What Kohl’s Can Teach You About Preparing for Cyber Monday

In 2013, Kohl’s pulled in an impressive $742.4 million in e-commerce sales during the fourth quarter. That number accounted for 42 percent of the $1.76 billion the clothing retailer brought in over the entire year from digital sales.

Between 4Q12 and 4Q13, Kohl’s enjoyed a 16 percent increase in total Web sales. But while the aggregate revenue number might have increased, the fourth-quarter percentage of the whole Web sales number decreased: In 2012, sales made on the company’s website during the fourth quarter had accounted for 44 percent of the retailer’s entire e-commerce receipts for the year.

Hoping for a bigger uptick this year, the company is committed to improving the e-commerce experience for its customers. Decision makers at Kohl’s have indicated that the company is trying new things out this year, like allowing customers to place orders online and pick them up in a store.

In the middle of a three-year, $4 billion turnaround plan, Kohl’s also plans to invest heavily in technology, ostensibly to ensure a more seamless e-commerce and m-commerce experience for its customers. One reason the retailer may have seen its 4Q13 e-commerce figures shrink is due to less-than-optimal customer experiences.

Whereas we can only speculate about Kohl’s, across the industry, when e-commerce figures shrink, it is often the result of a malfunctioning website. After all, today’s customers have seemingly infinite options when it comes to buying something online. If for whatever reason your website isn’t working correctly, your customers can find a substitute in a matter of seconds.

In addition to Cyber Monday sales, retailers also offer Web-based promotions on Black Friday. Believe it or not, in 2013, 40 percent of all digital traffic on Black Friday originated from mobile devices. Goldman Sachs says the m-commerce market will reach $204 billion this year and grow to $626 billion by 2018.

Correspondingly, Kohl’s is upgrading their mobile app. The upgraded app will allow Kohl’s shoppers who’ve already made mobile purchases in the past to finalize m-commerce transactions in as few as two clicks. Customers will also be able to browse the retailer’s catalog a lot quicker from their tablets and smartphones.

To do something similar, an enterprise-ready e-commerce site needs an e-commerce database that can easily integrate with multiple store applications and third-party middleware to enable “responsive” functionality for mobile devices. It’s no longer acceptable for businesses to simply send the same page to their customer’s mobile browser. Instead, businesses must treat mobile as its own channel and optimize for it accordingly.

So what can Kohl’s teach you about your approach to Cyber Monday? Well, it’s time to focus on doing everything in your power to ensure the strongest customer experiences come standard in all of your transactions.

It’ll certainly be interesting to see if Kohl’s planning pays off. Let’s hope the company’s e-commerce database is ready to handle all the traffic that comes its way—particularly as even more brick-and-mortar traffic migrates to the Web and mobile than has in previous years, a trend that will most certainly continue as technology evolves even further.