After Cyber Monday 2012, CNN posted an interesting article about the future of the Cyber Monday event. I found their insight interesting and decided to spend the next few months casually investigating our customers to gain their perspective on Cyber Monday. Some of my findings were similar to what the author stated in the article, but I also uncovered a few other interesting observations.
1. Cyber Monday is a multi-channel adventure it does NOT only take place on the web
Yes, Cyber Monday is supposed to be an online sale. And it is! But it also bleeds over to bricks and mortar stores, much like Black Friday bleeds over to the web. Its obvious that companies use one channel to promote another. For example, companies often display a banner on their website promoting sales on Black Friday. But you must also consider consumers buying habits to understand the true multi-channel impact. Todays buyers are used to touching items in a store, looking up reviews online, comparing prices using their mobile phones, etc. The buying process is multi-channel, thus companies looking to sell their products on Cyber Monday must be as well.
2. Cyber Monday does not have a definitive start and end date
Cyber Monday has extended well beyond Monday. Some companies tie it to their Thanksgiving and Black Friday campaigns, some have a countdown to Cyber Monday that includes daily specials, Target even has a monthly Cyber Monday campaign, and last year Amazon began posting Cyber Monday offers weeks before the national shopping event. The moving start date is both a strategy to tempt buyers with great deals to steer them away from in-store purchases on Black Friday, and an attempt to capture early shoppers.
3. The amount of time companies spend on getting ready for the event varies widely
Some companies we work with take Cyber Monday very seriously, spending months planning promotions (email, website, social media, mobile, in store, etc.), testing websites, building up inventory, and securing resources to handle the additional volume. Others may just run a few specials that day. The rest of the companies do nothing at all, which frankly, is a shame. According to comScore, Cyber Monday sales exceeded the $1B threshold in 2010 and grew to $1.25B in 2011 and then $1.46B in 2012. Not only is there a huge opportunity for revenue, but with the sheer number of shoppers browsing the Internet, you are bound to get found which builds your brand awareness and helps you capture new customer information for retargeting and future marketing efforts.
4. Few companies are comfortable with their ability to handle the spike in volume
Regardless of the strategy or amount of effort a company invests in Cyber Monday, a common concern is how to support higher order volumes. Preparing servers to handle the additional traffic is one part of the puzzle, but the other is how to physically process the orders. Many companies still receive online orders and either reenter or cut and paste them into an order entry system. The same holds true when returning shipping information. With a surge in orders, this can quickly lead to delays and errors, both of which could result is lost customers. Add this to trying to manage items and inventory in more than one sales channel and you can understand their hesitation. For these reasons, many companies arent comfortable planning huge Cyber Monday campaigns.
How to participate in Cyber Monday confidently
The key takeaways for me in conducting this exercise were that Cyber Monday is turning into a multi-channel affair and that one of the main barriers to success is managing the interaction of multiple channels and systems. If a company could integrate their systems and automate their workflows across all of their sales channels, they could more easily handle increased volume and create a consistent experience for customers. For example, what if:
- You could create a master list of all your items in one place and push the item detail to all of your sales channels so they all display consistent information
- When item information changed in the master system, it was dynamically updated in all of your sales channels
- You ran a promotion and could push consistent pricing out to all channels at the same time and then revert back to normal pricing when it ended
- When an item shipped and inventory was depleted, updated and accurate inventory counts were available in all sales channels
- Regardless of where an order originated (web, store, Amazon, eBay), it was intelligently routed to where the inventory was available (even if it was with a supplier)
- Orders would instantly be fed into your order management system (which would automatically turn around acknowledgments, shipping information and invoices)
- Customer and order information from all channels could be stored in a single location to simplify customer service inquiries
With a multi-channel management platform like nChannel, this could all be a reality. Customers could shop the way they want to shop, and businesses would be able to support them efficiently without breaking the bank.
I encourage you to use this Cyber Monday as a test. Can you handle the surges? Are you making the most of the opportunity? If not, are you going to miss out on the next one too? Maybe its the Superbowl. Maybe its Mothers Day or Easter that corresponds well with your product line. Maybe its Cyber Monday 2014.