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Black Friday is expected to be the No. 1 shopping day of the year. No single day of shopping — not Cyber Monday, not Thanksgiving — eclipses its activity. But that doesn’t mean all shoppers are setting their alarms for 4 a.m. after Turkey Day or camping out for new televisions. That’s the old Black Friday.
Today, consumers demand (and retailers are thriving from) an omnichannel environment. Black Friday is no exception, and some retailers are showing us that Black Friday is the perfect example of why cross-channel integration, smart mobile strategies and seamless in-store experiences can drive sales and customer loyalty.
The new Black Friday
Of course, the new Black Friday is simply next-gen Black Friday, rather than a total replacement. Stores still present a big sales opportunity both on Thanksgiving and the day after, and 91% of shoppers plan to shop in stores this holiday season. But considering the vast amount of choice in the market and shifting consumer preferences, retailers are looking at a traditionally in-store shopping holiday through an omnichannel lens.
Like the rest of the year, Black Friday shoppers won’t just be waiting by the door, they will be sitting at their tablet, phone and laptop ready to go. Sixty percent of all the traffic for the holiday shopping season will be sourced by smartphones, reflecting the trend that mobile shopping is rapidly growing in popularity, particularly with younger shoppers. And the way retailers look at mobile shopping is also changing. Rather than limiting mobile strategies to only shortening the path to purchase, cross-channel integration has helped retailers better engage and build a relationship with consumers year-round that should have a big pay off during the holidays when consumers are ready to spend.
If retailers know that Black Friday brings in shoppers through every channel, and shoppers are poised to spend big this year, how can they maximize the shopping holiday? First retailers are going to make the season last longer.
24 hours? Try 24 (and then some) days
Amazon summarized retailers’ mindset this holiday season with its campaign “Countdown to Black Friday,” which started November 1. This strategy, adopted by many, is less about the Christmas creep, and more about capturing holiday loyalty early. If retailers start dropping bread crumbs—early deals, previews of future promotions—over social and online channels, the anticipation for Black Friday will mount and shoppers will likely spend more time interacting with a retailer in store and online, doing research and ultimately making purchases.
Many retailers—particularly big omnichannel retailers—started building their consumer pull-through infrastructure long before the season started. A combination of digital advertising, social media influencer strategies and blogger engagement has helped them find a pool of potentially loyal shoppers. Now with an open line of communication and interests peaked, they are going to stretch this season and strike hot on Black Friday.
At the first stroke of November, Best Buy, Amazon and Walmart’s digital catalogs were shared through bloggers and social channels to reach those most likely to be motivated by holiday promotions. To keep the engagement going, many retailers—both e-commerce and those with brick-and-mortar locations—will slowly release deal announcements and make promotions available over time, letting things heat until the fever pitch on Thanksgiving/Black Friday through Cyber Monday. If you visit Target.com, you already can access its Black Friday sale section, similar to other retailers. As we inch closer to the “official” holiday season, consumers will be familiar with their sites and inventory, know what to deals to expect and maybe even pledge their loyalty.
The big day
Last year, retailers made $14.49 billion on Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. But analysts from Business Insider claim retailers left $1.88 billion on the table due to small technical issues and by lacking sites optimized for mobile.
Considering the growth of mobile over the last year, and consumers’ expectations for an easy, seamless omnichannel experience, smart retailers have likely made improvements to capture more wallet share this year.
Not only have they probably invested more in their mobile and online experience, they will capture shoppers’ attention through sophisticated digital ad strategies, seamless mobile experiences including “buy now” buttons and engaging content over social channels such as shoppable photos. In stores, retail associates will likely be equipped to help shoppers navigate the digital catalog or help move shoppers who have likely already done their product research—find the items they are looking for and move through the check-out process using options like smartpay.
Retailers should be prepared for consumers to be on their phones in store making real-time price comparisons, reading product reviews, looking for store discounts and comparing similar products. With the right digital ad and content strategy, retailers can turn that behavior into a purchase. Means to do so include custom promotions, real-time mobile help and associates that are well versed in how to interact with today’s shopper.
Much of what the market will experience over Black Friday is not new—we have watched retail strategies grow more and more sophisticated all year. And we will likely see that trend continue past the New Year as well. But the Black Friday environment amplifies the power of adapting to consumer preferences, applying consumer insights and investing in new technology. With billions of dollars on the line, savvy retailers of all sizes know they have to evolve this holiday season.