically falls on the first Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday is a major shopping event where retailers, worldwide, slash their prices in an effort to drive traffic through their websites, raise their brand profile and get new customers.
 
This article explores the phenomenon of “Cyber Monday”, charting its impact on sales and business and looks at statistics that highlight associated trends. Ultimately, the writer will consider what advantages may be gained by businesses if they choose to get involved in this event and how Cyber Monday sales opportunities can be maximised.
 
 
Cyber Monday
 
Cyber Monday (also known as Black Monday) is an e-commerce shopping event where retailers will offer promotions, offers, web-only deals and special prices. It is seen as the “unofficial” beginning of the shopping season in the run-up to Christmas and has been in operation since 2005, when Shop.org, the e-commerce division of the National Retail Federation first began to mark the event. The National Retail Federation created Cyber Monday after noticing a sharp rise in sales on the first Monday after Thanksgiving.
 
Experts have gone to great lengths to try to explain why this trend existed in the first place. Some argue that people would browse through items in shopping centres and bricks and mortar stores, but would ultimately wait until the following Monday to make their purchases – choosing to wait to get on the internet so they could compare deals and shop around. This trend, in addition to the approach of Christmas, all added up to the spike in sales noted by the National Retail Federation. This is just a theory though and nobody has ever been able to say, decisively, what caused the purchasing trends that gave Cyber Monday organisers the initial impetus to launch the event. Many agree however that Cyber Monday owes a lot of its growing popularity to people wishing to avoid the crowds in bricks and mortar shops, and instead preferring to shop online and take advantage of the convenience of online shopping.
 
What does not cause controversy, and what experts largely agree upon is just how much of a boon Cyber Monday is for retailers all over the world. According to CNBC, Cyber Monday 2017 was the single biggest day for online shopping in US history, with online sales transactions of 16.9 billion USD – reportedly an increase of almost 17% from the previous year. For many retailers Cyber Monday affords a much-needed boost to sales, as hundreds of thousands of shoppers browse to get the best deals available, with some sources suggesting that by 10am on Cyber Monday 2017, customers had already purchased just over 1 billion USD worth of goods and services. Its popularity, too, is growing, as more people shop using mobile devices and tablets and online shopping is favoured over shopping from bricks and mortar stores. Adweek reports that 64% of Cyber Monday related browsing was done using mobile devices, and more than 95% of US citizens owning some type of cellphone. Investopedia cite some impressive statistics to highlight the meteoric rise of the Cyber Monday popularity, suggesting that in 2005 Cyber Monday increased sales by just over 25%, which amounted to a total spend of just short of $500 million. 6 years later, in 2011 this total spend figure had increased to $1.25 billion, and in 2014 the total spend attributed to Cyber Monday was $2.4 billion. These figures continued to grow rapidly, with 2017 seeing a total spend attributed to Cyber Monday in the region of $6.5 billion. Adobe Digital Insights has suggested that since 2009, there has been an 8-fold increase in total spend attributable to Cyber Monday – an increase from 0.887 billion USD to 7.9 billion USD, of which $2.2 billion was for smartphone sales alone.
 
Such is the power of the Cyber Monday concept, many retailers are reported to begin preparing for it weeks before the actual event itself. As of 2019, 90% of retailers offer specific Cyber Monday deals and discounts. Trends are also discernable amongst shoppers, with many shoppers deferring their planned spending until Cyber Monday when they will hope to get a better deal. ‘Millennials’ have been identified as some of the biggest spenders taking part in the shopping frenzy, with some reports suggesting that this group spends $400 per person, on average.
  
 
Some Suggestions for Increasing Cyber Monday Sales
 
Some retailers still do choose to ignore Cyber Monday, however, many will agree that the event represents a major opportunity for savvy retailers to increase their sales and overall profit margins. So, what can work to boost Cyber Monday marketing campaigns?
 
