Let me say this about Cyber Monday—I just don’t get it. To me, it feels like one of those made-up days of distinction the greeting card companies come up with like Secretary’s Day or Boss’s Day (oops, that really is a great idea) or, even more in the category of such faux notoriety as National Catfish Month (August) or National Hot Dog Day (July 23rd) which is the joint brainchild of a lobbying group and an overzealous PR firm. The way I see it, the celebration of and use of digital channels for commerce should be unbounded and made a part of every campaign. It would be ill-advised for digital marketers to take the Black Friday shopping “circle the calendar” bait and proclaim Monday, Dec. 2 the day to let your fingers do the walking through the vast array of online deals.
The term “Cyber Monday” was coined by Shop.org in 2005, a time during which consumers often had better bandwidth in the workplace than at home. It referred to Thanksgiving celebrants’ first day back at work after a holiday weekend which included a first round of exposure to retail sales and shopping, primarily at malls and megastores. Now delivering more than one billion in revenue, Cyber Monday has become a Kodak Moment for digital commerce. Time to wave the checkered flag and pop the virtual Cristal? I say, not so fast.
Let me pose two (of perhaps many) considerations regarding Cyber Monday that prove it’s both an anachronistic concept that has evolved to become confusing to consumers and challenging to digital marketers. Let’s put aside the issue of using work time the day after Thanksgiving weekend to surf, click and buy; the U.S. Department of Commerce reports a tick over 72% of U.S. households have high-speed internet service, so glomming on to the boss’ network no longer is necessary to enjoy a robust online commerce experience. I begin my case by looking smack in the eye of this year’s abbreviated holiday shopping storm. On the hunt for a snazzy ultrabook,I find a barrage of disconnected marketing messages that concurrently suggest I purchase it on Black Friday. No, shop earlier and save on Black Turkey Day. Wait, says one electronics retailer in an urgent email (I have a frequent buyer card)—we are moving our specials up so you can buy today at the same price, either online or in store. And then the pure-play retailer (you know who) urges me (again via email) to sit back and wait until the weekend craziness has ended and buy it on December 2… and here’s a coupon for free shipping and a custom sleeve for your new purchase. Seems this pure-player knows all of my past purchases and has been following me online via tracking cookie (or some other such method) and has ascertained the obvious– I am shopping for an ultrabook.
These inbound noises of buy here, buy now, buy later, buy online, buy in-store results in something I studied in graduate school—cognitive dissonance. Cognitive Dissonance, which I studied as it relates to kids watching too much violence on TV, is discomfort experienced when simultaneously holding two or more conflicting cognitions: ideas, beliefs, values or emotional reactions (so says Wikipedia). In its most simplistic terms, it is the feeling you get when you are on vacation, walk through a foreign bazaar and each eager merchant tries to lure you into his stall by offering you a better deal than his neighbor. The net result, for many, is to run back to the hotel and lock the door.
My second point is fairly obvious, and highlights pretty much all of our Gartner for Marketing Leaders research to date. That is, a strategy that forces marketers to think in silos will crash and burn. What I see, at least so far in 2013, are disconnected efforts in traditional print, TV and radio channels competing with, rather than acting in concert with, well considered, targeted email, social and content marketing practices. Marketing efforts scattered across the digital and physical landscape focused on one day, or even a select series of days, is out of synch with current best practices and an inefficient use of resources. I am willing to give digital marketers and their colleagues who work in companion channels the benefit of the doubt; multichannel marketing, content marketing, social marketing, etc.. are newer concepts which require time and finesse to implement in cadence with other more traditional methods. Once the early noise for 2013 has died down, there is every hope we may see some flashes of cross-channel marketing brilliance step forward. It will be worth watching.