Do you remember when Black Friday was just Black Friday?
According to holiday shopping season predictions, a typical Thanksgiving in 2014 might look like this: get your fill of both food and family, then retire to a chair or couch for football or a family movie, during which about a third of the audience is also hovering over a phone or tablet, starting their holiday shopping.
The season’s premiere event has expanded to the entire weekend as retailers seize the holiday hype to take calculated risks with their brands (such as deciding whether to be open on Thanksgiving Day).
Early predictions and trends show that the retail industry is optimistic about this year’s sales growth, so what specifically can we expect to see playing an influential role?
Mobile Takes Center Stage
Black Friday once commonly brought to mind devoted shoppers camping in tents outside stores overnight or the occasional mall brawl, but this year, marketers are keeping a keen eye on the mobile channel.
Adobe released its holiday shopping forecast at the beginning of November, predicting that mobile will account for 31 percent of sales on Thanksgiving Day. In 2013, that number was only 21 percent.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are also expected to be big days for mobile, earning 26 and 20 percent share, respectively.
Of course, mobile and social go hand in hand – Adobe’s report indicated that the season’s top gifts will emerge from social media chatter as people solicit opinions and reviews, drop hints (Best Buy has already sponsored the hashtag #hintingseason on Twitter), or brag on deals they got.
The Adobe forecast noted that while Cyber Monday will hold on to its spot as the largest online sales day (expecting $2.6 billion), online deals won’t be limited to just December 1.
Several retailers are extending their online-only promotions to the days leading up to and following Cyber Monday, though prices are expected to jump up across the board on Tuesday.
This descriptor was coined by eBay in recognition of their best day of December sales, when shoppers who didn’t catch the early surge now rush on the online marketplace to make sure their purchases can get shipped in time.
The Big Picture
The holiday shopping season is a test of retail brands’ integration.
At this time of year, marketers are firing on all channels at once, and consumers are increasingly comfortable crossing among them. A seamless, unified brand experience at every touchpoint will win the day by making the chore of holiday shopping just that much easier for customers.
Mobile websites and apps will be under the microscope, but customer service, the in-store experience, shipping, search engine marketing, display ads, direct mail, email, social – all of these pieces working together will make a brand stand out from the pack this year.
And while online and mobile shopping gain share, expect consumers to also be wary of electronic security where their debit and credit cards are concerned, and the privacy of their shopping data. If there’s anything that can sour the season better than the Grinch, it’s a hacking breach (and all the press that follows). So not only does the customer experience need to flow smoothly, everything in the background matters, too.