A post-mortem analysis for any campaign or selling period in your retail business is always essential. It offers the chance to understand what worked (and what didn’t), why, and how you can pivot your business moving forward. These insights are invaluable — there’s nothing that can replace your own, real data.
The same applies to Black Friday Cyber Monday, even though sales are seasonal and may not remain consistent through January and the succeeding months. So many sales are generated during this time, which gives retailers plenty of data to work with. Last year alone accounted for almost $2 billion in Black Friday sales.
Because many retailers try to cash in on Black Friday Cyber Monday, taking the time to reflect on the efficacy of these sales can help you improve on future BFCM campaigns — and potentially gain insights to boost your bottom line year round.
Why Post-Mortems Are Important
“[Black Friday Cyber Monday is] the kick-off for the busiest time of year,” says Michael Osborne, CEO and president at multi-channel behavioral marketing platform SmarterHQ. “It can make or break a retailer’s annual number.”
Osborne points out that some retailers can conduct as much as half of their annual sales during the holiday season alone. Efficiently looking at the data from the Thanksgiving-time shopping holidays can give you direction on how to amp up your efforts for the weeks leading up to Christmas.
“It’s so critical for [retailers] to make sure that those holiday sales they’ve planned for a very long time are successful,” says Osborne. “It’s such a big chunk of their business that if they get it wrong, it can be really bad for the whole company.”
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The benefits of post-mortems also extend beyond the holidays.
“Reviewing your performance is critical for improvement,” says Michael Phillippi, director of product marketing at inventory management software company Stitch Labs. “Retailers should think of these peak sale times as preparation for long-term, sustainable growth and a test of the health of their business.”
Phillippi says these post-mortem analyses can help you identify issues, assess the cost and long-term impact of those issues, and prioritize which ones to address first.
He also notes that retailers “will never have greater reach and impact on long-term customer loyalty than they will during the holiday season. Missed opportunities, negative customer experience issues, and operational cost spikes all dramatically impact the future of any retail business.”
How to Analyze Your Black Friday Cyber Monday Promotions
The first step? “Start immediately,” Phillippi says. “Growth should never stop, and next season will be here before you know it.”
Growth should never stop, and next season will be here before you know it.
In advance of this year’s event, look at last year’s data. And as soon as Black Friday hits, look at what the numbers tell you so you have time to prep from Cyber Monday.
Osborne stresses the importance of beginning your holiday season with measurable goals. “Then design everything around achieving those goals. That way, you’re able to judge performance.”
Your Black Friday Cyber Monday goals don’t have to be too narrowed-down and specific. A number you want to hit for top-line sales, a conversion rate from a specific digital marketing campaign, or an average cost per order. Without goals, it’s difficult to ascertain your success. “You can’t improve what you can’t measure,” Osborne says.
Mind Your Data
“Bad data in equals bad data out. Start with good data,” says Osborne. “Take the time to make sure that you’re able to capture some data.”
If you’re not comfortable with analyzing data, hire a professional. Depending on your budget, you could hire a consultant or firm that specializes in data science, or hire someone in-house. There are also many tools that automate the data collection and reporting process for you, taking a lot of the guesswork out of the analysis process.
Consider Qualitative Insights
If you want a holistic, actionable view into your business and the customer experience during Black Friday Cyber Monday, it’s important to look at qualitative data as well.
Quantitative data is typically represented by numbers, whereas qualitative data is less abundant but more specific. An example of qualitative data would be a customer’s open-ended comments on a survey, or something specific a customer said about your store on social media or another forum.
“I’ve had in-store personnel ask, ‘What brought you in today?’ And that data is indicative of how they heard about the sale,” says Osborne. Ask your sales associates to help you collect the data. Providing comment cards at the register, asking staff on the floor to report things they overhear customers saying about their experience, and conducting post-purchase surveys with open-ended fields are just a few ways you can gather this qualitative data. From there, you can start to look for trends and nuggets of feedback that can help you determine the success of your Black Friday Cyber Monday promotions.
Ask your sales associates to help you collect the data. Providing comment cards at the register, asking staff on the floor to report things they overhear customers saying about their experience, and conducting post-purchase surveys with open-ended fields are just a few ways you can gather this qualitative data. From there, you can start to look for trends and nuggets of feedback that can help you determine the success of your Black Friday Cyber Monday promotions.
Perhaps a no-brainer, one crucial element to your Black Friday Cyber Monday post-mortem is to pull reports from the systems and tools you have available to you.
