Black Friday has traditionally been the bellwether day for the holiday for the holiday season, with the foot traffic counts and register rings in brick and mortar stores foretelling how the rest of the holiday season would shake out. However, while sales and traffic were on par with last year, the wake-up call for retailers this year was the continued shift in preference toward e-commerce channels.
While retailers were opening their doors at Midnight and staffing up for the Black Friday rush, research shows the biggest traffic jams were occurring online. ComScore Inc. reported that online shoppers rang up $595 million in sales on Black Friday, up 11% from last year. Web shopping also rose 10% on Thanksgiving day to $318 million.
Web analytics firm Coremetrics reported that as of 1:00 p.m. Cyber Monday, Nov. 30, online sales for the day were up 19.6% over a year ago. That number dipped as the day progressed and, as of Tuesday morning, sales were sitting at 14% above 2008 levels.
Coremetrics found that the average ticket rose 38.2% over the year-ago period (led by apparel retailers) and consumers purchased nearly 30% more items compared with Cyber Monday 2008.
Embracing the Channel Shift
One traditional brick and mortar retailer that has clearly embraced the shifting channel preferences into its sales strategy is Sears Holdings. The retailer was ranked third in overall Web traffic for a multichannel store retailer for the week ending Nov. 28, which included Black Friday, according to Experian Hitwise, which ranked data from a custom category of department store sites based on the market share of visits, which is the percentage of online traffic to the Web site or industry, for the week ending Nov. 28 from the Experian Hitwise sample of 10 million Internet users in the United States.
“We’ve experienced a record number of people engaged with the Sears ShopYourWay multichannel platform this Black Friday and on Cyber Monday, which proves we provide customers with the tools needed to easily find whatever they need when they need it,” said Imran Jooma, SVP online at Sears Holdings. “Use of mobile phone orders were also on the rise and further evidence that we’re offering an exceptional online experience that is clearly transforming the way our customers shop.”
Cross channel solutions provider ATG noted an uptick of 50-100% in traffic for its e-tailer clients. Several mid-sized retail companies reported year-over-year e-commerce sales growth of more than 200%. ATG noted the impact of Cyber Monday alone, when the sales conversion rates for consumers who were presented with personalized recommendations were triple the rate for customers who did not interact with them, according to the company.
“It’s clear retailers are seeing success this year by combining attractive, aggressive sales promotions with personalization techniques that enable them to target different segments of shoppers with offers they’re likely to be interested in,” said Nina McIntyre, SVP & CMO, ATG.
End-to-end e-commerce provider iCongo Inc., announced today that its retail clients indicated average gains on sales this year versus the same period in 2008 for Black Friday and Cyber Monday to be 83% and 74% respectively. The average sales increase, year to year, for the Saturday and Sunday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday was 47%.
Irwin Kramer, CEO of iCongo, noted that increased sales came from multiple channels, including strong in-store and on-line performance. “Although sales increases were impressive across the board, iCongo clients with multi-channel and cross-channel capabilities outperformed their peers”, Kramer said. He added that increased access to and availability of inventories to satisfy both web and in-store sales from cross-channel systems were crucial to success, and many retailers who had not invested in cross channel systems experienced stock-outs in their distribution center(s), “and had no way to fulfill demand using in-store inventories both for web based and in-store sales.”
Driving Cross Channel Traffic
In order to drive traffic to both their physical stores and Web site, retailers continued to ramp up their e-marketing efforts this season. According to a report on Smith-Harmon’s Retail Email Blog, both Black Friday and Cyber Monday hit all-time highs in terms of email volume. Cyber Sunday, the day before Cyber Monday, also saw record email volume.
On Black Friday, 69% of major online retailers sent at least one promotional email, up from 59% in 2008, as tracked by the Retail Email Blog. On Cyber Monday, 71% sent at least one promotional email, making it both the most popular retail email day of this year and also the most popular of all-time. Last year, 70% of retailers sent email on Cyber Monday. And on Cyber Sunday, 45% of retailers sent at least one promotional email, up from 36% last year. That made Nov. 29 the biggest Sunday ever for retail email marketing.
While Black Friday is traditionally known for in-store sales, the Smith-Harmon report noted that more online sales were promoted in this year’s Black Friday email campaigns. At the same time, retailers used their email campaigns to actively promote their in-store sales. According to the report, plenty of retailers promoted their Friday store hours in their emails and Kohl’s, Office Depot, Sears and Toys “R” Us even promoted theirs in their subject lines.
“While it’s more difficult to measure, email can drive store traffic just as effectively as it can drive website traffic,” says Aaron Smith, Director of Creative Technologies at email service provider Responsys, which recently acquired Smith-Harmon. “More retailers seemed to embrace this truth this year.”
The Growing Trends of E-Commerce
Site search vendor SLI Systems recently conducted a survey of nearly 600 e–commerce companies to explore the challenges online retailers face in implementing and integrating on-site technologies to improve the customer experience.
The report found that all of the e-tailers polled are using multiple technology applications and approaches, though 75% are uncertain if they are utilizing all the data gleaned through these applications to successfully recruit customers. The top technologies being used are search (88%); Web analytics (87%); and email marketing (81%) according to the report.
“During 2010 we expect to see integration of various on-site technologies provide a major impact to retailers — whether it’s the integration of applications like video, site search, customer ratings and reviews or improved integration between analytics and other on-site components,” said Geoff Brash, VP Marketing, SLI Systems. “Retailers have been investing heavily in technologies over the past few years and they now need to integrate these technologies to see the full ROI.”
Brash says more niche players are strengthening online, “because typically shoppers have to travel to get to a specific type of store they’re after, but online always comes to you” he says. He also notes that SLI’s retail clients have been exploring new ways to optimize the visual appeal of E-commerce sites, like adding more imagery and color to grab shoppers’ attention, in addition to improved site search and navigation tools.