 
Time-limited Discount Codes
 
One of the most popular approaches amongst retailers is the idea of the time-limited code that can be applied at the electronic checkout. Customers get the code and then enter it alongside all of their other details at the checkout to reduce the overall price of their purchases. The codes are easy to create and rarely even need a developer to work on them, since they can be generated by “boil in the bag” generic web development tools that are now widely available. As such, the retailer can conveniently advertise a short-term method of getting a price reduction. Moreover, the codes can be advertised on external platforms, like social media applications.
 
 
Advertise Well in Advance
 
Many of the purchases made on Cyber Monday are not impulsive. On the contrary, multiple sources suggest that people defer their planned shopping until Cyber Monday, in the hope of securing the best deal possible. As a result retailers are being encouraged to acknowledge and take advantage of these trends by planning Cyber Monday deals well in advance. This can easily be achieved by using social media tools to build up a sense of anticipation, and encourage shoppers to visit related websites several times to check for the launch of new deals and promotions. For example, “share-this” campaigns are especially effective if you are trying to spread the news about a Cyber Monday deal well in advance of the actual day. This could take the form of a competition where people are asked to share a post with 2-3 friends, in exchange for a chance to win a prize.  
 
 
Use of Social Media
 
Synchronisation of promotional activity across several social media platforms is a must these days for big brands looking to attract as much traffic for their Cyber Monday deals as possible. The larger brands will always be looking to outdo one another with the most eyecatching images, blogs or videos to draw in likes and shares on social media, with the aim of diverting users to apps and websites where advertised products can be purchased. Even smaller retailers can run hugely successful amateur campaigns, as long as the content is useful for the target audience and is sufficiently interesting to hold the reader’s attention.
 
 
Free Shipping
 
A great way to entice extra Cyber Monday purchases is to offer free postage and packing, just for the 24 hours of Cyber Monday. Research by ComScore suggests that more than half of all deals advertised on Cyber Monday included a free shipping offer.
 
 
Plan for Adversity as well as Increased Sales
 
While Cyber Monday represents a distinct opportunity for retailers, there are also some risks that need to be managed. One of the biggest is the possibility of site crashes due to large influxes of shoppers eager to take advantage of advertised deals and promotions. A site crash can be catastrophic for retailers are competition is so rife on Cyber Monday that shoppers will readily switch their loyalty to another brand based on the convenience of their shopping experience. Retailers can and should take steps to mitigate these risks. It is advisable to carry out an audit of any website that is expecting a large volume of traffic due to advertised deals. Website owners should ask themselves “how many clicks does the customer need to make in order to make a successful purchase?“, since the higher the number of clicks required to finalise purchases increases the risk that interested shoppers trail off and just go somewhere else where their experience of finalising a purchase is better. There are also apps that monitor downtime on websites and these can be used to good effect to give a head’s up if there are technical problems that require immediate attention. It is also advisable to test site speed, responsivity and the performance of the website on mobile devices and other platforms. Mobile functionality is particularly important, because most purchases are now made through smartphones.
 
 
Use “Hooks”
 
Nobody likes the “hard-sell” when it comes to advertising products and services, but that does not mean that retailers shouldn’t work hard to get the attention of prospective customers in other ways. Cyber Monday will typically drive traffic through a website to enjoy a one-off offer or promotion, but savvy retailers will work hard to get their long-term attention, as well as their interest in Cyber Monday offers. One effective way to achieve this is to create what are called “hooks”. This means that customer attention is secured by tying the customer into a longer-term interest or attachment to the business. Hooks can be anything from a basic statement like “contact us for more information”, or it can be more complex, for example offering a free trial or service which leads to long term commitment to invest cash over a set period of time. Some hooks involve offering discounts for bulk buying, or for repeat business. Whatever hook you decide might work for your business, the point is that you convert one-time purchases into repeat business. 
 
