The Good News Behind This Year’s Poor Black Friday Sales

Marketer’s Note” is a regular column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. This week it is written by Lizzie Komar, Associate Analyst, AdExchanger Research.  

Though analysts predicted strong growth for this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday, sales both in stores and online were estimated to have dropped 11 percent to $50.9 billion from $57.4 billion last year, according to the National Retail Federation. As marketers, the typical response is to question where the marketing went wrong. Was it poor customer targeting? Perhaps misfired pricing decisions? Or messaging overload? All of the above? None of the above?

But there is an intriguing story embedded in this year’s ultimate shopping weekend that few people are talking about. Despite lack of overall sales growth, online sales were higher than in-store sales over the holiday weekend and, according to IBM, are up 17% from last year. The implications of this are noteworthy – online is a significantly less expensive sales channel than brick-and-mortar, so despite diminished sales overall, with smart planning this year marketers could have achieved a positive ROI by focusing resources on the online sales channel rather than brick and mortar efforts.

If this trend continues – and it should – it’s good news for marketers interested in doing more with less for next year’s Black Friday.

As more and more consumers choose to shop online during Black Friday, marketers should determine their top drivers to the online marketplace, and put more ad budget there. Companies that spent a lot in TV and print this year and found an uptick in online sales will have an interesting challenge to understand if those expensive mass media buys drove to the web. Meanwhile, companies that drove significant sales online over Black Friday from digital channels like search or display now have another proof point for why digital should get a bigger piece of the budget next year.

Either way, it deserves serious discussion at next year’s planning meetings.

So, tell me! How did your ROI compare to last year’s? What about your online sales? How do you think this year’s Black Friday results will factor into marketing plans for next year?

Follow Lizzie Komar (@LizzieKomar) and AdExchanger Research (AdExchangerRsch) on Twitter. 

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