By Daren Fitzgerald, Chief Revenue Officer, Tryzens Group

First there was Black Friday, then there was Cyber Monday, and this year saw Cyber Weekend become the new phrase of choice for the annual sales event that has a scope now far beyond its original post US Thanksgiving roots. For the consumer market there have been multiple channels for years now but this year saw major changes in the way retailers are making use of this most coordinated of all international sales event, that spans the in-store and online buyer.

Arguably against a backdrop where consumer confidence has not been high this year and cost of living still feels challenging for many it is little wonder that the allure of great deals close to Christmas would bring out the masses, and out they came in force! With the exception of a few viral videos of chaos at some supermarkets, most consumers approached the event with the intent of snagging bargains and, now empowered by the revolution following huge rates of mobile and tablet adoption, coupled with the convenience of shopping from anywhere, the surge in online sales set many records among individual retailers.

So, what is there to learn from this year’s trends from a UK perspective?

1. Online is becoming big business with mobile
Retailers have a lot more to gain from their online platforms than ever before. With the increase of mobile devices in the market that make it more convenient, customers are now shopping online on desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. Smart retailers this year saw this opportunity and maximised on this not only by making deals available for customers for the whole weekend across all their channels but invested in ensuring a great user experience whether the customer accessed the sale on a mobile or tablet. By making interfaces relevant, intuitive and swift the barriers to accessing products were reduced and conversion rates were high. Looking ahead, with well over 50 per cent of online sales now via mobiles and tablets, Retailers must embrace the differentiated user experience needed for each.

The Extended event offers the greatest opportunity to those that align their in-store and online experience
In the UK the Cyber Weekend really came of age this year with the event being advertised by retailers to whet the appetite of consumers to come in store or go online between the 28th November and the 1st December. For marketing to be effective the message needs to be consistent to the end user and, unless clearly signposted, offers should be consistent and accessible. Clearly, limited lines on greater discounts create the in-store footfall to move stock, but online offers ease the fulfilment process and enable the sale to truly scale beyond the physical premises and that stock that can be carried there.

User-experience can be the difference between a quick-fire sale and vanishing customer
With the majority of major retailers having an online presence today, competition is becoming fierce as consumers can contrast and compare deals at lightening speed on a normal day. With online retailers battling it out to offer the best deals, it’s becoming more important not to give customers any reason to leave your website by making the experience compelling, efficient and enjoyable. This was even more important on Cyber Weekend, with consumers specifically trawling websites quickly to get the best deals. If they dropped off your website through poor experience, as well as losing a deal, you risk losing loyalty or the appetite to return. The most prepared retailers have thought about every aspect of their online shop and customer journey through the site extremely carefully, from how products are displayed right through to how they checkout.

Service is King! Downtime can be avoided
With so much hype, pent up demand and expectation, there is little excuse for failing to prepare for demand. In the age of cloud computing and a huge web based lifestyle and economy it’s becoming less excusable for retail websites to experience operational downtime. For many retailers, Cyber Weekend is the biggest sales event of the year and every effort needs to be made to generate as many sales in this short space of time. Tryzens, all of whose customers had full service and performance throughout the weekend, believes that timely and proactive system health checks, planning and preparation are essential, combined with clear accountability for maintaining service availability with the monitoring tools and service skills available 24/7 are pre-requisites for any serious retailer. It is noteworthy that a number of high profile and leading retailers still experienced suspension of service or outages over the weekend, which is likely to have had a considerable impact on sales performance.

Looking back on the tremendous success here in the UK surrounding Cyber Weekend, even more retailers will be looking to enhance their ability and agility to scale and align their cross channel experience well ahead of next November to capitalise on a specific time when an increasing nation of consumers are actively looking for bargains!