Winning The Cyber Monday Wars

While Cyber Monday has a relatively short history, providing marketers with scant perspective on which to draw, its incredible growth implies that retailers without a solid Cyber Monday strategy better prepare for a long, cold winter.

From Humble Beginnings

In late 2004, a booming economy and nascent high-speed Internet combined to form the primordial soup from which Cyber Monday would emerge. The “holiday” rose to prominence in 2005, when researchers discovered a 78% increase over the previous year in online retail sales on the Monday following Thanksgiving Day 2004. While the reason for this up-tick in sales remains up for debate, the most plausible theory is that employees returning to work after Thanksgiving decided to get a little holiday shopping done on company time. What isn’t debatable however, is that since Cyber Monday sales have been exploding. Cyber Monday 2013 was the “Heaviest U.S. Online Spending Day in History.”



Lots Of Noise

The information above isn’t revolutionary or even new. Every brand and agency has been reading the same Cyber Monday reports for the past decade. As such, the challenge that retailers and marketers face on Cyber Monday is that everyone is vying for the same audience and employing the same tactics to get their attention. The noise level is deafening.

Reaching buyers with mass placed advertising just means that you're competing for the same eyeballs as thousands of other brands, including heavy hitters like Walmart, Target, Macy’s, and Amazon (to name just a few). For most brands, TV and mass digital video advertising are a crapshoot in this incredibly short, incredibly important period of time.

The Past Is Dead

Email advertising isn't as effective as it once was. Automatic offer sorting in Web mail apps is hurting open rates for online marketers. Spam filters are getting more aggressive. Gmail users may have noticed that  Google “has decided that a few casualties along the way are justified when the overall outcome is less spam in the inbox… Gmail even obscures the Spam folder from view, far more than an average email platform,”  writes Sam DeBord on Inman News. In addition, services like are continuing to outsmart CRM campaigns, cleaning up the inboxes of consumers with evermore-efficient algorithms.

Winning The War Programmatically

Programmatic advertising is a relatively new concept in marketing, but it may be the weapon that retailers need to wield to win the Cyber Monday war. In just a year’s time, programmatic spending has increased 61%.

In the short span of time between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it's nearly impossible for smaller brands (and exclusively online brands) to effectively employ traditional targeting methods. Programmatic marketing allows for smart shifts in video advertising, tracking users’ behaviors, their path to purchase, and buying habits. These optimizations can be carried out on Cyber Monday, so that brands can encourage a purchase string based on that day’s previous buying behaviors. Optimizations can be made throughout the holiday season, relying on engagement triggers that lead to higher sales.

Consumers are online and connected on Cyber Monday. It’s the big day back to work, and an opportunity to fill holes left in the weekend shopping spree. Somewhere in that process is the opportunity to sway consumers. The better you can target, the more likely you are to reach the right consumers at the right time.

Cyber Monday sales are growing fast and showing no signs of slowing down. Offering great deals is an excellent start for retailers, as dedicated deal seekers will go to great lengths to find the products they want at irresistible discounts. However, reaching the critical mass of holiday sales that many online retailers need to succeed may be more difficult than first imagined, due to their customers’ opportunistic online buying habits. Intercepting potential customers through rapid programmatic targeting could very well prove to be the most effective marketing strategy this holiday season.

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