For many marketers, the holiday season represents the major portion of their annual sales. And for many of those, Black Friday and Cyber Monday represent the two most critical shopping days of the year.

Loyalty360 solicited some experts to gauge the current reality and significance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday from a customer engagement perspective.

Some published reports seem to suggest that Black Friday isn’t as big a customer engagement draw as it has been. Do you agree or not and why?

Tom Barbaro, VP Sales, East, PebblePost: It will be interesting to see how the physical retail numbers shake out this year for Black Friday. That said, consumer behavior online in the form of website visits indicates that Black Friday is still a critical date. Those online shoppers are looking for the “best deal,” and retailers are responding by offering those discounts earlier to avoid the crush of Black Friday and/or extending the sale well past single shopping days. Either way, it’s a win-win for the consumer.

ViralGains CMO Julie Ginches: Black Friday and Cyber Monday have lost their luster. These shopping days perpetuate a brand’s disconnect with what individual consumers want and need. While we all like deals, we do not want our arms twisted into shopping on a certain day. While I may have joined the Black Friday lines once upon a time, would you ever find me shopping on or offline on a certain day ever again? Absolutely not. If a brand truly wants to engage with me, then they understand how valuable my time is to me. I’ll spend more money to find what I want, in an experience that is relevant, simple, and easy.

Why is Black Friday a major opportunity and how does it (if at all) factor into longer-term brand loyalty for customers?

AppLift CEO Tim Koschella: Come the holiday season, hordes of new devices get unpacked, consumption picks up, as well as advertising dollars being spent on install campaigns. Acquiring users is only the beginning of the app lifecycle and to keep the ball rolling marketers must establish effective communication with their users. Top apps typically see double or triple their historical download rates, and app downloads see a 150 percent increase on Christmas Day alone. For Holiday app installs, the conversion to churn ratio is skewed. If you think the holiday season is the time to up your UA game, you have only one part of the puzzle. Without a strong retention and re-engagement strategy to back it up, customer acquisition remains incomplete.

Barbaro: Black Friday and Cyber Monday bring an influx of brand new site visitors to retailers. It’s a marketer’s first and best chance to engage with and potentially acquire a new customer. Critical to converting those one-time buyers to loyal customers is 1) the ability to identify a new site visitor and segment appropriately, and 2) treat that new-to-file prospect differently than a loyal customer, e.g. percentage off / free shipping. Consumers want to feel special as anyone in a new relationship would. A little recognition of that fact could go a very long way toward establishing a longer-term relationship.

Rich Kahn, CEO and co-founder of eZanga: Black Friday is likely the single largest shopping day of the year. It’s easier for brands to set themselves apart during this time as being an easy, convenient brand to shop with. By making access to the product convenient, while also ensuring it is easy on the wallet, people are more likely to shop with your brand down the line (and talk about how great their deal was, too).

Radoslaw Dobrolecki, USA Business Development Director, RTB House: In the excitement of the Black Friday weekend, many people add items to their basket, but then for a mix of reasons don’t decide to complete the purchase. Retargeting is a great tool that marketers should leverage seasonality. Within one sales season, it helps to address the abandoned carts problem. RTB House can help shops to reach users from Black Friday and convert their abandoned carts into completed sales.

How would you compare Black Friday and Cyber Monday at this point in time from a customer engagement/customer experience perspective?

Wendell Lansford, Founder of Wyng: In-store traffic will be down this year, but there will still be a considerable group of shoppers that will be in line on Friday to shop in-store. What we will see more of are shoppers that will be dipping into all channels spanning Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Online shoppers are going to be actively researching and shopping interchangeably between online and stores, so retailers will need to be prepared to deliver engaging experiences across all channels, online, mobile, and in-store. The retailers that optimize their marketing and sales experiences for both in-store and online consumers will walk away from the big winners this holiday shopping season.

Farshad Fardad, CEO of GlobalWide Media: The amount of data that’s used in programmatic campaigns is the biggest value the advertisers see from this strategy. The ability to analyze and make future targeting decisions based on historical purchase behavior is a huge bonus. We can identify the user that buys his wife new perfume every year, the family that has grown children based on the types of toys they buy, and more.

Ginches: Black Friday and Cyber Monday provide a poor customer experience. A shopping frenzy is most likely not the preferred choice for most consumers. Many of us realize the best thing you can do is just be patient since the deals on and offline are often stressful and elusive. The best deals are yet to come, and we know we’ll find them earlier or later in the season, on our own schedule, from a retailer we trust.

Kahn: Black Friday is your first opportunity, while Cyber Monday is the second chance. Black Friday is where the bulk of the shopping is done, as most people are back in the office come Monday morning. Cyber Monday is the second opportunity for those that did not get everything they were looking for on Black Friday. That said, Cyber Monday is getting more competitive with special timed deals throughout the day to create a sense of urgency in getting a good deal. Plus, it still fills the convenience factor–you can quite literally shop for everything and have it all delivered to your doorstep, right down to the wrapping paper, tape, and cards.

Dobrolecki: Data from our Global campaigns show that last year the conversion rate on Black Friday was nearly 70 percent better than average for November 2015. Growing rates of advertising expenditures and people shopping online let us assume that this year’s Black Friday will break yet another record. Personalized retargeting is an important tool that can personalize advertising messages as accurately as possible during Black Friday. Although online sales during Black Friday are skyrocketing, this day is still a lot about offline shopping. Cyber Monday, on the other hand, is mainly digital and focused on online sales. Many consumers who missed good sales on Black Friday will try to compensate during Cyber Monday. 

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