For today’s savvy shopper, I wonder if the Cyber 5 has lost its moxie. Shoppers worth their salt know how to get the best deals year-round from the brands they love. And the days consumers choose to buy are merely an afterthought.
My daughter decided to get a new iPhone and, just like many shoppers, she encountered supply chain issues. The AT&T store had nothing available for Christmas, and Apple only had certain colors in stock at a nearby store. She ordered what she wanted for home delivery and would wait. In anticipation of that purchase, we stopped at Best Buy on Black Friday. It was noon, and there were spaces in the lot. While the store was busy, it was far from the madness we became accustomed to in previous years. My daughter made a purchase with only one person ahead of her in line, and we were on the way to our next errand. Plenty of TVs were stacked up and some folks were buying and checking out, but it was hard to say if its store traffic that day would be enough to deliver the hoped-for results
Is there a rush to the finish line?
Shoppers are not waiting for a bigger discount. They are aware of publicized supply chain issues and associated inventory shortages operating in a “buy it now mode” for a reasonable price.
Research firm Adobe Analytics, a unit of Adobe Inc. reports that so far this season (Nov. 1-29), consumers have already spent $109. billion online, growing significantly at 11.9% over last year. It cites a new record that 22 days have now exceeded $3 billion in online spend exceeding the nine that hit that mark in 2020.
Several themes for the season stand out for me, including limited discounts, the omnichannel factor, and the marathon nature of holiday shopping. Each will be addressed, including supporting examples and shopper anecdotes from some of our seasoned employee shoppers.
Digital Commerce 360, in conjunction with Bizrate Insights, surveyed 1000 online shoppers in October 2021. We learned that more than half of shoppers would shop on Black Friday and Cyber Monday
The early results suggest that saving money motivates holiday shoppers to buy online and that starts with free shipping. A look at the Digital Commerce 360 Top 100 retailers on Cyber Monday finds that 56 of the top 100 retailers offered free shipping of some kind, with only 15% offering it unconditionally. For those with a threshold, the average was $49. One of our employees who shopped on Black Friday felt free shipping seemed less visible, and I agree. Lands’ End, for example, stuck with its $99 minimum for free shipping. Despite not meeting that threshold, my coworker placed the order.
Another bought a stroller on BuyBuyBaby on Wednesday for 20% off. Subsequently, on Black Friday, it was offering 20% +$100 store credit. She reached out to customer service, and it gave her the $100 store credit even though they purchased it earlier in the week. It still pays to call if you can’t get what you want, especially as price-matching has undoubtedly been an integral part of this season.
Promotional emails were favored by 21% of online shoppers in our Pre-holiday survey serving as motivators in pushing them to make a purchase. In fact, many retailers began with previews to Cyber Monday and subsequently followed up with “it’s almost over” messaging. And even the day after Cyber Monday, I received texts and emails extending the holiday even further. Examples included communication from Stuart Weitzman signaling “The Cyber Monday Event is Still On” to Office Depot’s “Cyber Week Deals are Live.”
At that point, overwhelmed by too many promtions, I had lost interest and others may have as well so maybe it’s just another sale.
According to Adobe’s Digital Economy Index, consumers spent a total of $10.7 billion on Cyber Monday, which is down 1.4% year over year. Yet, it remains the biggest online shopping day of the year. The Cyber 5 (from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday) has now driven a total of $33.9 billion in online spend, down 1.4% year over year.
This critical fulfillment role of the physical store is formidable
Consumers now do much of their shopping using omnichannel services. The shoppers Digital Commerce 360 surveyed said their omnichannel intentions were as follows: 24% intended to check for product availability at nearby stores, while 17% would be taking advantage of buying online/curbside pickup.
Adobe reinforces that curbside pickup remains popular and has built off the momentum seen during the pandemic. As online shopping picked up, curbside pickup was used in 18% of all online orders on Cyber Monday (for retailers that offer the service), vs. 20% last year. I stopped at a City Target on Black Friday. Fearing potential crowds, I opted for curbside. When the associate quickly came to the car, she said the store had hardly been busy.
Retailers are indeed ready to receive these omnichannel shoppers, and in fact, attracting them may be the retailers’ focus. That was apparent as I pulled into a Chicago Home Depot location. There was nothing about going into the store but simply directing shoppers on ways to avoid the store. Shopper behaviors of BOPIS and curbside pickup are now routine and have put a dent into traditional buying behavior.
As I rounded the corner in a strip mall nearby, Old Navy also greeted shoppers with a curbside pickup scenario. It had 50% off signage in the windows, though that would be par for the course for this brand.
Are shoppers spending less? Are big discounts dead?
The days blend into one another, the promotions appear to be the same or less, and there is no sense of urgency. It’s mostly about finding a bargain on something you might be interested in. I wonder whether we have taken away the impulse buy and whether the sales are robust and plentiful enough to capture our attention.
I can look to my own behavior. Like many shoppers, I peruse my email, and when a deal meets my needs, I pounce. Yesterday it was an Aerie promotion and tomorrow it will be something else. Shoppers are seasoned and they know if something is a good deal or a real deal worth pursuing.
Salesforce data says online shoppers are experiencinghigher prices and fewer discounts. Over Cyber Week, which Salesforce defines as November 22-29, the average selling price was up 11% in the U.S. compared to last year. Meanwhile, the average discount over Cyber Week was 26% in the U.S. down 8% year over year. In an informal survey of Digital Commerce 360 employees, the average discount was 39%. Our savviest shoppers report that one site was worth the wait for the 60% discount they ultimately received.
Another suggested she had some trouble applying a Nike promo code and would have given up. However, she knew that it would be hard to find “cool” sneakers for her boys at less than $50 and ultimately got it to work. She also took advantage of free shipping as she was a Nike member.
Have the channels and the promotions merely merged?
I sense that channels have merged and that the clear distinctions that once existed between channels are no longer there. As I was driving up a major avenue near to my Chicago home, I couldn’t help but notice a huge “Cyber Monday deals” sign at Bed Bath and Beyond.
Once reserved for online shopping, Cyber Monday is now a retailer theme leveraged by stores to drive online and in-store traffic. The branding is consistent, and the sign alludes to the fact that customers can get deals in any channel at any time. Only two Digital Commerce 360 employees had even taken the time to visit a physical store over the Cyber 5.
On my Cyber Monday road trip, I happened to cut through a small shopping center where Bath and Body Works signage for 40% off mirrored the retailer’s online efforts. While this homogenization of sales across channels almost seems expected, it represents a permanent shift in retailer execution.
Although there is much to be thankful for, what disturbs me the most is not the lack of shoppers, more limited in-store visits or the discounts that may not be as big as last year but the heightened crime in our community. We must tackle this issue. When headlines say things like “Thieves swipe $150K of merchandise from Louis Vuitton store in Northbrook, IL” or “Best Buy says theft is a reason for profit decline as organized robberies increase in the US” retailers, society must address retail crime. If not, hiring will be harder than ever.
Let’s work together to have a holiday season that is not just defined by high numbers but by a kinder gentler world.