I’ve always been a little skeptical of Cyber Monday. It always felt a little forced. Black Friday is a media bonanza as well, but Black Friday always seemed more discovered than created.
Cyber Monday on the other hand came off a bit manufactured. I figured that while there were certainly sales to be made from an ecommerce-centered selling holiday, the real money in online sales would be made on Black Friday as buyers become increasingly resistant to the Black Friday hype machine.
So, we pulled the data. We wanted to see how Cyber Monday works and what makes it tick. Inventory tracking is our bread and butter, so we maintain a multi-tenant database comprised of sales data from our ecommerce business owners. That’s millions of sales. This gives us an overview of general trends within the industry across marketplaces, platforms, and niches. We extracted an SQL query of all sales data between November 25th and December 2nd minus POS systems, ensuring that our conclusions would be specific to ecommerce.
The goal? Discover what’s fact and what’s opinion behind the Black Friday vs. Cyber Monday debate and create a seller resource that allows retailers to be more methodical in their Cyber Monday strategy.
And I have to admit that looking at these data reports had me replacing my turkey with a big helping of crow. Cyber Monday is king.
Focus Your Efforts on Cyber Monday
The buying public is biting hard at the Cyber Monday lure. While Black Friday does stand tall with over 1.5 times the sales and transactions of the previous day, Cyber Monday towers over the entire week, sticking out like a pimple on prom night. Nearly 2.5x the sales and transactions occurred on Cyber Monday as on Thanksgiving Day. In fact, the Cyber Monday fallout stretching into Tuesday is nearly as good of an e-tail day as Black Friday.
But what does this all mean? How can you apply it in 2016 to increase your sales and maximize on perhaps the most important week of the year for your business?
Here are four actionable tips to get you started. These don’t require any expensive software systems or a huge amount of expertise, but they go a long way on capitalizing off the data-proven buying habits of shoppers during the first week of the holiday season. I’ve also provided some great examples of Cyber Monday sales from throughout the years from deep in my inbox. For extra fun, I only picked examples that personally made me convert. Let’s dive in.
Have Your Email Marketing to Inboxes by 6AM
The first thing I do every morning is check my email, and I’m not the only one. Smartphone usage for email spikes in the morning around 6AM according to data compiled by Movable Ink.
That explains why our data found that Cyber Monday begins at 7AM. People are waking up, immediately checking their phones, and making purchases. The sales eclipse the transactions for the next three hours, indicating customers may be more receptive to your email marketing efforts for big-ticket items in the morning.
Data found by Marketing Charts drives the point home further. Average email open rates begin their daily upswing at 6AM and peak at 10AM.
By the time your potential customers wake up, you need to have you email marketing efforts right in front of them. Why waste time? Feature your biggest ticket items and your best sales right off the bat. This example from Journeys hit my inbox at 2:10AM. It caused me to buy a pair of cream-colored Converse All-Stars. It shows us a couple of great ideas about how to cut through the sleepiness of someone’s brain and claim an early morning conversion.
What I find really interesting here is that Journeys doesn’t include a product photo. The email sells the deal rather than clothes. It reads as almost more of an announcement than an advertisement. There are three more replicable techniques for an early morning Cyber Monday email we can find here.
- Make the offer provocative and enticing. Words like “free” and “X% off” are sure to wake up your customers.
- Shove that offer directly and explicitly at your reader. Big, bold letters are a must.
- Dark colors that won’t blind your reader are a great idea. An email with a lot of bright colors might hurt their eyes and cause them to put down their phone.
Advertise a Lunch Break Flash Sale on Twitter
Going back to our hourly data, we can see that the most money is being made around lunchtime. 1PM to 3PM is the largest peak you’ll see throughout all of Cyber Monday.
Conveniently, Hubspot has found that 12PM to 3PM on weekdays is Twitter’s most active period. Launching a 12-hour flash sale on Twitter at 12PM is a great way to get a great deal in front of the most customers at the time when they’re statistically most likely to convert. It’s a trifecta of data-driven methodology.
Use the hashtags #cybermonday, #flashsale, as well as any other relevant hashtags for your brand. Include an image, especially if you’re able to include it as an embedded link. I bought this wonderfully nerdy t-shirt for an English teacher friend of mine last Christmas. I was browsing the #flashsale hashtag on Twitter during my lunch break. The limited time offer and the fact my lunch break was also limited increased my urgency, leaving me less time to waffle and potentially abandon my cart.
— Fan of Walt (@fanofwalt) December 1, 2015
Perhaps you’re a little wary of putting eggs into your social media basket. You’ve got that big fancy email list, but perhaps you’ve relied on it a little too much. Keep in mind that your customers are going to be bombarded all day with sale after sale in their inbox. You don’t want to blend into the background noise. Moving some of your marketing efforts over to social media gives you an opportunity to attract new customers on an open platform, Type A buyers who are looking for Cyber Monday sales. With that in mind, apply these three tips.
- Attach the flash sale to a lower selling item, or one in which you have excess inventory. Don’t risk it on a high selling item, especially if this is your first flash sale.
