Black Friday Sales and Cyber Monday Deals: Consumer Trends in Online Shopping

Consumer Online Shopping with Mobile Device: Black Friday and Cyber Monday Smartphone ShoppingWhile less than 20 percent of people say they shop on Black Friday, for the second year some retailers will start ‘Black Friday’ sales on Thanksgiving night. Not to be outdone, Cyber Monday is expected to once again be the largest online shopping day of the year, according to ComScore. Overall, retailers with ecommerce expect more than half of their holiday sales to come from online and mobile – and Forrester estimates a 15 percent online sales increase over last year’s holiday shopping season.

More than ever, consumers will integrate variety of devices into their holiday shopping – so much so that Google is calling this the first “nonline” shopping season, as more shoppers do not see a divide between online and offline shopping.  As displayed in the results below, Google found “shoppers turn to different platforms at different stages in the buying cycle”:

  • 51 percent research online and visit store to purchase
  • 44 percent research online and buy products online
  • 32 percent research online, visit store to view product, then return
  • 17 percent visit a store first, and then purchase online (a.k.a. “showrooming”)

Yes, consumers are using computers at home to search for deals, but more are also using smartphones and tablets to locate stores, look up coupons, read reviews and complete purchases. One of the most common practices of mobile users is comparing prices.

To help with holiday shopping, Google launched enhanced Google Maps for Android mobile devices, which include floor plans of stores and maps of malls with route suggestions on how to navigate from one store to another. Enhancing the online shopping experience, Google has integrated Social Reviews, as well as Shortlists, Promotions and a 360-degree view of many toys.

Many retailers are doing what they can to keep up with changing consumer trends. Companies should not only be improving their overall online strategies and offerings, but also enhancing mobile sites and mobile efforts, especially during the holiday season. Crafty loyalty programs, mobile apps, mobile-friendly coupons and even offers on deal-of-the-day websites can help consumers on the go. To combat “showrooming” (visiting the store, then purchasing online), some retailers have implemented online price-matching programs, which can be critical in keeping a sale.

In short, retailers need to be prepared for “nonline” shopping and offer consumers a maximized shopping experience across multiple touchpoints.

All of us at DVL wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and stress-free holiday shopping!

RELATED ARTICLE: Cyber Monday Boosted By Social – and Mobile – Media

Image via Fotolia.

Does Web Design Matter? Finding a balance between attractive design and clear, usable content

Website Design - Does it Matter? Web design/layout on blackboardDoes Web design matter? As a designer with a four-year, fine-art degree, that question pains me to type it out. But even more painful than the question, is my response – not always.

Now had I said, “Does web design matter to me?,” the answer would have been a resounding, “Yes! But, for the purpose of this blog post, I’m approaching it from the perspective of the average web user. I’m also referring primarily to ‘business-to-consumer’ websites where the main goal is communicate about or sell a product or service.

Imagine you’re at the dealership to purchase a new car. You probably wouldn’t expect to have a conversation like this:

You: “Wow! That’s a great looking car. How’s the gas mileage?”

Salesperson: “Hmmm…that one doesn’t actually have an engine.”

You: “Oh Ok. So what’s the point?”

Salesperson: “Well…you said it’s a great looking car, right?

At this point, it’s likely you would reconsider your choice to purchase a car from that particular dealership and take your business elsewhere. While this may be an extreme and highly improbable situation, the analogy makes sense. No matter what the car looks like, the most fundamental purpose of said car is transportation. The same can be assumed for a large portion of websites – no matter what the website looks like, the most fundamental purpose is communication.

A website may be the most beautiful, well-designed masterpiece that ever came across your screen, but if it doesn’t communicate the intended message or drive the user to act, it’s not accomplishing its primary function.

Now don’t get me wrong – I love websites that are beautifully designed! But web design is not art, and it has never pretended to be. Those of us in the web design business must determine how to present the intended information in the most usable (and beautiful) way possible.

When it boils down to it, I believe most people don’t really care what a website looks like as long as it has relevant information.

One shining example is Craigslist. Strictly from a design perspective, Craigslist is one of the most unattractive, unimaginative and ‘ho-hum’ sites on the Internet. But according to their FAQ page, it currently receives 30 billion global page views every month. According to Alexa Internet Statistics, Craigslist currently ranks as the eighth most-visited site in the United States. To give some context, numbers one though seven are: Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo!, Amazon, Wikipedia and eBay. That’s pretty good company for a site created by a small team of developers that draws its main source of revenue from fees charged for job postings.

The real challenge for any website is successfully finding the balance between attractive design and clearly-presented, usable content.

I believe that a great website has straightforward content for the average user, while at the same time, shows time and effort was spent by the designer to present that information in the most aesthetically-pleasing way possible.

Pixel-perfect graphics, grid-based layouts and animation are just a few of a web designer’s tools to create a great site, but they are still just assets to support the content. They should never get in the way of the main function of the site, which is communication.

Here at DVL, we strive to partner with our clients so their message becomes our message. In doing so, we can use our knowledge and tools to communicate that message as efficiently and successfully as possible.

And having a nicely designed website doesn’t hurt.

Changes to Google Search Could Give Google+ an Edge

Changes to the world’s most popular search engine could have marketers re-thinking, or at least expanding, their social media strategy. Company Facebook pages are widely considered to be the secondary branded destination outside of company websites, but new Google search features could challenge that trend.

