How are retail marketers adapting to online consumer trends for Black Friday and the Christmas holidays?

Marketers are having to reassess their strategies as consumers spend increasing amounts online ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday shopping weekend in order to capture the online shopping trend. For a retailer to have a successful year, they need to have a very successful return from those few days and that means capturing the online dollars.

Black Friday (the fourth Friday of November) and Cyber Monday (the first Monday in December) are now witnessing a major shift in spending patterns, with the Adobe Digital Index predicting that $2.6bn – an increase of 15 per cent – will be spent on Cyber Monday alone, with Black Friday growth up by 28 per cent to $2.48bn.

Overall, the retail holiday season in the US will once again aim to break online records for e-commerce spend at $72.41bn, a growth of 16.6 per cent in the last year, according to eMarketer, while Forrester Research predicts online sales during the period will climb as high as $89bn.

Luke Edson, senior vice president national markets at YP, explains that businesses have had to realise the need to focus on the growth of consumers turning to their mobile devices when researching businesses, products and services ahead of making a purchase decision.

“Consumers are also connecting to businesses through mobile apps for everything from getting directions to finding a deal. Mobile has the unique ability to target customers in the moment and drive their behaviour. What’s more mobile location data can provide key insights on a consumer’s behavioural patterns, including someone’s likes, lifestyle and habits," he adds.

So how have marketers and retail businesses adjusted their own strategies to meet this increasing changing consumer behaviour, where online has become a main channel of revenue during the holiday season?

Brandi Ply, director of marketing strategy at online retailer, Big Lots, explains that through research it knows that customers spend more time online and that it is clearly becoming a place where shopping decisions can be increasingly influenced.

"We know that we need to engage across multiple channels," she added. "This holiday season we have increased our focus on social and digital media, including creating an online only holiday gift guide, multiple social sweepstakes across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, creating video content specifically for YouTube, and pushing content on Pinterest for the first time."

Ozone Media's recently appointed chief operating officer, Raj Beri, adds that five years ago mobile marketing and mobile sales for Black Friday were non-existent.

"For consumers, Black Friday was only about hitting the stores en masse to get the best deals. Now, it seems that it’s more important for marketers to get their best deals on Thanksgiving Day online and through mobile push marketing. Even Black Friday is now as much about online as it is about in-store sales and revenue, so we’re seeing a huge shift in terms of where brands are finding consumers and delivering relevant content," he explained.

"Largely the behavior thus far has been to browse and view on mobile and then complete the sale over desktop or offline. As m-commerce picks up and the maturity and ease of mobile payment systems pushes forward, there is promise of mobile becoming a preferred channel for transactions, even on a traditional in-store shopping day like Black Friday. In time, we will see the mobile revenue on Black Friday gradually catching up to the amount of mobile traffic that brands receive."

However, so important has this holiday period become that retailers are trying to expand their offers and prolong the shopping period, with Walmart having revealed its plan to make it a five day experience with deals beginning on the morning of thanksgiving itself to capture online customers.

Rivals Best Buy and Target also revealed their sales items a fortnight in advance in order to drive hype and awareness, with sponsored tweets and promotions being used to promote individual deals.

“Black Friday is a double-edged sword for most digital marketers. We know consumer engagement is going to be unusually high so it’s an ideal time to try and capture their attention, but we also know that all marketers are having the exact same thought so it can be difficult to stand out in such a crowded space," warns advertising technology company Spongecell chief executive, Ben Kartzman.

"This year, smart digital marketers will focus on delivering a dynamic experience for shoppers that they haven’t necessarily seen before. We recently completed a campaign with a young adult clothing retailer that dynamically pulled in its latest collection right into the ad. Consumers were able to browse the catalog, view prices and click-through to the item right from the ad. Prices were automatically updated as the retailer introduced new offers. Shoppers could also toggle between an embedded video, offering additional opportunity from them to learn about and engage with the brand.

"This Black Friday, digital marketers would be wise to use a similar strategy to dynamically engage consumers during such a busy online day of the year and stand out among the static and generic ads shoppers are typically encountering.”

Concurring with the need to creative informative and engaging strategies for retail online as much as off, Amanda McCreary, senior product marketing manager of online content platform company, Acquia, says that providing content that informs and inspires the consumer in their need to find the presents they are seeking is key.

"The online environment is the perfect medium for brands to engage consumers and provide that highly-valued content, however it is often disjoined from the shopping experience. Many brands have fallen into what Forrester Research calls the 'Two-Site Syndrome', with one site containing the product catalog, and another containing the rich, engaging marketing content. When this happens, the exploration and shopping experiences become disjointed, and leaves revenue on the table," continues McCreary, who recommends that brands focus on the creation of content-driven commerce experiences online alongside integrated

To combat the issue this year, brands should focus on creating an integrated content-driven commerce experiences online: "Integrating content and commerce is a huge opportunity brands simply can’t pass up on."

However retailers have not forgotten their physical presences are looking to join the online and offline worlds, demonstrated by Target's announcement of a partnership with Point Inside to raise in-store engagement and improve the customer shopping experience across 1,934 store ahead of the holiday period.

Mobile advertising technology company xAd reveals to The Drum that it is witnessing several retailers and brands turn to its location based technology Footprints, currently being tested in Beta, to visualise real-time location ad requests and present live instore footfall.

Meanwhile, paid for search budgets are also expected to grow again this holiday season, with revenues growing by 23.6 per cent in 2013 for Black Friday according to Kenshoo's Global Online Retail Seasonal Shopping Report.

Lessons will also have been learned following Albibaba's record success during China Singles Day, where it took over $9.3bn online within that 24 hour period alone.

Technology has revolutionised retail and continues to do so. Black Friday and the holiday season exemplifies that revulsion better than any other time of year, and is more critical for business to maximise than any other period across all sales platforms. That will continue to be the case as long as the human race feels the need to spend hard earned money on possessions.

See five retailer's TV campaigns for this year, including Walmart, RadioShack, Target, TJ Maxx and Kmart.