Making the Most of Cyber Monday

kim200By Kimberly A. Whitler, Assistant Professor of Business Administration at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia

Over the last few years, Cyber Monday retail sales have been steadily increasing, last year reaching $3.1 billion, surpassing Black Friday. This year, the trend is set to continue.

While extending the Black Friday event to make it more of a season, rather than a specific day, the growth of technology-enabled shopping creates several challenges and opportunities for marketers.

Time Spent Online vs In-Store

The amount of time that consumers will spend in a store on Black Friday versus online on Cyber Monday at one store can be vastly different. For consumers to head to Wal-Mart or Best Buy, they have committed to drive to the store, potentially wait in line and then navigate the store to shop. As a result, it is unlikely that a consumer will spend just seconds in the store. When marketing to in-store shoppers, the objective is to encourage a visit, and once the consumer is in-store, motivate additional sales through end cap displays, promotions, and unique merchandising.

This is quite different than shopping online, where the consumer invests just a few keystrokes to get to a retailer’s “store” and if not satisfied within seconds, will move on to the next store. The consumer hasn’t invested time, gas, and effort, making it much easier to abandon an online visit and go elsewhere.

Tip for Marketers:  Invest in understanding how to effectively enable superior navigation through online shopping vehicles. Understanding different consumers’ online experience is paramount to ensuring they effectively generate—and sustain—consumer interest.

Creating the Optimal Online Shopping Experience

Second, the shopping experience is vastly different for in-store versus online vehicles. For example, each online vehicle, with different screen sizes, shapes, and operating systems, requires detailed attention to ensure an optimal consumer experience. Even little things such as the loading speed, navigation, checkout experience, and ease of purchase can cause a consumer to quickly abandon an online store.

Marketing Tip: Shift resources to design and develop online experiences that work across all vehicle types. And, conduct testing to try and find any issues before the consumer does.

Uniting Black Friday and Cyber Monday

When customer service is a critical part of creating a superior shopping experience (i.e., Nordstrom), online shopping can leave the consumer less satisfied, creating variance across different shopping vehicles. To address this, marketers need to think about designing omnichannel experiences that extend the shopping season.

Instead of viewing Black Friday and Cyber Monday as separate events, marketers can use the two events to incentivize additional trips.

Marketing Tip:  For example, Wal-Mart could offer a special Cyber Monday deal to anybody who shops in their stores on Black Friday, encouraging a follow-up visit. Nordstrom could offer a free personal shopper to anybody who spends $500 or more on Cyber Monday at some point in the next 3 months.

After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, marketers can continue to extend the relationship by rewarding a visit/purchase and expressing “holiday gratitude” through an extended offer.

About the Author: Kimberly A. Whitler is Assistant Professor of Business Administration at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. Her research area is Marketing Strategy with a focus on understanding how Board and C-Level roles, characteristics and decisions impact the firm’s marketing performance. Learn more about Darden at