Here are some areas to look at when identifying which reports will help in your analysis:
- Top-line revenue and sales (including year-over-year growth or decline)
- Backorders and stock-outs
- Average order value
- Service delays
- Foot traffic
- Inventory management
- Loyalty programs
- Tech stack issues
- Fulfillment processes and delays
- Pick and pack inefficiencies
- Digital marketing campaigns
- Website analytics
And that’s just a sampling of things you can look at. When analyzing this data, it’s important to understand what it indicates, as well. For example, if your fill rate is low, then your fulfillment processes probably need optimizing, Phillippi says.
Ignoring this can have a lasting negative impact on your business, because you may be losing customers to poor service and experience.
Lots of backorders mean plenty of customers probably searched elsewhere for a retailer who had the product in stock, aging inventory means you should act fast to get the products moving off the shelves, and looking at different sales channels’ performance year-over-year can tell you where to focus or abandon your efforts, Phillippi says.
FURTHER READING: Your point-of-sale system offers a wealth of data that can help you boost sales. Here's how you can leverage POS reports to bolster your bottom line.
Then it’s important to combine all your data to gain a holistic view of your Black Friday Cyber Monday initiatives, as well as your business as a whole. “If you don't have the ability to connect the dots, you’re making assumptions,” says Osborne.
This is increasingly important as multi-channel selling is becoming more commonplace and important for retailers to achieve sustainable success. Almost a third (30%) of last year’s Cyber Monday shoppers ordered products online and picked them up in-store. If you don’t have a way for that information to sync across various reports, you’ll have a lot of holes in your data.
Questions to Ask
Phillippi offers a set of questions you should ask yourself when looking at the data from Black Friday Cyber Monday:
- How was the customer experience? Did we have out-of-stocks/backorders, were we missing shipments, or was our service sub-par in any way?
- How many backorders and out-of-stocks did we have? Can this be reduced through better ordering and replenishment processes?
- What were the true cost of lost sales, increased service overhead of fulfilling backorders, and negative impact on customer experience?
- How was our fill rate? Is it decreasing, level, or increasing?
- How did our fulfillment team and shipping department do? Were they in full meltdown mode? Did we miss shipment/delivery dates?
- How did our tech stack do? Did we have any downtime or technical issues that caused us to lose business?
- What channels performed well for us? Could we have done more in these channels, so that we maximize our peak sales?
- What channels performed poorly? What could we have done differently, to see better results? Is there an opportunity cost to this channel that we should consider when allocating resources to channels next year?
- What did we learn?
- What are we going to change for next year?
Action Items to Take Away
That last question — what are we going to change? — is perhaps one of the most important ones you can ask yourself when analyzing how you did on Black Friday Cyber Monday. As great as it is to have data, it’s even more powerful when you do something with it.
“Make action plans to improve,” Phillippi says. “Every retailer should start implementing changes and improvements almost immediately.”
The holiday shopping season is far from over even after Black Friday Cyber Monday — 40% of consumers finish their holiday shopping in the ten days leading up to Christmas.
Osborne echoes that sentiment: “The best [retailers] take action right away. They learn and perform follow-up campaigns.” Those follow-up campaigns could take many forms. Mop-up sales, reaching back out to new audiences with your successful ads or messaging, and cross-selling customers who did convert during Black Friday Cyber Monday.
This doesn’t mean you make changes immediately and stop there. Your action items should span the upcoming holiday season, the upcoming year, and next year’s Black Friday Cyber Monday promotions. And post-mortems should also be conducted after your campaigns pre-holiday shopping season.
“You’ve learned from each of those marketing campaigns you’ve done all year long,” Osborne says. “I guarantee there are some surprises because the consumer an always-shifting body of purchasing power.”
And though you might think this convolutes your post-mortem action plan, it actually provides more data for next year. Look at your Black Friday Cyber Monday post-mortem analysis, plus the trends you’ve learned throughout the year, and see where there are commonalities and where there are shifts.
Whether it’s messaging, imagery, or even where customers prefer to purchase, take note of these trends in your customer behavior and adapt accordingly. More importantly, try to understand the why behind these trends. Going deeper into the data can help you gain more insights into how consumer behavior is changing and what you can do to accommodate and capitalize on those changes.
What insights have you gained from analyzing your previous Black Friday Cyber Monday sales promotions? What are you hoping to accomplish this year?