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The Retailer’s Guide to the Thanksgiving Weekend Shopathon

Penelope Stockinger

By Penelope Stockinger

On November 16, 2018

Forget Prime Day or Single’s Day, the original shopathon combination Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday is upon us again and its slated to be a big one.  Last Friday, the NRF, released their forecast claiming that 164 million shoppers (9 million more than last year) plan to shop online or in stores during the upcoming five-day weekend – getting ready for the holiday season as well as looking for a little instant gratification.


According to the NRF research, of this 164 million expected shoppers, 65 percent said they are doing so to take advantage of deals and promotions retailers will offer.  But just when you thought it’s all about the bargain, it’s not. More than a quarter of the research respondents had a more emotional reason: Twenty-six percent of will-be shoppers cited the tradition of shopping over Thanksgiving weekend and another 23 percent said it is something to do over the holiday weekend.  Twenty-three percent also claim it is just the time they traditionally start their holiday shopping. It also seems consumers under the age of 35 are more likely to be attracted by the social aspects of shopping over the weekend or by the fact that it is a family tradition, than their older counterparts. Moreover, 41 percent of shoppers plan to shop Small Business Saturday, in an effort to promote local business.


If you are a retailer, eTailer, or omni-channel marketer – what do you make of this, and better yet, how can you ensure your products are noticed and claim your slice of the multi-billion dollar sales pie this weekend?  At Riversand we admit we are a little biased towards superior product information – but no matter what kind of promotions you have planned – it’s your products and the way they grab the attention of busy shoppers that still make the sale.


Before you begin, make sure your site is fast.


Did you know nearly half of shoppers expect a page to load in under 2 seconds, and will abandon a site after 3 seconds? So, make sure your site experience is up to speed.


We have reported earlier that 58 percent of shoppers practice webrooming (do their homework online) before they go into a store.   If you are an omni-channel marketer you don’t want them to click away if your site experience is too slow, sending web traffic and potential foot traffic to your competition.


With your site up to speed, it’s time to check in on those eye-popping product images and descriptions.


They say a picture is worth 1000 words.  But we think they are both important.  Content featuring compelling images averages 94% more total views than content without images. Shoppers also assess and make their judgements on products and whether they want to buy them, extremely quickly – within 90 seconds in fact.


Kick things off with a Doorbuster Event


Here’s where sales and customer research comes in handy. You already know what your biggest sellers are and you know what products have the biggest profit margins. Choose something that you know is an easy draw but don’t make it your best seller because you’ll already be selling that product. Make it something that drives people to your site and invites them to stick around and shop some more.


Once you have their attention, keep customers shopping.


Here’s a guide to our six favorite ways of putting enriched, multi-attribute product information to work enticing customers this Thanksgiving weekend:


  1. Make maximal use of image size and space. There seems to be a little debate over the bigger is better argument when it comes to image size, but there is no question that images are extremely important to shoppers.  For retailers who are able to create their own custom eCommerce sites, split-testing image sizes is the very best way to learn what resonates with your customers for your products. However, with millions of retailers utilizing hosted platforms for their eCommerce sites, image options are limited by the platform vendor. Whether platform or bespoke, however, consistency is important.  Standardize on your categories. If you’re going to use the conventional thumbnail, product and zoom categories offered by most vendors, pick three sizes (one for each category) and stick with them.


  1. Show off products with multiple views and rich descriptions. By showing your customers multiple product views and rich detailed descriptions and information you can augment the instore experience for shoppers no matter how or where they shop online.  Especially for apparel, don’t forget fit instructions and enriched descriptions of color, fit and for other products, usage suggestions.  For customers who do intend to “showroom” – research online and buy in-store – images and rich product information are just as important.  First off, the product online needs to be so compelling that customers are enticed to go see more in person (most likely for fit, or to avoid shipping costs).  The actual product better not disappoint, in particular if it differs from what the customer saw online both visually as well as the rich product description. If you are an omni-channel marketer, make sure your product information is consistent no matter where you customer views it.  Inconsistencies between what customers see online, in-store, or on their mobile device lead to disappointment and often higher returns for purchases. If you receive your product content from your vendors, you will want to enrich it and customize it to your audience before it reaches the customer and you can easily do this with a good product information management (PIM) platform – which will serve as a standard reference point and consistent foundation across multiple commerce platforms.

Curious about PIM? download a copy of the ‘What is Product Information Management’ – eBook

  1. Create contextually interesting moments. Draw customers in to an experience don’t drive them to an object.  Strong visuals and product descriptions should help tell your product (and your brands) story.  Images that combine people with products make a stronger emotional connection than just product shots alone. Of course, this is nothing new, creative advertisers and catalog companies have been doing this for decades, so go ahead and compliment multi-angle product shots with lifestyle shots.  For this social media age we live in – make them more real and make them shareable.  Visual content is more than 40 times more likely to get shared across social media than any other type of content.


  1. Take advantage of contextual social platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. As social media and eCommerce become increasingly enmeshed in our lives, the opportunities for them to interact with and bolster each other are innumerable, considering that the average person spends around an hour and 40 minutes browsing social media every day.  Also consider that Influencer marketing can help propel brands and products socially as people trust or at least want to emulate the opinion leaders they follow, and opinion leaders are not necessarily celebrities. Some savvy sites are also inviting their customers to be part of the visual conversation by embedding social feeds into eCommerce sites and allowing shoppers to “shop-the-look”.


  1. Create holiday gift guides. Which brings us to the power of suggestion. “What do you get for the guy who has everything”? Give shoppers some inspiration in those “I need some ideas” moments.  This is especially relevant during the holidays.  Some people like to browse, but others just want to be told what their food-loving hippie aunt Catherine wants for Christmas, or what to buy for twin 7-year old nephews.  Hopefully you know your customers well enough and have already taken their tastes and shopping habits into your merchandising consideration.  One site, Mexicali Blues offers up persona based lists that are both fun and suggestive. Here’s a sample of what they’re doing:
  • Shop Music Lover
  • Shop Traveler
  • Shop Mindful Spirit
  • Shop Boho Home
  • Shop Funky Fashionista
  • Shop Stocking Stuffers


  1. Don’t be content with a small shopping basket. Of course, another form of suggestion comes in the form of cross-selling or up-selling.  Many shopping platforms enable this, offering anything from essentials (the stuff missing in the box – e.g. batteries, and charging cables) to accessories – phone cases, chargers and ear-buds for shoppers gifting new mobile devices.  But during the holiday’s this can be done with flair.  Busy shoppers buying gifts are the same people who are also decorating the house, needing something to wear for a holiday party, or maybe hoping to ‘get out of Dodge’ (leave town) and needing something for a trip.  Give shoppers what they really need, be their friend, be their brand this holiday season.


Stay tuned for Part 2 – How to keep the momentum going through the 2018 holiday shopping season.  Happy Thanksgiving!