The Monday after Thanksgiving — Cyber Monday — could see more than $1.25 billion in online U.S. sales this year, as eager holiday shoppers look for special web pricing.
Like it or not, since about 2005 online retailers have trained shoppers to bargain hunt the weekend after the Thanksgiving holiday, including on the following Monday. Shoppers will expect nearly ridiculous pricing, free shipping, and more. Merchants that offer Cyber Monday specials likely will enjoy additional sales. For merchants, participating can be important. However, those sales often produce dramatically reduced margins.
What follows are four ideas for customer-pleasing Cyber Monday sales that may also help preserve some margin.
Offer Gift Cards Later
While the Christmas shopping season in November and December is typically a boom time for online retailers, January and February are usually slow. To help make additional sales in the first quarter of the year, retailers can offer free gift cards with purchase in the Christmas season.
Examples of these sorts of Cyber Monday sales might be something like “Get $100 gift card when you purchase $250 in Wrangler clothing. This Monday only.” Or, “Get a $25 gift card when you purchase $50 in toys today, online.”
These gift cards would only be valid after January 1, 2013 — a fact that needs to be made clear. The shopper pays regular prices for the items purchased before Christmas, but then gets the gift card to offset purchases in the first quarter of the year. Often these gift card giveaways end up being less expensive than offering a 50 percent discount, and they extend the relationship with the customer.
Give Away Items with Other Sales
Consider giving shoppers a gift on Cyber Monday. Gift giving is certainly the season’s leading sales driver, but some shoppers would like something for themselves too.
Consider offering free gifts for the giver. As an example, shoppers might get a free pair of shoes when they buy similar shoes for someone on their shopping list. How about a free sweater for mom when she buys an outfit for a child? Or a free golf club for dad when junior gets a new snowboard.
There are many possibilities. The key here is that the giveaway item should have a relatively high margin so that its value seems to be as high or higher than the item it is matched with — but its cost is actually a lot lower.
These sorts of Cyber Monday offers may preserve margin and appeal to many shoppers.
Offer Buddy Discounts
Buddy or group discounts reward shoppers for encouraging friends and family members to buy too.
In the context of Cyber Monday sales, these group sales will often take the form of time-bound deals. A retailer might offer an X-Box 360 with three games and a Kinect, at a very low price, say $299.99. But the deal is only valid when 100 of the bundles have been ordered. This stipulation needs to made very clear.
Shoppers that want to get the deal are asked to email friends and post the special on social media sites. These shoppers become part of the marketing team, if you will, helping to spread the word about the deal.
The advantage to this sort of Cyber Monday offer is that it encourages additional sales. Just be sure that the offer is good enough to motivate shoppers to spread the word.
Create an Insider Club Subscription
Cyber Monday marketing should begin well before the actual day arrives. For example, one sort of offer that is being offered on Overstock.com is to invite shoppers to join an insider club that will give those subscribers early access to Cyber Monday deals.
This sort of special is good for merchants for two reasons. First, it can represent some additional sales as insiders shop several days ahead of Cyber Monday. Second, these subscribers have effectively joined the merchant’s email list, giving the seller the opportunity to follow up with emails for after-Christmas sales in January.