black friday, cyber monday, holiday, holiday shopping, consumer behavior

Is Cyber Monday losing its relevance? Maybe. In Salesforce’s 2017 holiday predictions, Black Friday is expected to be the busiest digital shopping day in the U.S. The forecasts said consumers will shop primarily in the evening via a range of digital channels — especially on mobile — and will expect enhanced personalization features.

“Salesforce expects to see continued growth not only in mobile orders and web site visits, but also in newer technologies such as mobile payments and artificial intelligence. It’s not too late for retailers to make adjustments today in order to meet consumer expectations and better compete this holiday season,” said Rob Garf, vice president of industry insights at Salesforce Commerce Cloud.

In order to collect and discern these insights, Salesforce reviewed activity of 500 million shoppers across 53 countries, and billions of transactions that were powered by its commerce cloud platform.

Meeting consumer expectations has become a hurtle many retailers are failing to clear. This holiday season will not only contribute to the thwarting demands of shoppers, but also highlight their latest preferences specifically within the shipment and customization segments.

The analysis said that peak traffic and orders will occur in the evening hours between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. “Cyber Week (Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday) will see both the deepest discounts (average of 28 percent off list price) and highest rate of free shipping (86 percent of all orders will have it). Beyond Cyber Week, Monday, Dec. 11 will have the deepest discounts and highest availability of free shipping,” said the report detailing the results of the research.

Black Friday shoppers

Mobile will continue to overthrow desktop traffic, the research forecasted. “Mobile traffic to retail sites will grow to 60 percent of total across the globe this shopping season (compared to 34 percent for desktop and five percent for tablets), while orders placed on phones will approach 40 percent on big shopping days such as Black Friday,” said the report. “Meanwhile, seven to 10 percent of all iPhone orders will go through Apple Pay.”

Consumers are ready to purchase in more diverse ways on mobile, too. According to the research, 28 percent of shoppers are willing to purchase a product from an e-commerce site from text message even though only 16 percent have actually received SMS or push notifications from online retailers.

And while shoppers are increasingly democratic in their online purchasing behavior, they’re equally liberal with digital product research. “The most used channels for research before buying online include web site (74 percent), e-mail (43 percent), social media (38 percent) and a retailer’s mobile apps (36 percent),” said the report. “Just as interesting is the embrace of voice-enabled digital assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri and Google Assistant, used by 40 percent of Millennials (ages 18-36) to research merchandise before buying online.”

But in-store experiences — and the retail professionals working in brick-and-mortars — shouldn’t be overlooked, either. As consumers are more digitally savvy, store associates need to ready themselves to deliver quick, data-armed services. “More than half of consumers (58 percent) think that store associates need the ability to look up product details on-demand on a mobile device in order to help deliver an excellent customer experience,” said the report.

Both in-store and online, providing enhanced customer service — at all price points — will resonate well with Millennials. “Millennials are also 2.5 times more likely (28 percent vs. 11 percent) than baby boomers (ages 53-71) to say personalized digital offers from retailers based on their purchasing history would appeal to them,” the report said.

The scene on Black Friday.  Thomas Iannaccone/WWD

This is also speaks to shopping within physical locations as well. The report said, “Fifty-nine percent of Millennials feel it would help if physical stores knew about their online research before they arrive at a store so they could receive better service, yet 61 percent agree that retail experiences are disconnected from channel to channel.”

Tapping into artificial intelligence (AI) will be especially instrumental here. “Over a third of Millennials (35 percent) say the ability to search merchandise in a physical store or online catalog using an image and receiving product recommendations based on the attributes of that image would be appealing,” said the report.

“The winners and losers are getting defined every minute as we march into retail’s most important season,” said Shelley Bransten, senior vice president of retail industry solutions at Salesforce. “The stakes continue to rise for retailers to leverage artificial intelligence and emerging voice platforms to deliver seamless, connected and personalized brand experiences.”

Making up for lost ground with consumers during the heavy shopping period will contribute to brand loyalty and gained revenue. “Despite a desire for more personalized experiences, 63 percent of consumers feel like retailers don’t truly know who they are,” the report said. With such a low bar setting, consumers stand to be particularly pleased with perceived extra efforts devised by brands.

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