Gang of Santas crossing a San Francisco street

Five lessons from Datacember 2016: Datacember 16

Gang of Santas crossing a San Francisco street

Is it time to close the book on Datacember already? We were just getting warmed up.

But all good things must come to an end — and things like Datacember, too. But seriously, folks. It was a learning experience, this the second year of data in December. Let’s take a look at five lessons amid the rubble of a month-long marathon of crunching numbers.

And if you’re a retailer, there will be a quiz. You know that, though. Every day is a test of the strategies you employ during the holiday shopping season, retail’s biggest stage. Which leads right into our first lesson:

Be prepared: What are we your mother? At the risk of sounding condescending, we offer this lesson almost as a way to commiserate. We know, that you know, that the holiday season brings traffic and demands like nothing else.

There is an old, and somewhat exclusionary, saying that “you don’t build your church for Easter Sunday,” but in retail, you do. With its massive traffic, the holiday season is the opportunity to ensure a profitable year. It’s a chance to impress customers you haven’t seen before. That is, if you do everything right.

No, you don’t hire everyone you’ll need for the holiday shopping season or run your operation at the same frenetic pace year-round.

But you do have in place the technology and practices that can scale up for a huge spike in online traffic beginning in November and carrying through into the New Year. Steering clear of religion, we at Datacember refer to it as preparing for the 100-year flood.

Cyber Friday is a thing: Black Friday is still a gigantic shopping day, but the way it’s gigantic is changing significantly. More people shopped online than busted doors and shopped in stores on Black Friday this year, the National Retail Federation reported.

BloomReach data showed that more online sales were made on Black Friday than on Cyber Monday, the day that was named for online shopping. In fact, the data seemed to illustrate the embrace of a shopping weekend, during which consumers browse on Thanksgiving and get more serious about buying on Black Friday.

By Cyber Monday the pent-up demand is such that shoppers show their greatest intent to buy, BloomReach data shows.

Retailers need to avoid too fine a focus on traditional shopping days — which could lead to taking their eye off the prize on the in-between times.

Different devices for different circumstances: Consumers have become quite comfortable calling the shots. They’ll shop when they want to; where they want to and on the device they want to use.

But not all shopping circumstances are created equal. BloomReach data shows that — at least in 2016 — shoppers prefered particular shopping modes on particular days. Remember all the stories about what a huge mobile day Black Friday was? (Oh yeah, see above.)

It turns out, that by one measure, Thanksgiving was an even bigger day for mobile. On Thanksgiving, mobile (smartphone and tablet) accounted for 44 percent of online conversions. The figure on Black Friday was 36 percent.

Now, Black Friday, of course, was a much bigger day than Thanksgiving in sales overall. We guess that means its 36 percent number was a smaller part of a much bigger (pumpkin?) pie.

All in all, it’s another sign of consumers’ rapidly changing preferences — a fact that no retailer can afford to ignore — or even underestimate.

There’s something about a Monday: Us? We don’t like to do anything on Monday, starting with getting out of bed. But most consumers? They’re ready to buy on Mondays, at least Mondays during the holiday shopping season.

Mondays really shined in the holiday season just passed. As a group they were the leading day for consumers’ buying intent. The last four Mondays of the holiday shopping season came down hard on the “buy” side of Datacember’s Browse vs. Buy index.

They were also leaders in conversions. And, as they did last year, Mondays outperformed Sundays, a day that has outshined Mondays through most of the year.

Retailers need to be aware of context. Sure Sunday is a big day for sales. And then comes the holiday season and it’s time to think about what you’re going to do for shoppers on Monday — a day when they’re ready to buy.

Desktop still reigns: Yes, mobile is your future and your franchise. Increasingly mobile is figuring into every online and in-store sale. It’s often how consumers are introduced to your brand. And if it’s not, it’s how they’ve come to think of it.

But guess what? The desktop is still where shoppers are making purchases — at least most of them, most of the time. Overall in 2016, desktop accounted for an average of 66 percent of daily conversions during the holiday shopping season. The figure neared 70 percent on some days.

We saw the same thing last year, not surprisingly. It could well be that the mobile experience hasn’t caught up with consumers desire to live on their mobile devices. That said, consumers seem determined to lead retailers into the mobile era.

While desktop dominated in both 2015 and 2016, its grip slipped ever so slightly this year, dropping to that 66 percent figure from 68.2 percent in 2015.

Yes, it’s all a reminder of just how hard it is to get retail right in the smartphone era. Sure, the desktop is where a majority of the money-making is happening (for now), but no retailer can afford to focus on desktop at the expense of mobile.

Not only is commerce moving to mobile devices, particularly smartphones, but as we’ve said before, the smartphone is fast becoming involved in almost every commercial transaction. And so the answer is to do both better.

Hey, what fun would retail be if it were easy?

Happy Datacember to all.

Photo by Mike Cassidy.

Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at mike.cassidy@bloomreach.com; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.