 
“Hidden Gems”
 
Hidden gems is where a promotion or offer is “hidden” somewhere on the main website and a mere “hint” at its presence is what is advertised, so it could be a special discount code that needs to be found before it can be used. Using hidden gems is a useful way to attract more traffic to your site, but this particular strategy holds the attention of visitors for longer because users need to search for it. In the search process they may notice products and services that visitors only visiting for the sole purpose of using a specific code that’s been advertised somewhere else, won’t notice.
 
 
Add Value – for Free
 
A common marketing strategy is to create something that’s available to users for free, and then encourage users to spend money to get more of what they have sampled for free. This could take the form of a free e-book, or a free webinar. The trick is to build confidence and show how your products and services add value, THEN ask for the customer to spend money on making a purchase. This allows customers to experience some of the products or services on offer before they make a commitment and it is a great chance to showcase your best products or services.
 
 
Optimise Apps and Websites for Upselling
 
Upselling is where relevant products and services are displayed, typically in conjunction with some deal to encourage bulk spending before a user checks out their basket. A simple example might be if someone is buying a makeup foundation, there is an opportunity to sell related products like concealer or a makeup “primer”. Amazon is one company that uses this technique to very good effect. The downside is that most effective upsales systems are fully automated and this requires some investment in terms of the functionality of the website or app. Retailers need to decide whether they are willing to spend some cash on developing an automated upselling system, in order to secure the possible future benefit that many associate with upsales techniques.
 
 
Address the “Abandoned Cart” Issue
 
In the run up to Cyber Monday, there are likely to be many visitors to a retailer website, who are not there to make a purchase, but instead to make a comparison. Often, the shopping cart will be used as a way of “marking” a product a user is interested in, and may or may not return to it later on to make a purchase. Retailers have labeled this “the abandoned cart” issue, and retailers who implement an abandoned cart strategy tend to lose a lot less sales as a result of people browsing, comparing and then leaving an item “abandoned” in a shopping cart. One the most simple abandoned cart strategy is to remind people who have abandoned a shopping basket of what they have placed in there and failed to follow up on. If a user has a registered email address, reminder emails can be sent to display the abandoned basket and allow for a quick and speedy purchase. Other retailers follow up abandoned carts with special offers, which are emailed to users to give them that little extra incentive to actually make the purchase they were clearly considering at one point. Retailers should also note that shoppers are less likely to use shopping baskets as a means of just making a comparison, if there are other tools like a “save for later”, “interested in” or “wish list” feature, where shoppers can save items to.
 
 
Blog Placement
 
Many retailers are getting their Cyber Monday deals advertised on external websites, which themselves have high traffic. For example, the Guardian ran a feature entitled “Cyber Monday: Amazon, Argos, eBay, John Lewis and the best UK deals - as it happened” where they discussed which retailers ran the best deals and provided some important follow up advertising for large brands like John Lewis and Argos. Sales made on the basis of referrals are big business, and it is even better if you can get a mention of your brand in an article you didn’t pay to appear in. That said, even sponsored advertising can be hugely beneficial. The downside, of course is that these adverts must be paid for and then the risk of spending too much on an advertising campaign will have to be evaluated.
 
 
Cyber Monday – What Is It? Should You Get Involved?
 
If you didn’t know anything about Cyber Monday, you would be forgiven for asking “should my business get involved?” and you would soon realise that the answer is a resounding, but cautionary “yes” because although Cyber Monday presents key opportunities for increasing sales, there is also the potential for risks like investing in a sales campaign, only to find that a site crashes on the day, or that there is a spike in user complaints about the functionality of a particular website or app actually diverts traffic to competitor sites.
In short, the growing importance of Cyber Monday necessitates ensuring a fully planned campaign is put into action for the approach of the event, and the actual day. There are lots of things retailers can do to boost Cyber Monday sales including the coordinated use of social media platforms, placing blogs strategically, advertising promotional codes and deals like free shipping and managing problems like issues surrounding abandoned carts.
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