Op-Ed: The Big Box E-Commerce Evolution

By Kiran Aditham 


HUGE senior marketing strategist Josh Seifert continues on the holiday theme with his November installment, this time looking back on the Black Friday/Cyber Monday that was and discussing the big box stores’ embrace of e-commerce..or lack thereof. Take it away, sir.

After record breaking sales numbers for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it seems that America is still going to turn up for the holiday shopping season this year, despite the state of the economy. Retailers’ efforts to create urgency with deals and expand the shopping window as wide as possible were all that it took. Wal-Mart certainly wins the Biggest Spectacle superlative, as usual. With news of its pepper-spraying “competitive shopper,” it’s become hard for me to watch their ads without juxtaposing them with everyone’s favorite mace meme.

I’m still looking forward to seeing great TV spots this season, but in the meantime, it’s been exciting to watch retailers’ increased digital during the holiday shopping season. On the social front, JC Penney’s decision to buy promoted tweets against “Target” keywords could represent a turning point for social media advertising. With competitors starting to take a more aggressive approach in social, marketers may well be forced to take social advertising more seriously, elevating it to the level of search and online banner ads, as a critical digital media channel.

While most brands now want a respectable Facebook presence and more Likes than the competition (even if they have no idea what to do with them), far fewer have invested deeply in Twitter as a platform for engaging consumers. With Facebook ads more or less acting as banner ads, will marketers come to view promoted tweets as the social media equivalent of Google AdWords?

E-commerce is also becoming increasingly important part of the holiday shopping experience to both retailers and consumers. Compared to the chaos of Thanksgiving holiday sales, buying online represents a far more civilized, personal, and less violent approach to connecting with customers. And for shoppers, well, there’s no waiting in line. Comscore estimates that Cyber Monday this week represented the heaviest ever online shopping day in the U.S., surpassing last year by 22%, with both more buyers and more spent per buyer.

Online shopping will only continue to become more important. As big retailers innovate to enhance their ability to sell during the holiday season, newer digital companies like Living Social and Groupon, have engineered business models that takes the sense of urgency and price slashing central to Black Friday and brings them to digital consumers every single day.

Up until now, few big box stores have treated their e-commerce presence as an extension of their retail experience; e-commerce has existed merely a fulfillment channel. There are signs that more and more retailers are waking up to this missed opportunity, however; it’s hard to imagine that queuing up inside a Wal Mart store awaiting the doorbuster announcement siren is more convenient than visiting WalMart.com from your living room at the requisite time—Gilt Groupe offers this kind of doorbuster every single day at noon. Of course, in your living room, a can of mace isn’t likely to give you a competitive advantage.