WDnet Studio/Adobe Stock
At Curalate, we know the holiday season is a make-or-break time for retailers. In fact, many earn 40% of their revenue or more during the holidays. Have a great season and you’ll turn big profits. Have a difficult season and you’re closing physical stores and re-thinking your e-commerce strategies. The pressure is on for Black Friday 2017 and the rest of the holiday season — so we put together this guide to success.
To predict what will happen in 2017, let’s take a look back at 2016. The strengthening economy led people to spend more freely in 2016, leading to a 4% year-over-year increase in November and December retail sales, according to a report by the National Retail Federation. Total sales climbed to $658.3 billion, while online sales increased 12.6% to $122.9 billion. Both online and in-store sales beat the organization’s projections.
“There has been a lot of talk about online versus in-store retail in the past few months, but that comes from people who don’t realize that online and retail today are the same thing,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “In the new distributed commerce world that allows consumers to buy any product, anytime, anywhere, it really doesn’t matter whether a customer shops in a company’s store or on its website or mobile app. It’s all retail. Today’s retailers sell to shoppers any way they want to buy.”
Meanwhile, Bain and Company found that e-commerce sales grew 16% to 19% during the 2016 holiday season. But looking at e-commerce sales alone downplays the value of online platforms overall. Bain did a study asking customers “if they browsed or did research on Amazon.com before making a purchase at a different retailer.” The result? 35% of shoppers who made a purchase in a store went to Amazon first to do research and compare prices.
Consumers are also discovering products on social media. New Curalate research found that 76% of U.S. consumers have purchased a product they saw in a brand’s social media post. Still, retailers have work to do to connect moments of inspiration to moments of purchase. Only 11% of U.S. consumers would buy the product immediately, whereas 44% would come back and buy online later. Meanwhile, 44% would buy later online and 21% would buy later in-store.
Black Friday has become Black November
Curalate distributed 850 million pieces of intelligent content between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday in 2016. Those shoppable photos and videos led to plenty of purchases, but the action we noticed before Black Friday really opened our eyes. While Curalate’s impressions for Black Friday and Cyber Monday were up 40% and 56% respectively year-over-year, total November impressions before Thanksgiving surged 95% higher. The findings are consistent with one truism about today’s e-commerce landscape — Black Friday and Cyber Monday are becoming less important for customers and the savings period has expanded considerably. In fact, between Nov. 1 and Nov. 23 (the day before Thanksgiving), shoppers spent $27.2 billion, a 4.3% increase over the same timeframe in 2015, according to Adobe, which analyzed data from 23 billion visits to retail websites. Check out the interactive graph below:
Action in the week leading up to Thanksgiving is also telling. For the four days before Thanksgiving, impressions were higher than average and were up year-over-year — suggesting that people are researching deals, then making purchases when deals are released.
We can also conclude that an increasing amount of consumers are using Instagram to get ideas for holiday gifting. At Curalate, our Like2Buy product transforms a brand’s Instagram marketing strategy by turning the feed into a high-quality traffic and revenue driver. Impressions on our client’s Like2Buy imagery surged in lockstep with e-commerce traffic over the Black Five-Day period — showing that modern consumers increasingly view Instagram as a must-look destination for discovering shopping gift ideas.
Unsurprisingly, we saw clear spikes in impressions when the clock struck midnight and the bulk of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals were released. In fact, we saw three such bursts, corresponding to 12 a.m. in Eastern, Central and Pacific time zones. The biggest spike, however, came on Cyber Monday between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern, showing that people did plenty of shopping after work. Check out the interactive graph below:
Trends to Watch in 2017
What should we expect for Black Friday 2017 and the holiday season? Continued growth in e-commerce, mobile becoming dominant and changes in customer expectations. A new eMarketer report predicts that e-commerce will jump 16.6% during the 2017 holiday season, compared to 3.1% growth for total retail sales. The continued e-commerce growth will be “driven by increases in mobile commerce and the intensifying online battle between large retailers and digital marketplaces,” according to eMarketer.
Meanwhile, the report agrees with Curalate’s assessment that the holiday shopping season has lengthened. “Nearly a third of holiday gift buyers polled last year said they started their shopping in October or earlier; this year, even more shoppers will start early.”
Mobile, Mobile, Mobile
The Salesforce 2017 Guide to Holiday Readiness said that shoppers are showing more buying intent on mobile than on computers.
“The 2016 holiday season represented the first year ever where peak traffic to retail sites was mostly mobile, with 52% of all shopping visits happening on phones. Mobile surged during Cyber Week, capturing 53% of all traffic, up from 44% in 2015. Even more important for retailers, shoppers are buying on mobile too. Last season, mobile order share was up to 31% from 25% in 2015 … ” the report said. “The story of the 2017 shopping season will undoubtedly be mobile, so it goes without saying that retailers who don’t take a mobile-first approach will be left behind — and fast,” the report said.
How can brands capitalize on the growing adoption of mobile shopping?
- Simplify checkout for one-touch buying
- Optimize your site for mobile
- Reduce load times
- Leverage mobile traffic opportunities
The gap between online and in-store is closing
E-commerce may still be emerging but online research has gone mainstream. The Alliance Data 2017 Holiday Retail Outlook report explains: “As digital elements pervade the in-store experience, customers are increasingly able to self-service and navigate their own interaction, without sacrificing any of the experiences they expect and love. It’s important for brands to develop solutions that complement, rather than distract from, customers’ desired experience in every channel. Digital is the undercurrent moving retail forward — and tools that enable its use are as much a part of the holiday shopping experience as bustling crowds and twinkling lights.”
The report highlighted these telling stats about consumers:
- 75% price compare products online
- 51% read product reviews while in store
- 80% buy online and have gifts delivered
- 51% buy online and pick up in store
Consumers are demanding personalization
Consumers want customized shopping experiences — whether they’re personalized product recommendations, segmented email newsletters or top-notch loyalty programs. Brands that aren’t implementing personalization are missing out on an estimated $150 billion in revenue.
“As the customer journey becomes more individualized, gauging what moves the needle and will drive the most value over the long term becomes mission critical,” according to the Salesforce 2017 Guide to Holiday Readiness.
The report offered these stats on the 1:1 connections consumers are looking for:
- 60% of younger shoppers want personalized offers through their mobile devices
- 65% of consumers say companies, retailers or brands send them too many irrelevant communications
- 87% of millennials aged 25-34 are very likely to shop at a retailer if they give personalized offers
Ready for your brand to make social sell? Ready to bring social and commerce together? Partner with Curalate. On average, our clients achieve: 79% increases in time-on-site, 16% jumps in average order value and 31% increases in conversion rate.