Cyber Week 2018 Takeaways: Trends Change as Consumers and Retailers Wise Up

By Helena Mathieson

December 20, 2018

Are Black Friday consumers becoming more savvy?

With a few weeks behind us since the most high-pressure shopping period of the year, it’s time to reflect further on what can be learned from Cyber Week 2018. Monetate analyzed more than 100 million touchpoints from US consumers across desktop computers, smartphones, and tablets from November 24 to November 26, 2018. The data revealed several surprising findings that retailers should heed. What can be learned from emerging or changing trends that will shape approaches Black Friday next year—or even year-round? Read further for the takeaways that will steer retailers’ strategies for success in 2019.

Amid Successful Weekend, Black Friday Dips While Cyber Monday Soars

Black Friday weekend 2018 brought many successes for ecommerce retailers. Compared to 2017, traffic was up as much as 47% in the US, and Cyber Monday alone saw significant increases in traffic (13%) and AOV (3.4%). However, while these gains are evidence that brands are still winning overall, some interesting shifts compared to previous years suggest that consumer habits may be changing. Black Friday itself, notably, did not see the same boost as Cyber Monday: in fact, significant drops in AOV and add-to-cart rate on the day that’s normally billed as the biggest shopping day of the year came as a surprise to retailers.

Are those dips a cause for concern? Perhaps, but they may also be a sign that consumers are just becoming more savvy. As brands try to one-up their competitors year after year, shoppers who pay attention may have noticed that they have more to gain by waiting until the end of the long weekend to see if further discounts may be offered—especially on higher price point items. This would explain the lower AOV on Black Friday, when consumers are researching items but reluctant to commit, and the higher AOV overall for the weekend, which signals a pattern of consolidated purchasing.  This consumer strategy, however, cna leave brands trapped in one of two negative patterns: either slashing continuously to keep their customers interested, while cutting deeply into margins, or playing it straight from the beginning and losing out to competitors who took a more dramatic 11th hour approach.

Price cuts are to be expected during Cyber Week, of course, but strategies driven solely by jaw-droppingly low sale prices will hurt a brand’s bottom line while numbing consumers to the expected discounts. Based on their behavioral trends, consumers seem to be wising up: brands ought to follow suit by adopting a strategy better adapted to the long-game they should be playing.

The good news is that some retailers may have already begun to pivot in that very direction.  

Are Brands Targeting More Precisely?

Shopper habits may be changing, but retailers might be getting savvier as well: another significant find revealed that, while page views and conversions were down year over year across desktop and mobile in the US and Canada, AOV also rose by as much as 6.1%. This suggests that retailers may be using more precise targeting for their promotions and messaging, with the effect of reducing the time that consumers are spending browsing for items, and leading them to spend a higher percentage of their purchasing dollars with fewer brands rather than spreading it around. Despite the lower number of conversions, this finding could be advantageous for retailers: a reduction in conversion but a lift in AOV means that retailers can save money on shipping costs—and focus on cultivating customer loyalty with the shoppers who bring in the most revenue.

Luckily, there are early indications that that quest for loyalty may be on the right track.

Increased Desktop Purchases May Indicate Customer Loyalty

The retention of holiday shoppers is a well-documented challenge: a Monetate analysis found that only 1% of shoppers acquired during the holiday season were present on the same site a year later. With the huge influx of new customers during the holiday shopping boom, it’s been a tremendous missed opportunity for retailers that so few of them return throughout the year or the following season. However, there is reason to hope that things may be changing.

Year over year, Black Friday 2018 saw an increase in AOV of 4.7% on desktop. As reported in our Ecommerce Quarterly report EQ2 2017: What Loyalty Looks, desktop is the loyal customer’s device of choice for purchasing—and while first-time customers may purchase on mobile up to 21% of the time, customers making their third purchase do so on mobile only 16% of the time. This movement towards desktop purchases, along with the hypothesis that brands may be targeting more carefully, could indicate that brands are finally finding ways of building customer loyalty during and between the holiday shopping seasons. And that can only mean good things for their long-term strategies.

Takeaways

Cyber Week is built on the sensationalism of discounts, surprise offers, and last-minute cuts. That won’t change by next year. But the most strategic brands will know to take an approach that serves their Q1-Q3 goals as well, even in the height of the madness. By using personalization to target well and give every shopper a stellar customer experience, brands can take the opportunity to build lasting relationships with their most loyal customers.

Now that we’re in the last week of holiday blowout shopping, brands should take heed: target smarter, not wider, and treat your customers like you expect to see them come January. If you play it right, they’ll be back long before Cyber Week 2019.

These are our top highlights, but of course there’s plenty more to be observed in the data. Looking to do your own analysis? Check out the raw numbers in the images below.


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