6 digital transformation lessons from Black Friday, Cyber Monday

The holiday shopping season revealed a lot about the state of retail and its ongoing digital transformation efforts amid the Amazon onslaught.

The state of retail: Key takeaways from Black Friday and Cyber Monday

The binge shopping that was Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2018 served as an interesting test bed for the state of retail as well as digital transformation.

As the stats roll in, it's worth looking at some of the lessons learned.

Amazon continues to dominate the e-commerce discussion. The company reported that Cyber Monday was the biggest shopping day in its history. Amazon said customers ordered more than 18 million toys and 13 million fashion items on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. Amazon did best at selling its own devices and said it sold a record number of items. Through the 5-day shopping spree that started with Thanksgiving, Amazon customers ordered 180 million items.

Bottom line: Retailers are still chasing the disruptor.

Also: The 29 best Cyber Monday 2018 deals still available CNET | Best Cyber Monday 2018 deals: Business Bargain Hunter's top picks


Even Santa is lonely at the mall as retail sales go digital.

The competition from traditional retail has improved. Adobe reported that Cyber Monday spending hit $7.9 billion, up 19.7 percent from a year ago. Black Friday brought in $6.2 billion in sales and the following two days brought in $6.4 billion. The full shopping season so far--Nov. 1 to Nov. 26--delivered $58.5 billion in online sales, up 19.9 percent. Features such as buy online and pick up in store was up 50 percent during the shopping season. In the price comparison department, retailers such as Walmart, Best Buy and Dicks Sporting Goods were able to leverage digital and physical footprints.

The "Turkey 5" shopping days equate to a digital transformation gut check. Amazon coined the 5-day shopping spree starting with Thanksgiving as the Turkey 5 and that span amounted to a test for retailers going digital. Sporadic outages plagued some traditional retailers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday delivered more out-of-stock messages than usual. Adobe reported that 2.4 percent of product page visits had an out-of-stock message on Cyber Monday, up from 2.1 percent on average. Thanksgiving out-of-stock messages were 3.3 percent of visits and Black Friday checked in at 2.8 percent. These out-of-stock issues cost $484 million in sales, according to Adobe. Companies that don't integrate front-facing and back-end systems are going to suffer.

It's unclear what happens to the mall and foot traffic as digital and physical retail merges. With more sales moving online it's unclear what traditional retailers will do with all of that space. Malls highlighted two themes: There isn't a need for a crush of deal-seeking people any more. And winners (Dicks, Best Buy, Walmart, Kohls) are going to separate even more from losers (Sears, JCPenney) and that means there's going to be a lot of empty spaces in the mall.

Online sales are being more evenly distributed across devices. Smartphones were used more as shopping devices this holiday season, but the desktop still generates the most revenue, according to Adobe. Retailers will have to nail their mobile strategies and user experience.


November will become a global spending spree. The focus on Black Friday and Cyber Monday becomes a bit academic given that deals are being stretched across the whole month. On the global front, Alibaba's 11.11 is going to be a force. Alibaba said Nov. 11 delivered $30.8 billion in GMV in 24 hours with 1 billion packages shipped.

Also: Alibaba's 11.11 Global Shopping Festival by the numbers | Everything you need to know about Alibaba's 11.11 Singles Day sale

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