Following up the Black Friday note below, the results of Cyber Monday are in and retailers would appear to be quite pleased with the results. According to real-time data collected for the Cyber Monday Report 2012: IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, online sales skyrocketed 30.3% over the same day in 2011. Some 18% of consumers used a mobile device to view a retailer's website, and mobile sales represented about 13% of all sales. While these numbers in and of themselves might not seem high, both figures are up very significantly over 2011. At 11:25 a.m. (ET) on Cyber Monday, sales reached their peak for the day, but there were strong sales as well after commuting hours. According to IBM, consumers used a "multiscreen" shopping technique, simultaneously finding the best bargains in store, online, and/or on a mobile device. As with Black Friday, iOS devices (iPhone and iPad) led the way for mobile shoppers.
The message here would appear to be that any consumer-facing company - whether in retail, financial services, manufacturing, or some other area - should focus on giving the customers what they want in the format they prefer. Paying attention to consumer preferences appears to pay off with increased sales. With many more consumers looking to purchase smartphones and tablets for the foreseeable future, it is important for businesses to take note of this trend.
If you check your Inbox today, it probably seems that every other e-mail is from a retailer advertising its Cyber Monday sale items. This followed last week's frenzy for Black Friday. There was even a new promotion added this year - Small Business Saturday. If all of these events help to get our economy back on track, that should be a good thing, although it shouldn't be at the cost of near-riots as people line up to get into stores in the middle of the night.
Why do we even have Cyber Monday? The answer to that probably lies in the ways most people are now connected. Although there has been a decline in personal computer usage, mobile devices - particularly smartphones and tablets - continue to reach new heights. You can shop in the comfort of your own home at any time of the day or night. You can shop while commuting on a train (if you have a decent signal). You don't have to deal with traffic and hazardous weather conditions. It is probably safer to securely transmit your credit card information than to have someone standing behind you in a crowded store.
The impact of Cyber Monday should become apparent in the next day or two as retailers report on their sales results. Just looking at Black Friday, as well as the stores that opened on Thanksgiving Day itself, we see the tremendous impact mobile shopping is having already. According to Black Friday Report 2012: IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, online sales on Thanksgiving Day were up 17.4% over 2011, while Black Friday sales were up 20.7%. Use of a mobile device to view a retailer's website jumped from 14.3% in 2011 to 24% in 2012. Mobile sales increased from 9.8% to 16%. The iPad was the preferred mobile device for online shopping (10%), followed by the iPhone (8.7%) and Android (5.5%). For those using tablets, the iPad accounted for nearly 90% of online shopping traffic.
Without a doubt, iPads (including the new iPad Mini), iPhones, Kindle Fires, and Nooks, among others, will be popular gifts this holiday season. It would seem highly probable that these trends will continue to gain momentum for the foreseeable future.
One of thousands of wires down in New Jersey from Hurricane Sandy.
Social media has rapidly become a major force in the past decade. Although cell phones have been around for decades, the growing prominence of smart phones has made the sharing of information, photos, and videos even more instantaneous. In some cases, it is plain silly, as when a YouTube video "goes viral" and is blasted all over various news programs, further reinforcing that more people will see it. We also have seen social media become very valuable communication tools.
Aside from the terrible destruction from Hurricane Sandy, one of the things we learned from coverage of the storm was that channels such as Facebook and Twitter became important means for relaying and receiving information. Although electrical power was lost for an extended period in many places here in New Jersey and New York, town halls that either had backup generators or access to a cellular network were able to post storm status updates on their official Facebook and Twitter pages. Those who followed these sites were able to reply with additional information, such as if in a given town utility crews were working on a particular road, the town and its residents could have some indication or hope as to when their power might be restored. There were even reports on the news that some individuals who were in life-threatening situations because of the storm were able to reach emergency personnel either directly or through others as a result of social networking.
Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey on October 29th. Twitter reports that between October 27th and October 31st, there were more than 20 million tweets about the storm. In essence, these individual tweets became an integral part of the reporting of this natural disaster. According to the Pew Research Center, "The largest share of this news and information, fully 34% of the Twitter discourse after the storm, involved news organizations providing content, government sources offering information, people sharing their own eyewitness accounts and still more passing along information posted by others." The importance of social media is also seen in another Pew report, which found that the top research tools students use include Google or similar search engines, Wikipedia, YouTube (which Google also owns), and one's peers.
Perhaps this is an indication of a megatrend. We are no longer just getting news updates from the major networks. It's not just Walter Cronkite delivering the news on CBS. Whether it is local, national, or global in scope, social media is now vital from both a marketing perspective and from the perspective of delivering important information to large or small groups. This will prove to be both a challenge in figuring out which audience to reach, as well as an opportunity to reach more diverse or targeted audiences than ever before.
Verrazano Narrows Bridge - a Staten Island marvel
Thanksgiving this year is a time of very mixed emotions. A dozen years ago, my father lost a series of battles with his health this time of year, so that element always will be there. Yet I keep thinking that if my father were alive, he would be organizing another blood drive or other volunteer effort.
