Black Friday is Dead … And Other 2018 Retail Predictions
Each day, the world seems bigger, more diverse and moves much faster. Predicting the future — always a dubious proposition — seems like a fool’s errand in this climate, given the dizzying pace of disruption. But as Peter Drucker once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” For retailers, that future was on display this past holiday season.
Cyber Monday has become much bigger than Black Friday. For 2018, we ought to have a new name for the emerging retail holiday that begins the Friday after Thanksgiving and runs well into the following week. The online/offline distinction isn’t as relevant as it was a decade ago when we first noted digital commerce on the Monday after Thanksgiving. There are several trends today that will be critical for retailers in the coming years.
Mobile Should Be Obvious, But Many Retailers Ignore the Elephant in the Room
Mobile sales dominated Cyber Monday, which isn’t surprising. We’ve been talking about mobile for years. What is surprising is that many retailers have yet to close the mobile gap by offering mobile experiences that are better than desktop. In other words, mobile triumphed last year in spite of many retailers, not because of them. What ramification does this disconnect have on the future?
As we come to terms with the retail apocalypse — a trend that won’t be reversed no matter how good holiday sales were — mobile represents an opportunity for retailers to reinvent themselves. If you’re closing stores, why not take the opportunity to start with a clean slate? Instead of offering a mobile experience, think in terms of mobile-first, or if it makes sense, mobile-only.
2018 Prediction: A major brick-and-mortar retailer will ditch its stores and look more like a digital-first company, putting desktop on the back burner and existing primarily on mobile.
Attention: There Are Male Shoppers
Throughout society, gender norms are dying hard these days. And yet, many retailers think of shopping as a primarily female activity. But if you look around the grocery store, you’ll find that men increasingly identify as the primary shopper. Moreover, men are driving online retail, even if they’re mistaken about how much shopping they do relative to women.
2018 Prediction: The wallet will outspend the purse, but most retailers will ignore this fact at their peril, outside of big-box electronics.
About 70 percent of shoppers said they bought themselves a gift or two in 2016, according to the National Retail Federation, which argued in its 2017 Retail Holiday Planning Playbook that “retailers should create calls to action for shoppers to treat themselves.” Creating such calls to action makes sense, especially in a "selfie" culture. Retailers need to think bigger to exploit this large but under-recognized trend.
2018 Prediction: The holiday shopping season already supports mini holidays like Giving Tuesday and Travel Tuesday. In 2018, some retailers will promote a holiday called Treat Yourself Tuesday.
Now We’re Talking
Voice-powered shopping is here, thanks to Alexa, Siri and Google Home. In fact, some are already calling voice the fourth sales channel. The future, in other words, is more conversation than clicks.
2018 Prediction: The industry pundits will begin to track voice-only shopping at a pattern we will look at comparatively for many years. A few retailers will be ready for that moment with smart suggestions to enable voice. In the decade that follows, we’ll look back on 2018 as the moment the conversation between consumers and retailers started to get very interesting, artificial intelligence-driven or not.
With more than 25 years of experience in digital marketing and marketing technology, Baker is an award-winning industry thought leader, columnist and speaker. He has held executive roles at publicly traded, leading agencies and marketing services providers including Razorfish, Targetbase, Agency.com and Acxiom. Direct Marketing roles at American Airlines and Franklin Covey as well as startups including Cordial, TwelveHorses, MindArrow/RadicalMail — a first generation rich media messaging company — and DigitalThink, the first eLearning Platform that went public in 1999. He has served as strategic advisor to various media and technology companies.
Baker is one of only three individuals to be awarded the MediaPost Lifetime Achievement award (in 2012) for his contributions to the digital marketing industry, and he was also the recipient of the DMA-EEC Thought Leader of the Year award in 2016 for his positive impact on digital marketing. He is a MediaPost “Email Insider” columnist and former “Email Insider” Summit Chairman and program director. His works have also been published in iMedia Connection, Internet Retailer, Adweek, Direct Marketing News, ClickZ, The Drum and Chief Marketer.