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What Retailers Need to Know About Couch Commerce This Black Friday

Lindsay Tjepkema
Lindsay Tjepkema , Marketing Director, Americas , Emarsys


Black Friday is widely regarded as the single biggest shopping day of the year. 

But with more and more consumers shifting to online shopping (couch commerce), should brick-and-mortar retailers have reason for worry?

In 2016, for the first time, more people spent Black Friday buying online (103M) than in-person (102M).

The overall trend is certainly shifting toward online commerce as opposed to in-person. While both are still important to focus on, this season of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and overall holiday shopping is a great time for retailers to consider the shifts that may be required now and into the future.

Related Content: Black Friday 2017 – How AI Will Enable More Personalized Marketing

The online shopping revolution is here to stay

With brick-and-mortar stores accounting for more than 85% of the $2.57 trillion retail market as recently as 2015, it’s obvious that shoppers are still making a lot of their purchases in store.

However, this trend shows serious signs of swaying the other direction.

A 2016 Walker Sands report shows that almost a third of consumers (31%) now shop online at least once a week, up from 22% in 2015, and nearly three quarters do so at least once a month.

The e-commerce revolution, ushered in by giants like Amazon, eBay, and other ecommerce-only shops, has opened consumers’ eyes to the benefits of having a world of products at their fingertips.

This new world of so called “couch commerce” is on the rise, and savvy marketers should be prepared.

1/3 of consumers shop online at least once/wk – “couch #commerce” is on the rise                                         CLICK TO TWEET

So, what is couch commerce, why is it so popular, and what should you do about it?

Adjusting to a new trend: couch commerce

Consumers participate in couch commerce by shopping online from the comfort of their own homes.

For instance, they may purchase a birthday gift on a tablet while watching a television show, or browse Amazon for household items on their mobile phone while watching their kids play. It’s not necessarily a lazy thing – but a reflection of the non-stop, ever-busy world of multi-tasking in which we live.

Online shopping has been on the rise for the past decade or so with shoppers now making 51% of their purchases online, compared to 48% in 2015 and 47% in 2014.

A drastic growth in smartphone and tablet usage has also made it easier and more convenient for shoppers to buy from their favorite sites, with 44% of smartphone users buying through their devices, compared to 41% in 2015.

Consumers don’t have to log in to a computer to do their shopping anymore, let alone visit a physical store.

Any location where a smartphone can access the internet can quickly be transformed into the world’s largest and most accessible marketplace.

Anywhere a smartphone has Internet access can be transformed to the world’s largest & most accessible marketplace #ecommerce #BlackFriday #onlineshopping                                   CLICK TO TWEET

Luckily, it is easy for empowered, creative marketers to get ahead of these changes and tackle the rise of couch commerce head-on – before it threatens your business.

Adjusting your e-commerce and digital marketing strategy is key to capturing interest and connecting brick-and-mortar shoppers with your online presence. And even though these trends will impact how you think about your holiday marketing, they go beyond that, as well.

Related Content: No Rest for E-Commerce Marketers – Holiday Marketing is Year-Round

Here are some ways traditional brands can capture the couch commerce market.

Regain control: Invest in a mobile app

The rise of couch commerce has redirected traffic away from desktops to mobile sites, which means your website has to be mobile-friendly. Most large retailers, as well as many midsize ones, have some sort of mobile application.

These brand-specific apps make it easier than ever for consumers to stay engaged and informed about your latest product offerings, sales, and incentives – something they can’t get via an online commerce marketplace like Amazon.

Apps provide a convenient one-stop-shop where customers can shop and make purchases directly.

There are two big perks with mobile apps:

  • Control and access to data: Apps are a direct, “owned” conduit for collection of first-party data – and this feeds right back into your marketing automation platform. There’s a lot you can do with first-party mobile behavioral data.
  • Top-of-mind awareness: Apps live on the consumer’s mobile device. This means when a consumer downloads an app, your brand wins valuable real estate on a customer’s screen – thus improving top-of-mind awareness with all app users.

Bonus Tip: Don’t forget about tablets! Nearly half of tablet owners use them to shop online. And when taken into account that more than 20% of America’s population owns a tablet, the market potential is definitely worth the investment. Ensure responsive mobile websites work well not only on smartphones, but tablets, too.


Drive mobile traffic: Double-down on digital ads

Mobile devices are now driving more than 56% of traffic to websites.

This means the majority of your website visits are happening via mobile devices.

You may benefit by doubling-down on digital marketing efforts to capture as much of this traffic as possible. Things like SEO, retargeting, and social ads can help claim the attention of consumers when they’re on their phones.

Digital marketing can also help drive consumers from their couches to the stores – if people are looking up information about your businesses’ location, hours, or inventory, you can bet they’re interested in paying you a visit.

Take into account that 72% of consumers who conducted a local search visited a store within five miles of their location. Use personalized ads and incentives to drive customers from their couches (or homes, or desks, or wherever) to your physical store.

Get social: Increase awareness and traffic simultaneously

Today’s smart marketers strive to meet their customers where they are, which is often on social media.

And you can bet that the same people who are sitting around the house buying things online are also dancing around their favorite social media apps including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Social should be one of your top priorities.

Think about social from two perspectives when considering using it to reach couch commerce practitioners:

  • Building brand awareness and engagement: Each post, share, or tweet should always include high impact, visual content… which is 40 times more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content.
  • Driving traffic to your e-commerce hub: use social media as a convenient and strategic conduit to drive traffic to your website. You can leverage the power of your data and CRM ads to route database contacts back to your hub for repeat purchases.

Final Thoughts

While the future of retail may be heading towards the couch, your strategy doesn’t have to be sedentary.

There are plenty of ways for marketing teams to stay empowered and remain a step ahead of the rise of couch commerce and capitalize on the constantly evolving future of digital.

So, will couch commerce destroy retailers’ Black Friday aspirations? No – you’ll see the masses continue to flood the malls this season just as any other. But will it shape the way we think about how we market to our customers going forward? Yes. Without a doubt.

You simply have to shift and take advantage of this trend during the holiday season and throughout the year to power sales where customers are most likely to buy: online.

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