For the last 2+ weeks, Hurricane Sandy and its impacts have dominated the news. The devastation was particularly awful in my native state (New York) and my home state (New Jersey). Tomorrow, President Obama will view the damage on Staten Island, the NYC borough where I grew up; Staten Island suffered the greatest number of fatalities from the storm.
We lost power for 5 days but consider ourselves lucky. Our home didn't sustain any damage. It was very cold during that period, especially at night, but we persevered. Other relatives had greater challenges from the storm - one with catastrophic damage; another with no phone communications for several days, living near the Jersey Shore; a third with no power for nearly two weeks.
Nonetheless, there is a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. There have been countless wonderful stories of people helping each other. Of course, we will always have geniuses such as the one on the news yesterday who punched out a utility worker from Florida who had just put in a very long day restoring power and was simply eating dinner. But this is countered by examples such as the gentleman from Newark who is legally blind but who made sure his neighbors had enough food and other necessities. Then there is the story of a Rutgers student who has decided to leave school to care for her younger siblings after their parents were tragically killed by a falling tree in Morris County in New Jersey. In New York City, the subways have been returning to service in less than two weeks through Herculean efforts despite historic, never-before-seen flooding. Donations of clothing and other essentials have been overwhelming volunteer organizations. Even our leaders deserve special recognition for the examples they are setting - Governor Christie and President Obama working together without regard to their political differences.
So for those of us around the USA who are fortunate enough to share a warm meal with family or friends this Thanksgiving, please keep in your hearts your fellow citizens who, in many cases, lost what they had spent their entire lives building. May these times with family or friends always have a special place, and may those facing unimaginable challenges from Hurricane Sandy find strength in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.
WIRES & TREES DOWN, TRAFFIC LIGHTS TWISTED
It was just over a week ago that Hurricane / Nor'easter Sandy was bearing down on the mid-Atlantic and northeastern United States. The impact continues to be felt and will be for a very long time. Although the storm made landfall as the equivalent of a Category 1 hurricane, the immense area it covered and the duration of the winds, rain, and rising tides led to catastrophic results. According to news reports, Sandy will be the second costliest hurricane ever, behind only Katrina. As the clean-up from Sandy continues, we are bracing for another Nor'easter tomorrow. Though not anticipated to be as intense a storm, the predicted 2 to 3 inches of rain (and possibly snow) and 50+ mile per hour winds could set back recovery efforts.
With the tens of millions of people who live between the Carolinas and Maine, Sandy was perhaps the first natural disaster that played out not only via traditional media, but also social media as well. Facebook and Twitter, as well as other social media outlets, became important tools to let friends and family know one's situation. Social media also extended the ability of news organizations to gather news with millions more eyes and ears.
Even with social media and mobile technology, there have been challenges and limitations. Places that normally would have wi-fi were often in the dark or on backup generators. Thousands and thousands of trees, poles, and power lines are either down or precariously tilted and in danger of falling. Electricity is still being restored in virtually all neighborhoods (including where some family members live), some further along than others. Schools have been closed now for over a week, although a few reopened yesterday and more are expected to do so this week.
My house got power back Saturday night and cable reception last night. Some of the video that we saw for the first time last night was overwhelming, knowing that these are familiar, nearby places. Seeing the high number of casualties on Staten Island, a place where I grew up and attended middle and high school, and where my mother still lives, is very sad. Hearing that a cousin's house in the Rockaway section of Queens suffered catastrophic damage makes it very personal - but thankfully she and her family are safe. It took several days to find out that another family member and her family were safe just a few miles inland from the Jersey shore. The lack of electricity and spotty phone reception made this uncertainty very stressful.
Gas stations have required police presence because of long lines and some tense situations. The problem appears to have been the lack of electricity for the pumps to work. We sat in line for 1 1/2 hours the other night, virtually running on empty, and that was relatively good compared to others. A family member in Florida tells me that gas stations there are required to have backup power primarily to deal with hurricanes - perhaps that is a lesson to be learned here in the northeast.
As we saw with the response to 9-11, tragedies also can bring out the best in people. On the news last night, we saw one place in Sayreville, the town in New Jersey where Bon Jovi originated three decades ago (and where I sometimes went to the movies years ago), overflowing with food and clothing donations to help those who lost everything in the storm. We saw the story of a young girl from Bergen County in New Jersey setting up a hot chocolate stand to collect money to donate for hurricane relief. Here in northern New Jersey, we see numerous utility crews from out-of-state working to get power restored and being extremely grateful that these individuals are away from their families for days or weeks in an effort to make things better here. This humanity and decency to others is one bright spot in an otherwise awful situation, and hopefully something upon which we can build and rebuild in the days, months, and years ahead.
Blog Author - Ken Felsher
With over 25 years of writing, editing, and research experience. I enjoy sharing with my readers my love of working with content on a variety of subjects.
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