December 5 by Zack Alspaugh
For some, it’s hard to believe it’s already December and holiday shopping is now a looming priority. For others, they’ve been eagerly awaiting it for months. Of course, the holiday season kicks off with its usual consumer extravaganza, the three-headed dog of Black Friday, Small-Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday.
Traditionally Black Friday is the flagship day for purchases, and is one often wrought by images of stampedes, chaos, grabbing, shoving, even violence. This year was different. “We’ve seen a much more calm and civilized and very different process for shopping,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group. Not because there is less of a dash for discounts, but because more and more consumers are turning to online and mobile shopping – clicks not bricks.
“Preliminary data, from analytics firm RetailNext, showed that in-store net sales plunged 10.4% on Black Friday vs. 2015.” Meanwhile, Cyber Monday, which in year’s past has been at the tail end of the shopping frenzy and often the afterthought, brought down a record setting $3.45 billion – a 12.1% jump over Cyber Monday last year – with U.S. online sales currently totaling $40 billion thus far in the holiday season.
What Just Happened?
In reaction to the pleasant overthrow of shopping’s former King, some outlets like Shop.org write “Cyber Monday Quickly Becoming One of the Biggest Online Shopping Days of the Year” and USA Today questioning, “Is Black Friday Dead?”
But is it all warranted? Should it have been this big of a surprise?
Internet and Web technologies have given people worldwide, unparalleled access to information, transforming lifestyles, business models and economics in the process. Over 50% of the world’s population is online (over 3.6 billion out of about 7 billion people). And, the number of devices connected to the Internet is growing too, expected to reach 26 billion by 2020 according to Gartner, a leading information technology research firm. In short, an entire generation has emerged that is thoroughly accustomed to socializing, educating itself and purchasing goods and services online from any device, including smartphones and tablets.
It should be obvious to businesses that online sales is where a bulk of research and purchases now take place. And if you don’t believe the data, just ask RadioShack, SportsAuthority, and Aeropostale who have all recently been forced to close brick and mortar locations.
A Costly Lesson to Learn: The Growing Digital Divide
Companies not investing in digital channels are rapidly falling behind, losing customers, struggling to compete, and feeling margin pressure. The potential declines associated with a lack of “going digital” are largely due to a failure to satisfy customer expectations.
Today’s business customers are buying more online than via the phone and other offline channels. 74% indicate that buying from a website is more convenient than buying from a sales representative, and 93% prefer to buy online when they’ve decided what to buy and just need to make the purchase.
Companies that were ill-prepared this Cyber Monday paid for it, literally. Top-named brands including Macy’s, Walmart, Victoria’s Secret, The Gap Inc. and Williams Sonoma, faced web glitches, outages, poor load times, and discount and checkout difficulties, which cost them, as Forbes.com predicts, billions in possible revenue.
Black Friday in the B2B World: Building E-Commerce Agility in an Omni-Channel World
While the B2B world doesn’t have a designated Black Friday, down the stretch of every fiscal quarter deals accelerate, and the pressure to close spikes. If you can’t meet customer expectations, you’ll lose deals and flush revenue. B2B E-Commerce and online sales are expected to make up a huge part of that potential revenue.
By 2020, a significant volume of business will be transacted online with B2B E-Commerce projected to be a $1.1 trillion industry. In fact, Forrester expects the number of B2B buyers completing at least half of their work -related purchases online to nearly double to 56% by 2017.
And don’t think that, because you made an E-Commerce investment once upon a time, you are covered. While many E-Commerce platforms developed in the 1990s and even the 2000s are still around, these outdated solutions cannot compete with offerings developed in the time of SaaS and the cloud. Millennials continue to pour into the workforce and businesses must satisfy the demands of a generation that embraces, and often prefers, to engage in digital channels. If not, you’ll suffer the same fate that Macy’s, Walmart and others faced this past week. Worse yet, you could even face the fate of RadioShack, or the others who failed to evolve when the market demanded it.
So, smart companies, if they haven’t already, are looking for ways to move into the digital age and capitalize on this trend, beyond just a website to sell all of their goods online. Consider that “the most digitally advanced parts of the economy have increased their productivity and boosted profit margins by two to three times the average rate in other sectors over the past 20 years.”
No matter what you sell – simple consumer products, digital subscriptions, complex configurable products, services, or a mix of any or all of these – you can and should offer an omni-channel commerce experience. Empower your customers to order from you where, when, and how they want to – online on any device, by phone, or in person. To do this, be sure to add B2B E-Commerce to your Holiday Wish List.