Google+ content will now surface more prominently in Google web search results as the +1 button is now a factor in Google’s search algorithm. Google+ users who are logged-in will now see Google+ content among the normal search results, and also see featured Google+ profiles and pages, much like Facebook’s sponsored stories and ads.

While Google+ recently reached 62 million users, it’s believed activity and engagement has been slow to pick up since the platform launched in June 2011. However, the new search features can create a great scenario for Google+ to help boost the number of active users and amount of engagement.

Google+ brand pages were introduced in November 2011, but now, brands have more incentive to be active on Google+ as more engagement can help boost their Google search results. But to have more engagement, brands need their consumers to be active on the platform. This gives brands reason to promote Google+ to their consumers. As more brands promote Google+, there is likely to be much more buzz about the social network, which could lead to more users and activity.

So what does this all mean? With more than 800 million active users, Facebook still seems to have the advantage, at least from a numbers perspective. But will marketers jump on the opportunity to boost search results by driving consumers to Google+? Will we see brands shift from “Like us on Facebook” to “Add us to your circles?” And if brands shift focus, will the consumers follow suit? It will be interesting to see how this situation develops, and how it, or if, it will affect our social media habits.

Twitter Launches ‘Brand Pages’ for Marketers

Twitter recently dove a little deeper into the branding game with the announcement of a brand page program on the social media platform.

New brand pages will allow advertisers to customize page headers to include its logo and tagline prominently.

Brands can highlight their best content by controlling the message visitors see when they first come to the brand’s profile page by the brand’s ability to continuously promote a tweet to the top of the page’s timeline.

The “promoted tweet feature” on pages will also allow visitors to instantly see the photo or video content linked from a tweet.

Among launch partners for the new program are Disney, General Electric, JetBlue, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Paramount Pictures and Nike.

Company Facebook pages are widely considered to be the secondary branded destination outside of company websites. Twitter’s brand page launch could be seen as a way of challenging Facebook and a similar launch by Google+ last month.

In addition to the brand page launch, Twitter also announced a major site redesign.

Search Engine or Decision Engine?

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For years, Google has dominated the search engine category with its simple user-friendly approach centered around its catchy name, lots of white space and a simple fill-in-the-blank search box.   Google’s popularity has soared to such great heights that the accidental misspelling of their name is now recognized by dictionaries as a verb meaning “to use the Google search engine to obtain information on the Internet.”

Now comes Bing.  Introduced earlier this year at the All Things Digital conference, Microsoft unveiled its replacement for Live Search with a fresh new look to what they refer to as a “decision engine” that has everyone buzzing.   Bing’s recent partnership ann0uncement to power Yahoo’s search engine has fueled the buzz even more.

Bing combines a fresh graphic appeal with a photographic background that changes daily.  More importantly, Bing’s design offers suggestions in real time that navigate excess information to help you quickly make an informed decision.

Google’s biggest challenge from Bing may come from the launch of Windows 7.  Dave Methvin, with Information Week, points out in his article “No Surprise in Bing’s Coming Rise” that a bid war could escalate between Google and Bing for computer manufacturer’s Dell, HP and Lenovo to configure systems favoring their search engine as the default.

Compare the two engines and make your own decision by clicking the link below to take the Google vs. Bing “search challenge.”

About Bing
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Take the Bing vs. Google Challenge
Information Week – “No Surprise in Bing’s Coming Rise”

News Travels Fast

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News has always been know for traveling fast – and with today’s emerging technology we appear to be headed toward breaking the sound and light barrier.  Who would have thought years ago when CNN and ESPN introduced the continuous “crawl” at the bottom of the screen with breaking news and scores that someday we would turn our home pages into a similar crawl with RSS feeds, Tweets and Diggs.

Never has news traveled more quickly than last week surrounding the reports of Michael Jackson’s death.  The rapid buzz resulted in a Twitter overload and temporary shutdown.  Google searches were so overwhelmed the system viewed it as an attack on the Michael Jackson name and temporarily sent “error messages” and began requiring “captchas” to complete search requests.

I, like most, immediately went to my own Twitter account to see what the media had to say about the reports.   While only TMZ reported Jackson’s death, every other major news source in the country continuously updated their tweets as the story played out over the next few hours.  Following the initial report from TMZ, I also visited Scoopler to watch the “real time” conversations taking place online.  Scoopler updates were scrolling at a record pace as the online frenzy continued to reach record numbers.

Ready or not, this is the future of how quickly news will travel.

Click here to read story of Twitter crash

Click here to view Michael Jackson conversations on Scoopler

Are you ready for the next “Wave”?

google_wave_logo

A new method of collaborative communication is being introduced that may change the face of social media. Later this year, Google will unveil its new web tool called “Google Wave.”

A “Wave” integrates email, social networking, document sharing, chats, video, photos, texts and a host of other features. The feature set will only grow because Wave is open source.

In the article “Is Google Wave a Twitter Killer?” David Coursey of PC World states, “It could be the Twitter that everyone really wants. Maybe it’s the Facebook, too.”

TechCrunch has an overview of the tool in the article “Google Wave Drips With Ambition. A New Communication Platform For A New Web.” You can also view the entire developer preview at Google I/O. It starts getting interesting around the 8 minute mark.