Thanksgiving weekend has traditionally been highly lucrative for retailers, but this year saw another drop in spending specifically on Black Friday. In the meantime, online shopping continues to soar, and the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving weekend provided consumers with deep-discount sales. In short, the weekend itself is becoming less valuable to the average consumer. But how does consumer sentiment match up with this shift in behavior? How do perceptions of the 2014 holiday season differ from those of years past and consumers’ initial expectations?
As part of our recent research efforts, we leveraged Forrester’s Technographics® 360 multimethodology research approach to gain a better understanding of consumers’ shopping habits (using our ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community) and to track online conversation and sentiment relative to Black Friday and Cyber Monday leading up to the holidays and afterwards (using NetBase aggregated social listening data).
In the first season of the hugely popular CBS Undercover Boss series, GSI Commerce founder and CEO Michael Rubin went undercover for a week in one of his firm’s eCommerce distribution centers to find out what it was really like to work on the front lines. Last week, SucharitaMulpuru and I were invited by eBay Enterprise to follow in Michael's footsteps and go work the floor in one of eBay Enterprise’s (formerly GSI Commerce) largest eCommerce distribution centers at the peak of the holiday shopping season. Now luckily we didn’t have to wear any stick on facial hair as we weren’t actually undercover, but we did put in a grueling four hour shift: picking, sorting and packing online orders (yes they made us work).
The experience was fascinating, humbling and a reminder that you can have the best eCommerce website in the world, but it means nothing on Cyber Monday unless you can get those orders out to your customers in time. So what did we observe from our brief career change?
Firstly, I hope all my American colleagues and friends are enjoying Thanksgiving. Happy holidays everyone!
I especially hope that all the IT professionals who work in the consumer retail markets get some rest because this coming Monday is Cyber Monday, one of the biggest days for online shopping transactions in the business year. Cyber Monday is part of the holiday season, which Forrester defines as November through December, and as our recent retail forecast report for 2013 points out, we expect online sales to top $78 billion in the US alone. Cyber Monday is not just a US event though; even in the UK, spending is forecast by Sage Pay to be more than £500m for this one day alone.
These figures highlight how digital our world has become. There is no need to go out in the cold or the rain as purchases can be made via mobile devices at any time or anywhere. This move to the digital world means that for many consumer retail companies, their websites and increasingly their mobile apps are now key to their success as they are becoming a major revenue and brand image contributor.
Enough with the Groupon madness this week. Let’s talk about things that actually impact our businesses. Like holidays sales to date, and in particular, a quick post-mortem on Cyber Monday now that the week is over. Forrester fielded some questions to consumers in conjunction with Bizrate Insights (the findings will be available in full to clients in a few weeks) and here are some quick takeaways as teasers:
Most people don’t buy on Cyber Monday (though many would like to), so the Cyberweek deals like Amazon has are always a good idea. 62% of the 3,200 shoppers we surveyed said that they didn’t shop on Cyber Monday.
Of those who shopped but did not buy (45% of shoppers who were trolling eCommerce sites on Cyber Monday!), 28% wanted to buy but didn’t see any products that they wanted. Product selection is king.
Social, schmocial. Not such a big deal yet. Only 7% of people who found deals on Cyber Monday found them through social networks or Twitter, versus 51% who found them from emails from the retailer.
Some people live under rocks. Kidding. But one-fifth of the people who didn’t shop on Cyber Monday said “They didn’t know there was anything special about that day.” How that is possible I have no idea, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they don’t have time in their lives to squander away time online like the rest of us. But for anyone really wondering what this “special day” is about, check out this link (see the full slideshow here) — these are screen shots of the top 50 merchants’ home pages from this past Monday.