Lessons startups can learn from this year’s Black Friday shopping season

By Editor December 10, 2015

The latest reports from the survey conducted by the National Retail Federation survey show what most of us already knew—online shopping has slowly begun to replace in-store shopping on Black Friday. What many people may have not realized is the role played by mobile phones in this new, ever-changing scenario. Here are a few interesting numbers revealed by the survey:

-Consumers spent close to $4.45 billion dollars online between Thursday and Friday with Black Friday sales soaring 14 percent more than last year

-103 million people shopped online this year compared to 102 million in stores

-For Walmart, purchases from mobile devices have doubled since last year

-57 percent of online shopping traffic this year came from mobile devices

Old timers would scoff at the changing dynamics. There is a certain charm to waiting with the crowds for the stores to open and rushing in to pick the products you want to buy. On the other hand, there is nothing exciting about shopping alone from your couch. But as the studies from NRF and various other organizations show, customers are picking value over experience, and for Black Friday the deals you get through the season are much more important than the experience itself.

So what does this all mean for startup entrepreneurs? According to Zach Hoffman, the president and CEO of Exults, a Florida-based Internet marketing agency that works with dozens of startups in the region, this is a pivotal moment for startups and large businesses alike to re-evaluate their marketing spends against the direction that the consumer is headed.

“Business owners typically play it safe and put their money on what has worked traditionally in the past. But the dynamics are changing so rapidly that it would be disastrous to simply look at a ten-year chart and decide your budget allocation. Mobile shopping clocked next to nothing just a few years back. Today, it is already becoming the most important platform, even ahead of traditional web. We plan to tell all of our clients that 2016 is clearly mobile. Hands down,” he says.

For a startup entrepreneur, Black Friday 2015 offers the following crucial takeaways:

Revamp Your Mobile Site: If you run an online store, make sure your website is responsive on the mobile platform. Earlier this year, Google revamped its algorithm to penalize websites that did not have a functional mobile website. But even if you are not dependent on Google for your business, it is important to realize that your customers would prefer buying from a phone rather than log into their laptop to make their purchase.

Partner With The Big Guys: If you are a manufacturer, you probably want to sell your products from your own website since the margins are better. But for the holiday shopping season, big retailers are all that matter. In a shopping rush, people tend to flock to websites that offer the largest variety of products. Also, with retailers moving online, securing shelf space is no longer elusive. Partner with big retailers like Walmart, Target, or Amazon to sell your products—what you lose in margins, you can always make up in volume.

Infrastructure, Infrastructure, Infrastructure: Location used to be the game-clincher back in the day when physical stores were the most popular option. Today, it is IT infrastructure. With millions shopping online during Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays, every minute of downtime is potentially worth thousands of dollars. Although partnering with the big guys is important like I mentioned earlier, you are going to see traffic hit your own small websites as well. Failure to invest in a robust server is going to be the most expensive blunder your business could commit. Robust infrastructure is expensive but is absolutely critical during peak shopping seasons as these.

How did Black Friday and Cyber Monday go for you as a business? Share your experiences in the comments below.