Black Friday/Cyber Monday (BFCM), and the rest of the holiday shopping season is in the rearview mirror. Black Friday was up 22% year-over-year. Cyber Monday was up 15%. Bots were buying up all the Playstations. It’s 2021 and shoppers are still returning holiday purchases to Amazon sellers. Those returns will wind up going to… With so many unique experiences and challenges, it’s hard to imagine an eCommerce business that couldn’t learn from this past Q4. Tune in as some eCommerce industry veterans try to piece together just what happened, and how we can all learn from it.
Host: Robert Rand – JetRails.com https://www.linkedin.com/in/rrand1/
Guests: Jane Powell – CloudCafe.io & FireflySalesConsulting.com https://www.linkedin.com/in/janepowell13
Russell Wollam – BrandNexity.com https://www.linkedin.com/in/russell-wollam-9b998015/
Few would deny that shopping online is the best thing that happened since sliced bread (and, of course, the internet). Shopping from the comfort of your home is growing in popularity, and it’s easy to see why. With online retail sales breaking records for consecutive years and the continuing threat of the global pandemic, this trend is likely to continue. Keeping that in mind, here, let’s take a quick look at some of the big headlines of Black Friday and Cyber Monday that retailers can learn from.
Ecommerce Traffic Had Risen by Over 200%
One of the key takeaways of Black Friday / Cyber Monday retail figures is that sales improved by over 200% for the year 2020. These numbers solidify the popularity of online sales, not just for the previous year but for the coming years as well.
Additionally, according to research carried out by McKinsey, the Q1 sales for 2020 alone was at a 10-year high penetration rate, which is a significant uptick in online sales, which supports other data related to ecommerce sales. Simply put – online shopping is going to grow and grow.
A Rise in Electronics Helped Drive Demand
If we break down online eCommerce traffic and sales by category, we see that the sales of electronics items soared drastically. According to research, the traffic to electronics retailers reached a whopping 477 million during the holiday season alone this past year. This number effectively made up about 30% of all traffic during the same period as compared to other retail categories. Electronics retailing had especially risen during the Black Week, which is the time from Monday before Black Friday all the way to Cyber Monday, with online electronics sales for that period hitting 36%.
Health and beauty were two other categories that saw a significant uptick, with around 400 million visitors during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekends, which made up for around 25% of all ecommerce sales for that period. One of the surprising factors for this time period was that of apparel, which finished at fourth place, which fared worse as compared to other categories and was down by 20% as compared to the same time the previous year.
The Black Friday Push Began a Week Early
There has been a trend in ecommerce sales strategy by many online retailers, which has been to start the sales cycle earlier, well before the official holiday season. Some of the leading retailers, such as Home Depot, Walmart, and Amazon, all started their sales periods well before Black Friday. According to a survey carried out by McKinsey, online shoppers were ready to jump into the sales period for 2020 well before the Black Friday and Cyber Monday period.
Sensible Promotions and Pricing is the Way to Go
We’re living in unprecedented times, and while the holiday season is one where consumers look forward to in terms of discounts and extremely low prices, 2020 saw online and brick and mortar retailers hitting the brakes on those promotions and discounts in an attempt to maximize their Q4 profits, and more importantly, stay afloat during the extraordinary circumstances that businesses were forced to navigate through.
While early predictions for the holiday shopping season weren’t looking good, higher than usual online sales numbers kicked in to help bolster Black Friday sales, which is what led retail sales to inch past the $9 billion mark while avoiding those deep holiday discounts and mass promotions. Managing business during the pandemic called for much improvisation, which came in the form of smarter and leaner promotion strategies as compared to the pre-pandemic retail landscape.
2020 – The Year of the Pivot in Retail
There was another factor that was a glaring reminder that we’re no longer living in a pre-pandemic retail climate. This Black Friday saw fewer consumers making their way to physical retail outlets. In fact, more than half of the crowds that you normally see during the holiday season chose to stay home this year instead, and for good reason. But many customers who did not make the trip physically to the retail shops went the online route instead.
As the pandemic reshapes the customer’s thinking and behaviors, it will be important for retailers who traditionally may not have thought much about their online strategy to bolster their marketing for 2021.
While the pandemic caught many retailers off guard and unprepared to handle the increase in online traffic to their websites, for the coming holiday season, retailers will have no choice but to offer a smooth and streamlined online shopping process for their customers, or else, watch their sales drop drastically. This also means including online meets offline purchasing, as in curbside pickups and BOPIS as part of their new sales strategy.
With digital sales expected to over perform sales at the physical stores, retailers need to start working on an integrated fulfillment experience, which brings flexibility in order placement and delivers across all channels. For businesses that want to exceed their 2020 sales numbers for the holiday season, it is going to be all about enhancing customer experience online.
Looking back at what was a year that couldn’t have ended sooner, it is easy to see the disruption brought to the retail industry courtesy of the coronavirus pandemic. With the vaccines out and businesses starting to tune their drum to the new normal, it pays to learn from the mistakes of the past and gain insights on the strategies that clicked during what could arguably be called the anomaly of the century.
While gaining any insights of value is the real challenge for business owners, considering the wildly unpredictable year that was, it is crucial for businesses to adapt to the new normal, both in the physical and digital space.
What’s important for businesses that are operating in the online retail space is that with every challenge comes an opportunity to change and grow. Keeping that in mind, 2021 should be seen as a test case where retailers will get to put the austere strategies that they used during the pandemic to the test.
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