The death of the cyber day | Here’s to a new way of selling online

The two biggest shopping days, Black Friday and Cyber Monday were just two days apart this year. But it wasn’t just the close timing that resulted in sales patterns shifting in 2016 – the truth is that cyber days are dying a death.

This year the Verizon shopping index reported a 2% decrease in traffic over Cyber Monday compared to 2015 (Verizon, U.S Holiday Retail Index 2016). The way that people are shopping over the festive period has changed – not just this year, but forever.

Let’s face it…

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have always been orchestrated events. Ways of generating hype and getting more people to spend – there’s no real rhyme or reason why these two events are relevant today. Created back in 2005, they were excuses to tempt people to make a purchase with a big discount, try a new brand and possibly place their first order online. But simply trying something new isn’t a reason to shop online anymore – with an estimated 85% of people shopping online today (Neilsen, 2014) ecommerce has become the norm.

When ecommerce was still a relatively new way to shop, businesses took advantage of the low cost of running an online channel. They were able to offer huge discounts online that they couldn’t afford to offer in expensive bricks and mortar stores with high staff and rental costs. People accepted that you could always find something online cheaper.

Then omni-channel arrived

Expectations changed and customers started demanding that brands gave the same level of customer service regardless of where they shopped. It wasn’t up to the retailer to dictate how and where their customers shopped – the customer wanted to choose – on their own terms.

In an effort to attract new customers in recession-hit high-streets, shops became awash with ‘Groupon fever’. Needless to say it didn’t end well with many retailers simply going out of business under the pressure of offering deep discounts they couldn’t afford or promises they couldn’t keep. As a result retailers became more measured in their tactics and realised that big discounting didn’t guarantee long-term business.

After all there’s always the Christmas delivery deadline that never fails to create a good spike in orders. Retailers could always rely on this sense of urgency to prompt a purchase, but then delivery methods evolved. Along came click-and collect, same-day delivery and even the promise of drones from Amazon. People no longer felt compelled to order now or miss out.

The increasing use of mobiles to shop meant consumers didn’t need to condense their online shopping into lunch breaks or rely on slow broadband connections. They no longer needed to spend their evenings in front of a PC. The opportunities to shop on the go became more frequent and less pressurised.

So what is next?

Well the peaks in online sales will reduce. The ecommerce market in Europe has stabilized and matured. The worldwide growth of sales in 2017 will be driven by Asia and Brazil while Europeans and North Americans focus on growing loyalty by achieving more sales from existing customers. Don’t get us wrong – there are plenty more sales to be generated – it’s just the ways we will prompt those purchases that will change – just like the nature of shopping has evolved.

The future is investing in customer relationships

Discounts and deliveries have had their day – like it or not, customers can always find something cheaper or quicker than you can provide.

The smart marketers know that the quality of the customer experience you provide will be the biggest influencing factor for sales in the forthcoming years. Like earned media, people want you to work for their trust and business – you can’t buy it with discounts and quick offers. They want a personalised approach and are fed up of mass marketing.

The good news is that in the brave new world of retail, customers will be more loyal to brands. After all it’s harder to leave a brand you trust and have a relationship with if the reason you shop with them isn’t purely because they offer the cheapest price.

Email marketing will be composed of designing and managing individual and automated customer journeys not mass marketing and promotions. Online marketing will be personalised and targeted at individual customers offering more meaningful and efficient shopping experiences.

RIP cyber days

You were fun while you lasted but here’s to a new way of selling online – a more sustainable approach to attracting and (more importantly) retaining customers which will last longer than a 40% discount.

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