It Pays to Advertise on Cyber Monday

Online merchants may want to rethink their advertising strategies next year for the weekend following Thanksgiving in light of a report released this week by BlueLithium Labs.

The San Jose, Calif. maker of online advertising solutions reported that “click-through” rates — the rate at which consumers click on Net advertising — on the Friday and Monday following Turkey Day were below average compared to the rest of the month.

On Black Friday — so named because the volume of shopping that day can boost a retailer’s bottom line for the year from red to black — click-through rates were 32.3 percent lower than the monthly average, BlueLithium reported, and for Cyber Monday — a peak day during the year for online shopping — click-through rates were 12.6 percent lower.

The report also found that conversion rates — the rate at which a click-through is converted into a sale — slumped by eight percent on Friday; however, conversions soared by 29.6 percent on Monday.

Increased Spending

“The results signify that Internet shoppers are more likely to convert from online advertising and purchase on Cyber Monday than Black Friday,” the report noted. “The impact of this data on the actual effectiveness of online advertising on both days is significant.

“Many merchants bump up their online advertising efforts for both Friday and Monday because both are known to be strong shopping days,” the report continued. “This report suggests that they may do better to spend throughout the month, but pull back on Friday and focus those ad dollars to spend more heavily on Monday.”

Trying to time an advertising spend too finely, though, can be a dubious tactic, according to Andrew Frank, an analyst with Gartner. “It’s very difficult to time things in the marketing game, just as it’s difficult for people to time the stock market,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “For most advertisers it’s better to stick with an overall strategy.”

What marketers can accomplish by raising their spend one day and lowering it another can be illusory, he added.

Comparison Shopping

Online traffic patterns on Black Friday indicate consumers are surfing the Web to get a leg up on their offline shopping, observed BlueLithium Chief Marketing Officer Dakota Sullivan.

“They’re going online to see what the big sales are going to be at Lowe’s, Target — choose a retailer,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “They’re comparing promotions, sales, and seeing who has what merchandise, and then they’re going out and physically buying it.”

They’re also going online on Black Friday in record numbers. “Traffic on Web sites on the Friday after Thanksgiving was up over 40 percent versus the year before,” Kurt Peters, editor of Internet Retailer in Chicago told the E-Commerce Times.

Searching Popular

A lot of that traffic was searching the Web, according to Dave McCarthy, vice president for advertising and sales for MIVA, an online marketing firm based in Fort Myers, Fla.

“My recommendation to advertisers would be to increase their search advertising on Black Friday as it appears a popular day for researching products and services,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “Whether people ultimately purchase online or offline, it is imperative to capture potential customers at the research stage of the buying process.”

Increased online traffic, Peters noted, “indicates a lot of people were shopping online. Whether they were buying online is another question.”

It’s not a question on Cyber Monday, though, when online sales hit a record US$600 million.

“On Monday, consumers are back at work with their list of holiday gifts, most of which are still unbought from Friday, and that’s when they start checking them off their lists and buying them online,” Sullivan explained.

Role Reversal

BlueLithium’s findings support the notion that consumers are using multiple channels when they shop and that their online activity is having an increasing influence on their offline behavior, Patty Freeman Evans, a JupiterResearch retail analyst said.

During the weekend after Thanksgiving, “consumers are using online to facilitate their offline behavior. Then on Monday, when they don’t do that much offline shopping, they continue their online shopping and buying behavior,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

However, Sullivan maintained that there are signs that consumers are turning the traditional Black Friday dynamic on its head.

“Since the early 2000s, people assumed that folks did their data gathering online and then went offline to do the actual purchasing,” he explained. “What we may be seeing the beginnings of is people going out and window shopping, going to the malls, seeing what’s around, seeing what they like, then coming back and actually doing their purchasing online on Monday.”

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