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BFCM 2018: All The Key Trends And Take-outs For Your Brand

Well peeps, the results are in, the votes counted, and it was another winning year for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, AKA BFCM. Online sales are once again through the roof, highlighting not just the importance of this event for brands, but the importance of eCommerce as a whole. Check out these figures:

  • $6.2 billion in online sales on Black Friday, up 23.6% YoY
  • $7.9 billion in online sales on Cyber Monday, up 19% YoY

But no two BFCMs are the same. Each year sees the emergence of new trends, as well as twists and turns within the existing, all of which your brand must know about if you’re to succeed in this lucrative shopping event and in general. Here, we round up all the key developments of BFCM 2018, and advise how you can use these to propel your brand to the moon and back. Merry Christmas y’all!

1) ‘Black Friday Creep’

Traditionally, Black Friday and Cyber Monday were the headline events of BFCM. Black Friday marked the beginning of holiday shopping and represented offline sales, and a second sales peak followed on Cyber Monday, which represented online sales. But that’s all changing, both in how people shop and when they shop.

Not only did more people buy online than offline this Black Friday (online sales rose by 23.6% this year and footfall to physical stores fell by 1.7%), but they started earlier too. This early start represents a wider change in BFCM shopping, which is now, in a phenomenon being dubbed ‘Black Friday creep’, beginning to grow over the five days stretching from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, or ‘The Turkey Five’ as Amazon calls it.

This year, online sales grew faster on Thanksgiving (up 28% YoY), Saturday (up 25% YoY) and Sunday (up 25% YoY) than on Black Friday (up 23.6% YoY) and Cyber Monday (up 19% YoY). Furthermore, there are new peaks within these peaks. For example, many shoppers are taking advantage of final Cyber Monday deals before going to bed. This year, 10pm-1am drove $1.7 billion in sales, roughly $300 million more than an average full day during the year.

Key Take-out For Brands: Today, BFCM is no longer about Black Friday and Cyber Monday only, but Thanksgiving, Saturday, and Sunday too. And brands need to create and execute campaigns accordingly.

2) Mobile

Mobile shopping was the star of BFCM 2017, and continued its stellar role in 2018. Behold a snapshot of the staggering figures:

  • More than $4billion was spent on mobile between Black Friday and Cyber Monday
  • Smartphone revenue hit $2.1 billion on Cyber Monday, representing 48.1% growth YoY
  • Mobile visits on Cyber Monday represented 51.4% of site visits, making it the first Cyber Monday where more than half of visits came from mobile
  • Mobile conversions grew by 61% over the entire five days

All the reports tell the same story. Shopping and buying on mobile is becoming the new norm, not just for BFCM, but eCommerce in general. This is down to continued optimizations on the platform, with the larger retailers in particular making the mobile path to purchase ever more seamless and painless. Vast improvements in brand and retailer apps are another contributory factor.

Key Take-out For Brands: We shouldn’t have to tell you this anymore, but in case anyone has been living under a rock, always think mobile first for your brand! Just some ways you can do this include:

  • Compressed images for faster loading
  • Easy navigation
  • Check boxes, lists and scroll menus for easy data entry
  • Allowing users to complete purchases as a guest
  • Digital wallets such as PayPal

3) Omnichannel

According to the National Retail Federation, the most common consumer behavior during BFCM this year was to mix online and in-store shopping, reporting 89.7 million such omnichannel shoppers. And as the online and offline experience continues to blend in what is a new, non-linear path to purchase, ‘Buy Online, Pickup In-Store’ (BOPIS) saw a record 50% increase YoY, and retailers with physical stores drove 28% higher conversions online.

Key Take-out For Brands: Like mobile, omnichannel shopping is steadily becoming yet another new norm in consumer behavior. If you’re not already running an omnichannel strategy, now’s the time. Omnichannel is all about delivering a consistent consumer experience across every touchpoint, offline and online.

Walmart were best in class for omnichannel during BFCM this year. Traditionally, Black Friday at Walmart involves queues that would put you off shopping for life. But this year, they introduced a system called ‘Check Out With Me’, which allowed queue-averse customers to check out with floor staff on mobile. Nifty or what?

4) Social

Social too remains a strong and growing force in BFCM, with the NRF reporting a 73% growth in the use of Instagram to find deals, and a 45% increase in the use of Pinterest. Salesforce also reported a growth in social traffic, by 16% on Cyber Monday and 41% on Thanksgiving.

Key Take-Out For Brands: Given these figures, don’t make social strategy an afterthought for BFCM. Plan it early and with military precision. Brands should also consider taking social content to the next level by using ‘Where to Buy’ technology to make it ‘shoppable’. Shoppable videos in particular are increasingly popular and highly effective, as we cover in detail in this blog post.

5) Amazon

Given its dominance as an online retailer, we couldn’t cover BFCM 2018 without addressing how Amazon performed. And, predictably, it killed it. While it didn’t disclose figures, it did reveal that customers ordered more than 180 million items during BFCM, and that Cyber Monday was its biggest shopping day ever.

Key Take-out For Brands: The dominance of Amazon and other big retailers such as Walmart, Target and Kohl’s is going nowhere, and the smart tactic is partnering with them rather than trying to beat them. ‘Where to Buy’ technology is the perfect solution here, as it gives consumers the option to buy from your brand site, or that of their preferred retailer.

6) The Losers

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for brands and retailers this BFCM, with stock and technical issues raining on quite a few parades. By Thursday evening, the Nintendo Switch had sold out at Target and GameStop, PlayStation 4 had sold out at Walmart, Target and GameStop, and the Instant Pot had sold out at Walmart and Target. Not good.

And then there were the technical issues. The websites for Walmart, Lululemon, J Crew, JD Sports, Lowes and Applebee’s all crashed due to the surges in traffic, while many Hollister customers were unable to check out online.

The Key Take-out For Brands: Out of stock and website issues do not make for happy customers, and as social media allows for the worldwide amplification of their frustrations, the reputational damage can do brands a lot of harm. Then there’s the cost, particularly of website crashes. Take this year’s crash at Walmart for example. It lasted 150 minutes, and is estimated to have effected 3.6 million customers at a cost of $9 million. Yikes!

So ensure you plan for all eventualities. Ask yourself questions like, ‘can our website handle a surge in traffic?’, ‘are our suppliers prepared for a jump in orders?’, ‘is our inventory stocked for increased demand?’, and put contingency plans in place just in case. Your motto here should be ‘hope for the best, prepare for the worst’.

It’s never too early to start preparing for BFCM. And while we hate to say it, brands should already be looking towards planning for next year’s event. Find out how our ‘Where to Buy’ technology can help you win this goldmine shopping event by contacting our team today. We also advise you download our FREE eBook ‘9 Ways Your Brand Can Win Black Friday And Cyber Monday’ too.

Global Brand Consultant 

Mark GilroyBFCM 2018: All The Key Trends And Take-outs For Your Brand