The economy is booming, and by all accounts 2018 is going to be the strongest holiday shopping season of the digital age. Consumer confidence is high, and unemployment is low. So it’s no surprise that retailers are expecting big things from two of the heaviest shopping days of the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

That said, in parallel with the booming economy, the retail world is undergoing a tectonic shift as it relates to consumer shopping behaviors, particularly around deal-driven days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. E-commerce and mobile commerce are growing at a rapid clip, yes, but in-store sales are hardly going away. Rather, the two worlds are melding more than ever.

To help marketers align their online and mobile ad strategies with consumers’ ever-changing expectations, Kiip recently deployed an in-depth non-incentivized survey of holiday shopper plans and behaviors for 2018. For this research, we deployed surveys across Kiip’s network of more than 11,000 mobile apps. The findings, based on 375,000 responses from more than 350,000 distinct devices, shed some unique insights into the shifting dynamics of Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping. And given that 58 percent of consumers reported that they would like to have their shopping done by Cyber Monday in order to enjoy their holiday season, we expect these two shopping days to be more vital for retailers than ever.

Black Friday: Still Going Strong

There’s been a lot of speculation over the past couple of years that Black Friday might be losing its cache, particularly among younger shoppers. Given that the day is so widely associated with pre-dawn, mile-long lines outside of physical store locations, it’s no wonder that people question the relevance of Black Friday in the age of e-commerce and mobile commerce.

However, Kiip’s consumer surveys show that Black Friday is alive and well, and it’s growing year over year. In our surveys this year, Kiip saw a 15 percent increase in users who are planning to shop on Black Friday, with 47 percent of consumers planning to participate overall. This might seem surprising given that the holiday is associated with in-store shopping and a greater proportion of holiday shopping is moving online. But we shouldn’t underestimate the powerful ceremonial phenomenon of Black Friday.

Retailers – including online-only brands – can’t shy away from Black Friday. In fact, given the trend toward earlier holiday shopping in recent years, they need to be communicating deals and educating consumers on hot holiday items well in advance of Black Friday.

Remember: Despite the growth in e-commerce, the majority of holiday shopping will still happen in physical stores this year. That means mobile strategies cannot exist in a vacuum. They need to enhance the in-store experience, and your holiday targeting strategy needs to take into account people who are physically visiting stores, doing research online and showrooming.

Cyber Monday’s Big Moment

For all premature doomsday talk about Black Friday, there’s just as much anticipation of a blockbuster Cyber Monday this year. In 2017, Cyber Monday eclipsed Black Friday in sales volume, and this year, it looks like it’s going to be bigger than ever.

Year over year, Kiip saw a significant 26 percent lift in users who say they plan to shop on Cyber Monday. Last year, despite the strength of Cyber Monday, 73 percent of Kiip survey respondents said that they did not plan to shop on Cyber Monday. It would seem that attitudes toward the shopping day have shifted considerably in just one year.

Of course, retailers need to do more than just show up to Cyber Monday if they want to get in on the action. From a mobile and e-commerce perspective, this means not just promoting your deals and products well in advance, but also ensuring your incentives are aligned with consumer demands.

Good prices are an expectation on Cyber Monday, but Kiip’s research revealed that free shipping is actually the forgotten superhero that marketers need to remember. Fifty-three percent of users report that free shipping is enticing enough to sway them to a purchase. In fact, they rank free shipping as being even more appealing to them than a discount. So when planning mobile and online campaigns, it’s important for marketers to ensure that messaging around Cyber Monday conveys your shipping offering front and center.

The 2018 holiday season represents a tremendous opportunity for retailers across all verticals. But to truly capitalize on it, marketers must ensure their promotions align with the shifting behaviors of consumers. As such, it’s incumbent upon marketers today to align their online and mobile ad strategies with consumer behavior in a way that seamlessly feeds into their desire for convenience, competitive prices and overall enjoyable shopping experiences.

Lauren Farricker is Director of Data Strategy and Consumer Insights at Kiip.

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