Cyber Monday is the Buggy Whip of E-Tailing.

10 responses.

Cyber Monday’s business press was all atwitter looking at that day as well as Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Technology Tuesday. Makes me wonder when they’re going to celebrate WTF Wednesday, too.

But this year something new happened. All of a sudden Cyber Monday sales figures are coming in wonky. And experts are falling all over each other to explain what’s going on.

“The holiday season and the weekend are a marathon, not a sprint.” National Retail Federation CEO Matthew Shay told Bloomberg when Cyber Monday sales tumbled an estimated 11 percent over the weekend from a year earlier and 6 million anticipated shoppers didn’t show up.


Shay pointed out many consumers don’t feel like the economy has recovered from the recession yet. That makes it difficult to gauge how much they plan to spend on Cyber Monday or any other day.

New York-based analyst Simeon Siegel put it this way: “You can’t outsmart the consumer anymore. You need to pander to where the consumer wants to shop and when.”

Still other retail experts pointed out that lower Cyber Monday sales were actually a good sign. They theorized this meant consumers were confident and didn’t need retail gimmicks to get them to buy.

Of course no one has bothered to point out that what we’re really seeing is the beginning of the end for traditional retailing. The reason experts all have different opinions is because they’re prognosticating on something they’ve never seen before. And all the facts and figures they trot out to confirm their points of view are old measurements of an old world we’ll never see again.

Kim Kardashian and Cyber MondayTake Cyber Monday itself for example. According to The New York Times, “The name Cyber Monday grew out of the observation that millions of otherwise productive working Americans, fresh off a Thanksgiving weekend of window shopping, were returning to high-speed Internet connections at work Monday…” Of course, this was written in 2005 when most consumers didn’t have high-speed Internet access anywhere but their offices. Today WiFi hotspots are as numerous as Kim Kardashian’s husbands. There is simply no reason for shoppers to wait until they get to work to go online and shop. And since shoppers know the prices they see on Monday will still be available on Tuesday and Wednesday, they’re in no hurry to grab bargains on Cyber Monday.

Unfortunately, the retail industry has trained consumers to expect, demand, and wait for low prices and shoppers now exercise their Pavlovian right to the best deal available regardless of what stores and websites are yelling about.

The only place where this unfortunate reality is not sucking the profits out of retail is the luxury goods market where brands such as Apple, BMW, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton sell more than just the sum of their components. Instead of using price and function to fight it out, these savvy brands understand that whether or not consumers rush to the mall or the Internet, they will pay top dollar for exclusive experiences that define their lifestyles and themselves.

In other words, good brands make you feel good but great brands make you feel good about yourself. The great brands that understand this and build the perceived value of the good feelings they create will prevail regardless of whether it’s Cyber Monday, Black Friday or The Hell With it Thursday.

Good Brands on Cyber Monday

A Great Brand on Cyber Monday

  10 Responses

  1. on December 2, 2014

    So true. And applicable to any brand. Even, or especially to health care practices.
    The new economy is making putting the patient first the secret sauce for super success.

  2. on December 2, 2014

    Which Thursday is “To Hell With It Thursday”?? I need to know.

  3. on December 2, 2014

    Any Thursday you and I are together, John!

  4. on December 2, 2014

    Great idea for a future blog post, Larry. We do so much of our work in health care and put all of the ideas discussed here to work in the industry. Thank you for the inspiration.

  5. on December 3, 2014

    Bruce: The demise of the holiday shopping season began several years ago when retailers broke the surface tension of Thanksgiving Thursday. Like a dam breach, the built-up anticipation surrounding Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) spread across the Thanksgiving week, leaking into the week prior and the week prior and the week prior… Now, Christmas decorations appear on display shelves before Halloween!

    Though a speaker now, I’ve been in retailing most of my life. What we’re seeing is shopping fatigue. People just can’t maintain a high level of enthusiasm for a holiday that stretches for months.

    Frankly, I think it’s good for retailers and for America – this demise of the holiday shopping frenzy. Over 1/5th of retail revenue has been precariously perched on a year-end short selling season. That’s a bit risky for fiscal health. And the argument that Black Friday is a “family tradition” is similarly flawed reasoning. Moreover, I am loathe to destroy one of the truly sacrosanct family holidays (Thanksgiving) by rushing out to buy something.

    Maybe Black Friday’s end is a new beginning for family tradition? One can only hope.


  6. on December 3, 2014

    I believe you are spot on in your analysis. We call it “Doing Business in the Age of NOW!” Sadly most businesses are still stuck in the Age of Yesterday. The Brits might have been thinking about marketing when they proclaimed “The King is dead, long live the King.” Retail marketing may be dying as we know it, but it is not dead and it will come back stronger than ever when it catches up to the consumers and how they CHOOSE to shop.

  7. Gregg Emmer
    on December 3, 2014

    Retail sales are certainly influenced by electronic connectivity and the expanding of the “Holiday” season even intruding on Thanksgivings Day and is only slightly in the distance on Halloween – but there is another factor that is being missed. Generational Buyers Fatigue.

    Baby Boomers are in their 60s. Their children are in their 40s and grandchildren abound. Gift buying by Boomers has morphed from an exciting fun activity to a chore. Those with the financial resources send their kids and grand kids on vacations. Others buy gift cards and movie passes. But shopping online or in stores for individual items has declined and will continue to decline with the changing population demographics.

    Retailers that organize their web offerings by age appropriateness and price allowing Boomers to shop easily for the gifts they would like to buy, just might reverse some of the fatigue and price slashing would be far less necessary.

  8. on December 3, 2014

    Bruce, It’s so refreshing to read you here. I have been observing this for years, too. As you suggest, retailers and brands must provide “experience” and help people feel good. My client work in experiential social media has consistently shown that the key to experience is going to a scary place, where customers live. I have learned that customers have a secondary interest in products, services and brands; their primary interest is in outcomes (of using products and services) and minimizing risks. This is scary for retailers and brands because we’re in a post-product age in which products are commodities. As you write, gimmicky promotions won’t cut it, but rethinking marketing offers unlimited opportunity. What if providers (brands, retailers..) aligned with customers and stopped trying to push commodities. What if they refocused their core competencies and knowledge to empowering their most profitable customers’ outcomes? That’s how to increase relevance and trust and profit. Retailers need to get WAY more creative than designing “cool places”; they need to pivot to helping people with outcomes. Here are specific retail opportunities I see:

  9. Amy Donner
    on December 3, 2014

    Selfish Sunday: The OFFICIAL Selfish Sunday follows Thanksgiving and is a day devoted to your own interests, benefits and welfare with little or no regard for others. For our Role Models, the SPIRIT of Selfish Sunday lives on all year long. Be a Role Model. Practice makes perfect.

  10. on December 4, 2014

    @Gregg Emmer, That makes total sense, and I’d love to learn more. Do you have a fav link or two to share? Thanks!

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