Cyber Monday Cubicle Check: Working Or Shopping?
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Shopping, as many people know, is no longer strictly online or offline. Patti Freeman Evans is vice president and e-commerce specialist at Forrester Research.
M: The mobile phone ends up being the great connector of channels. You can just surf the Web using your mobile phone, and find the circulars that have all the deals. You can also figure out what you want in the store, and then go to a Starbucks, have a latte, and buy the product on your phone through the Web.
INSKEEP: Let's just talk about this specific practice you just described, that you're going to be walking in and become a super-informed consumer who can research everything, including the price available anywhere in the world - even while you're standing in the store. Are retailers threatened by that?
M: Some are threatened; some are empowered. It kind of goes both ways, right, because they have an opportunity to communicate in incredibly relevant ways, through this device, with their consumers. The other alternative is that the consumer can also be checking other people's prices and walk up to the store manager and say hey, down the street, I can get this same product for a better price. What are you going to do for me? Retailers have to just decide what they're actually going to do, and whether they're going to match prices. Now many of them - Sears, Best Buy - have price-matching policies that this will accommodate.
INSKEEP: Now, as for those who actually order things online to be shipped, there seems to be a lot more free shipping than there used to be.
M: Yes. So this year is the year of free shipping. Consumers have always loved free shipping. Even when presented with an offer that's a discount, that is actually more monetary value than a free-shipping offer, they'll take the free-shipping offer.
INSKEEP: Just that fact, of someone saying $9.99 shipping and handling, just offends people, you're saying?
M: They just don't want to have to pay for it. You know, it's sort of an emotional reaction, and consumers have never liked to - have to pay for it. And they really don't want to have to pay for the return shipping cost, too, if they don't keep the product. But the problem is, it's a hard cost for retailers, and that hard cost doesn't go away. You've got to put it on a truck somewhere, and it's got to use gas to get to the customers. So it's a hard cost.
INSKEEP: Can I ask about the marketing invisibility of online retailing here? Because people have created this Cyber Monday, which we now talk about on the Monday after Thanksgiving - when there's no other news. And now, apparently, there are promotions for Cyber Monday, which come days and days and days before Cyber Monday. It's going to become a Cyber Monday season - sort of like you have Christmas season, I suppose.
M: Well, thank God we've got something to talk about, right? So today, Cyber Monday is becoming a more and more and more important day to the online retail community. Black Friday is certainly a kind of - more of an offline phenomenon because people like the excitement of it. It's an event getting up at 4 in the morning and going to the parking lot in the middle of the night. But why not extend the deals you got on Black Friday, and maybe didn't finish your shopping, and do it on Monday, when you're back in the office and you like to shop anyway? And so Cyber Monday became this promotional day that was to sort of extend the excitement of the post-Thanksgiving holiday.
INSKEEP: But now they've extended it forward to before Thanksgiving. There are Cyber Monday deals before Thanksgiving.
M: Unfortunately, historically - and we'll see what happens this year - but historically, people have really actually been tending to shop later in the season rather than earlier, partially because they just don't have time. They haven't decided. They haven't gotten to it. And they're also playing this game of chicken. I'm consumer; I'm going to wait and wait and wait to buy that product until it gets marked down incredibly highly, whereas the retailers have their promotional cadence in mind, but they have to see what's happening with the consumers. The consumers are waiting much longer, and they're sitting there with inventory. They might have to break price and promote a little bit earlier.
INSKEEP: I love that phrase promotional cadence. It makes me think of a carnival barker: Step right up, ladies and gentlemen.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
INSKEEP: You've just got to have the right rhythm as you say it all, you know?
M: That's exactly right. And the rhythm is important. You know, what w've seen over the last - probably five or six years is that the rhythm of the holiday season has changed. It used to be that you started seeing some pretty heavy acceleration of Black Friday. And every week, sales would double, 'til you finally get to the holiday week, the Saturday before Christmas, the biggest shopping day of the year. Well, now what's happening is because Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become so big and so heavily promotion, there's so much effort put into them, that we've actually see a spike there of high sales, and then a little bit of a lull the first week...
INSKEEP: Catching our breath.
M: ...yeah, indeed, for the first week and a half in December. And then, of course, it sort of builds back up to the Saturday before Christmas again.
INSKEEP: Thanks for your time.
M: A pleasure, anytime.
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