Business writers and retail pundits panicked last week as Black Friday sales dropped by 11% compared to last year. Was this a sign of a still sluggish economic recovery? Were families rebelling against the commercial nature of the holidays? Were retailers failing to provide for their evolving customer base?
Three more pieces of information have now come through that cast Black Friday’s lackluster sales in a new light:
- This year’s Cyber Monday sales eclipsed last year’s by 8.7%
- Despite Black Friday performance, November sales were still 4% greater than last year
- The 5-day spread between Black Friday and Cyber Monday showed overall gains over last year
All of this was, of course, largely thanks to online sales and discounts. So what does this mean for the future of retail?
Linchpin sales days are no longer as reliable
Online shopping allows people to browse at their leisure. There is no longer any need to let your busy schedule dictate your shopping days, and shoppers are embracing that fact. That does not mean that you should abandon Black Friday sales on your website, but understand that your store will have to offer more than just discounts on special occasions. Consider spreading your discounts out over several days, even when you trying to creating urgency.
Be prepared for retail fatigue
Although shoppers are still eager to buy, they are no longer as eager to be sold. Pushy promotions, competitive crowds and fad gifts have created a high pressure sales environment that many shoppers are rejecting for the comparatively low pressure world of online browsing. Focus on your value messages and crafting informative product descriptions. Keep in mind that your competitors are more easily accessible online than in physical retail. If you push a customer away, they don’t have to walk to their car and fight traffic to get to another store; all they have to do is back out of your site.
Shipping, shipping, shipping
For most of your customers, this will be their biggest concern. Will my gift ship on time and can I get cheaper shipping somewhere else? Keep your shipping messaging clear and competitive. If you haven’t already, look at your average order size and, if you see that it is increasing, consider creating a threshold order size for which you will offer free shipping. Few offers are more compelling during the holiday season.
It’s not over
Even if your own Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales were less than stellar, the season isn’t over. Just as Black Friday and Cyber Monday are becoming less distinguishable, with sales bleeding over throughout the intervening days, the months of November and December are showing growth overall, regardless of specific sales days. There is still plenty of time to succeed.