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It’s that time of year again. Time for Americans to gather, eat turkey with all the fixings, and give thanks for what they’ve got. It’s also time for our old friend Cyber Monday — the Monday following Black Friday — one of the biggest shopping days of the year. But frankly, it’s a holiday we can do without.
I have nothing against online shopping. I’d much rather sip a cappuccino and shop in the comfort of my own home than endure long lines and fight with other harried customers in the post-Thanksgiving rush. But this holiday no longer reflects the realities of digital shopping in 2013.
First mentioned in an announcement by Shop.org on November 28, 2005, Cyber Monday was dreamed up by marketers to address a legitimate consumer need. Few U.S. consumers had high-speed Internet access at home, and it was reasoned that a dedicated day to encourage people to shop online when they returned to work the following Monday would give a boost to holiday sales.
That turned out to be true. But with broadband now reaching almost 80 percent of U.S. homes, as well as the explosion of mobile commerce, Cyber Monday today is more of a learned Pavlovian response than a true need.
There’s no denying that the holiday has been a huge shopping success. It set records for one-day online shopping for the past three years in a row. In 2012, for example, Cyber Monday spending totaled $1.465 billion, according to comScore, making it the single largest online spending day in history. Growth was especially robust in categories such as digital content and subscriptions, consumer electronics and computer hardware — the latter two primarily driven by sales of smartphones and tablets.
Clearly, online retailers also still take advantage of the hype around the holiday to offer some very attractive deals to consumers. Amazon, for example, last year slashed prices of its Kindle Fire tablet by roughly 20 percent, resulting in its most successful Cyber Monday ever, according to IBM, which each year analyzes transactions from 500 U.S. retailers.
Yet things may be changing. Although Cyber Monday growth in 2011 was 22 percent more than the previous year, last year it fell to 17 percent, according to comScore. In part to combat this slowed growth, online retailers have begun offering deeply discounted deals to consumers long before Cyber Monday.
Deal-scouting site Bradsdeals.com, for example, has set up a dedicated Cyber Monday website to highlight attractive year-end offerings, under the motto “Cyber Monday, Every Monday.” Another deal site, Fatwallet.com, is touting both Cyber Monday and Black Friday deals from companies such as Kmart, Dell, Priceline and online security company McAfee. And Walmart, Best Buy, and Target for the past few years have established Cyber Monday pages months in advance that increase consumer anticipation, while also heavily promoting the stores’ current online deals.
Even more importantly for future behavior, mobile is playing an increasingly important role in holiday shopping. Nearly 13 percent of U.S. e-commerce sales this year are expected to be made on a mobile device, a 50 percent increase from 2012, according to Internet Retailer’s Mobile 500 report, and that number can only keep growing. Consumers can be reached with deals anytime, anywhere.
These always-connected consumers are ready and eager for holiday deals regardless of the date, time or location. Retailers that offer attractive deals and make it as easy as possible for people to buy no matter where they are — whether on mobile, tablet, desktop, speaking to a call center or in-store — are going to be the winners, regardless of the date on the calendar. With all these opportunities, who needs Cyber Monday, other than companies who have not understood the changing needs of today’s always-on consumer?
Matt Kelley is Group VP, general manager at Leapfrog Online, one of the largest digital marketing companies in the U.S.
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