Here are a couple of trends from Black Friday Week this year:
Both more and less emphasis on Black Friday. There’s been a lot written about retailers making Black Friday deals available well before the day after Thanksgiving. That’s not really anything new. While the Black Friday brand is strong and the day is a huge sales opportunity, retailers are focused on the big picture of total sales and share of wallet, and are always trying to lock in holiday purchases in early November — or in October or September.
Among the more than 100 major retailers that I track, significantly more of them sent their subscribers promotional messaging on Monday and Tuesday of Black Friday Week. Seventy-four percent of these retailers sent messaging on Monday and 65% sent on Tuesday.
But then the percentage of retailers sending messages on Thanksgiving Eve, Thanksgiving Day, and Saturday fell a little, while the percentage sending on Black Friday rose significantly. This year, 87% of retailers sent their subscribers at least one promotional email on Black Friday, up from 81% last year. On average, those retailers sending on Black Friday sent each of their active subscribers 1.6 emails, the same as last year.
The pattern of sending would seem to indicate a little more deference for Black Friday, perhaps a recognition that, toward the middle of the week, many people are willing to wait a couple of days to ensure they’re getting a true Black Friday deal.
However, the bigger picture is that Black Friday is being extended earlier into a Black Friday Week, with variations on the Black November trend of a few years ago. Similarly, Cyber Monday is being extended later — into a Cyber Week. Those two brands are so strong with consumers that limiting them to single days is silly.
Improvements, but still struggling with mobile. Although significant gains in mobile commerce have been reported, retailers are still lagging when it comes to being mobile-friendly — which surely kept mobile sales from growing much more quickly.
On or around Black Friday, only 47% of major retailers sent promotional emails that used either mobile-aware or responsive design. That’s exactly the same as it was in early October. Last year, the percentage of retailers sending mobile-friendly emails jumped from 23% in early October to 31% in early December. If zero progress was made going into the critical holiday season, this doesn’t bode well for progress in the coming months.
The stalling out of mobile-friendly gains likely also extends to websites. This summer we found significant disconnects in the continuity of mobile-friendly experiences when going from emails to Web landing pages. It’s a fair assumption that those disconnects have not been addressed.
So my prediction that 40% of B2C brands will be using responsive email design, and another 30% using mobile-aware design by this holiday season, is busted. And given this inexplicable loss of momentum, we may not reach those adoption levels until next August.
To those brands that have developed mobile-friendly emails and websites, congrats! It looks like you’ll be enjoying a significant competitive advantage all holiday season long and probably through the first half of 2015.