Declining engagement, conversions cast shadows on otherwise sunny Black Friday weekend

Marketers breathed a bit easier as record-breaking retail sales rolled in from the Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday stretch. Cart checkouts kept apace throughout the Thanksgiving weekend, totaling a record $7.9 billion in online sales on Cyber Monday alone, according to Adobe. Still, it wasn’t all rosy. Issues such as lower average order values, higher cart abandonment and increased fraud dimmed some of the joy for many marketers.

Addressing lower engagement, conversions. Though the numbers shifted depending on who was doing the measuring, most data show that while sales were high, marketers struggled to engage and convert. Cart abandonment rates increased by 2.6 percent, conversion rates decreased by 9.7 percent and bounce rates increased by 12 percent compared to last year, according to personalization platform Monetate.

Search agency NetElixir reported a year-over-year decrease in average order values (AOV) of 4 percent.

All agree, though, that Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday results were better than the rest of the weekend, indicating a concerted effort by consumers to grab big-ticket items early.

Udayan Bose, NetElixir’s CEO, attributes a reported drop in average order value (AOV) to an increase in mobile customers, who tend to have a lower basket value.

“Marketers can work to make up for this loss by better understanding the mobile consumer and their buying behavior and customizing the 4P (product, price, place, promotion) mix accordingly,” Bose said, recommending that marketers offer incentives to encourage higher baskets like free shipping and discounts that kick in after minimum order amounts. Bose also touted recommendation engine plug-ins and live chat to help consumers find what they’re looking for.

Increased fraud. Ohad Hagai, SVP of marketing for Namogoo, says “during the peak holiday season with a surplus of online traffic and payment activity, bad actors have increased opportunity to commit and capitalize on fraudulent activity.”

“During Black Friday and Cyber Monday, online journey hijacking activity increased between 25-35 percent at various hours of the day compared to the regular season, where injected ads impact consumers during 15-25 percent of web sessions,” Hagai said. “Throughout the entire 2018 holiday season, this fraudulent activity is expected to cost online retailers $2.4 billion in revenue, a 17 percent increase from last year.”

Though marketers aren’t likely the ones responsible for combating fraud, it does impact the bottom line, so marketers should ensure their sites’ development teams tighten security and stay vigilant during the shopping season.

Why you should care. By any metric, more sales are good for marketers, and with an increase at this scale, we’re bound to see problems. And the holiday season is really just starting. NetElixir estimates that 76 percent of online holiday sales have yet to happen and that retailers still have time to adjust their strategies over the next few weeks.

“The holiday shopping period presents tremendous opportunity for retailers to win new shoppers and convert them into returning customers, Monetate’s CEO Stephen Collins said. “Retailers must reconsider their engagement strategies to ensure they are capitalizing on increased website visits. It’s imperative that retailers leverage every data point at their disposal to create the best and most relevant experiences for shoppers.”

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