- Use Twitter’s audience management tools to create a targeted Twitter ad to promote your flash sale.
- The shorter the time for your flash sale, the more urgency you create for the buyer. On the other hand, they have less time to see the sale. It’s a delicate balance.
Send Out an End-Of-Day Marketing Email
After the workday ends, customers begin to spend less money. The number of overall transactions spikes at 7PM as a result of people getting off work who perhaps are in jobs where they’re not able to online shop on their lunch break. Similar spikes occur at 10PM and 11PM as the slowpokes among us suddenly remember its Cyber Monday, or finally have time to sit down and shop. That’s why you should send out one more marketing email at the end of the workday to capitalize on this group of buyers.
“But what about bombarding my customers? Won’t they get annoyed if I email them twice in one day?”
On Cyber Monday, they don’t. MailChimp notes that the overload of email offers decreases open rates across the industry on Cyber Monday, but don’t significantly increase unsubscribe rates. They go on to note that the best way to get noticed is to send more emails than normal. This is not the time to be quiet and hope you’ll get noticed. There’s too much money on the line to be timid.
This sleek AT&T Cyber Monday sale landed in my inbox at 4:15PM. We were desperately trying to introduce some technology into my dad’s life at the time, so this seemed like the perfect present. Notice how they lead with the FREE tablet. I also really like the messaging that this is where the holiday cheer is “starts,” as it implies a season’s worth of deals and shopping is to come.
Another key takeaway here is bundling your items. Since people seem to spend less in the evening, but the total transactions increase, it’s important that you can get as much as you can out of each transaction. Bundling items together means you can charge more for each transaction.
AT&T is technically doing two different bundles here, one much subtler than the other. Not only are they bundling the tablet and the phone, but they’re also offering a $200 credit. What could you use that $200 credit on? Maybe some of those wearables they advertise below. AT&T is not only bundling their products, but also bundling the sale itself. A three step series of purchases that starts with the headline FREE is great marketing from this mobile giant.
Getting one last email out completes a nice full days’ worth of Cyber Monday digital marketing. Let’s make sure we’ve got our Cyber Monday marketing timed out to perfection.
You’ve taken advantage of the early birds, the night owls, and the lunch… larks? Being an active seller throughout the day ensures that you’re getting the most of out the holiday.
Allow Customers to “Earn” Free Shipping Rather Than Giving It Away to All
I’m a big believer in free shipping. What it does for ecommerce conversions is undeniable at this point. It’s worth the cost. According to Compete.com, over 93% of customers cited it as a factor that would make them more likely to buy an item. The same study found that 38% of customers found the shipping cost to be the least satisfactory part of their shopping experience.
Our own research, however, appears to suggest perhaps buyers aren’t as sensitive to shipping costs as they say they are. We found that offering free shipping does not move the needle on your sales throughout the week of Cyber Monday.
I’ve got two theories as to why this is. The first is that Cyber Monday may be attracting some non-traditional online buyers. Those of us who shop online often throughout the year know that if one vendor isn’t offering free shipping, it’s probably worth the time to find a similar item with a vendor willing to ship for free. Cyber Monday shoppers may not be familiar with this, so it doesn’t become a major factor in whether or not they convert.
My second theory is that the event of Cyber Monday is outweighing the normal aversion to paying for shipping. People want to feel as if they are a part of something. It could make them less prudent than normal and more prone to paying for shipping, especially if they perceive the deal as being worth it.
Either way, we can make a few data-driven decisions based on this info. We could of course just take away free shipping altogether for the week of Cyber Monday. Customers are willing to pay for it, so we might as well just take their money, right? That feels a little wrong though, doesn’t it? After all, the benefits of free shipping outweigh the negatives. It’s good for the customers and the sellers.
With that in mind, offer customers a chance to “earn” free shipping. Check out what WWE Shop sent me on a Cyber Monday a few years back.
WWE Shop set the free shipping limit to $15. Doing something similar with your business will allow you to increase the value of each transaction. Buyers may spend more to get the free shipping, and transactions that remain below $15 will be less expensive for you to process.
Consider other ways you can allow your customers to earn free shipping, such as in exchange for filling out a customer experience survey, registering on your site, or bundling the item with a less popular item.
Let me sum up all these graphs and examples for you as simply as possible.
- Cyber Monday is a phenomenon, not a flash in the pan.
- Be methodical about your digital marketing to capitalize on sales spikes throughout the day.
- Allow customers to earn free shipping rather than giving it away to everyone.
I think data is beautiful, especially data that makes us money. By going about your selling in a data-driven manner, you can take full advantage of Cyber Monday. We’ll most likely see sales spike on this ecommerce holiday. But wasted motion is wasted money. Don’t fumble around in the dark and hope you’ll stumble on profit. Use these hacks instead, experiment to see which works best for you, and make Cyber Monday your best sales day of the year.
About the Author: Dion Beary writes about ecommerce for ecomdash, a software company that automates inventory management for small businesses selling online. His passions are Twitter, casseroles, and 00’s rap.