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Ken Magill

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Emailers Trot Out 'Cyber,' But to What Effect?

11/29/11

By Ken Magill

Email marketers this week apparently seriously latched onto Cyber Monday as a promotional tool.

Of 7,520 permission-based commercial messages monitored by eDataSource on Sunday and Monday, 1,252 had the phrase “Cyber Monday” in their subject lines and 1,440 carried the word Cyber, meaning they promoted some other twist on Cyber Monday, such as Cyber Week.

As a result, about one in five marketing messages the day before Cyber Monday and on the day itself promoted Cyber Monday or something similar in their subject lines, according to eDataSource, a company that provides marketing intelligence on email and social media.

And though the term Cyber Monday was coined to reflect a phenomenon that arguably may no longer exist, retailers overall have embraced it as a promotional tactic.

According to the national Retail Federation, 78 percent of retailers planned to have Cyber Monday promotions.

The NRF coined Cyber Monday in 2005 to refer to the traffic spikes online merchants began typically seeing the Monday after Thanksgiving as people returned to work and took advantage of their employers’ high-speed Internet access.

However, as American increasingly get broadband access in their homes, fewer need to wait until the Monday after Thanksgiving to shop online.

In 2004, 24 percent of adult Americans had broadband access at home, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. In June of this year, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said 67 percent of American households had broadband access.

Also, do consumers even know what Cyber Monday is? Hard to tell.

According to a survey conducted for Shop.org by BIGresearch, 122.9 million Americans planned to shop on Cyber Monday this year, up from the 106.9 million who shopped on Cyber Monday in 2010.

But just because 122.9 million Americans planned to shop on Monday doesn’t mean the term Cyber Monday holds any meaning for them.

Still, the term drew a ton of press coverage this year. A Google news search with the term Cyber Monday in quotes brought back 17,600 results.

So maybe they do know what the term means. Or maybe they’re just shopping.

Online sales for Cyber Monday 2011 were up 33 percent over Cyber Monday 2010, according to IBM. Also, average order sizes rose 2.6 percent from $193.24 to $198.26, according to the company.

Also, 10.8 percent of people used a mobile device to visit a retailer’s site yesterday, up from 3.9 percent on the corresponding day last year.

Moreover, mobile sales grew dramatically, reaching 6.6 percent yesterday versus 2.3 percent on Cyber Monday in 2010, according to IBM.

Whether promoting Cyber Monday has had anything to do with the year-over-year growth in sales on that day is up for debate.

According to GB Heidarsson, senior vice president of sales and marketing for eDataSource, anecdotal evidence suggests there was no lift in open rates—admittedly an imperfect metric—for messages that promoted Cyber anything in their subject lines.

“Rather there was a suppression of open rates,” he said. “There’s really no correlation between the two.”

An “open” is recorded when the receiving machine calls for graphics from the sender, so its name is a bit of a misnomer. However, the metric can be used as a barometric indicator of subscriber engagement.

Heidarsson pointed out, though, that a lack of lift in engagement with email doesn’t necessarily mean a failed campaign. It’s been fairly well established that email prompts purchases not made through the email itself.

“People look at the email they get and they look at the sender and maybe they go straight to the website,” he said. “Your sole purpose that day is to find the best deal, hunt it down and kill it.”

Author’s note: My personal opinion is that using the term Cyber Monday in a subject line is a waste of important real estate that should contain an offer. Readers?

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