Retailers Must Re-Think Their Black Friday Strategy

For many shoppers, the hunger to stand in long lines and fulfill their appetite for door busting deals is slowly going away. Traditionally, Black Friday was meant for brick and mortar and Cyber Monday has been reserved for online. Now that technology has empowered shoppers to get these deals from their dinner table during Thanksgiving night, Black Friday’s historical tradition has transformed irrevocably. From a single day, deal-hunting frenzy, Black Friday morphed to an omnichannel experience that spans over several days or weeks and culminates on the original date.

woman using cellphone while shopping

Many retailers are known to have started their Black Friday promotions on or even before Thanksgiving.

Black Friday still represents a tremendous opportunity for retailers despite losing some of its luster in recent years. According to research firm ShopperTrak, sales at retail stores on Black Friday fell to $10.4 billion in 2015, down from $11.6 billion in 2014. However, numbers released by Adobe online shopping data point to a 14% increase in online sales to $2.72 billion in 2015 compared to the year before. The decline represents the number of shoppers who would choose to go through the frenzy of Black Friday as well as attractive deals that are offered throughout the year. This year, retailers will face a fiercer competition for fewer customers who are much more tech-savvy.

If you’re a retailer still holding on to Black Friday and Cyber Monday tradition, whether it’s in-store, online or both, it would be only fair to tell you that shoppers’ expectations are at an all time high. In this blog, we will take a closer look at what shoppers expect during this Black Friday season from early promotions to shipping and delivery options and discuss some effective ways to keep your mobile shoppers engaged.

Entice shoppers with compelling deals early

Promoting Black Friday deals early is nothing new. Historically, Black Friday promotions didn’t actually begin until the day of. In the last few years, many retailers have started their promotions on Thanksgiving or even a few days before Black Friday. Today, Black Friday is no longer a single day event. According to a nationwide survey of 1,000 consumers, 49% of respondents said they planned to do most of their holiday shopping before they carve the turkey while 22% planned to do more of their holiday shopping on Black Friday or Black Friday weekend. Large retailers like J.C. Penney have already started their Black Friday deals at the beginning of November. The shopping journey always starts on mobile and customers are much more tech-savvy and price sensitive than ever before. A RetailMeNot survey says “more than 8 in 10 shoppers use up to 6 channels to find the best holiday deals and promotions.” Retailers must therefore, entice customers to shop early with compelling deals and promotions both online and in-store.

Shipping and delivery are important to shoppers

Many customers want to avoid the madness of shopping in-store altogether and prefer to shop online. Not surprisingly, free shipping is a customer expectation that retailers are constantly faced with. Moreover, free shipping is so desired by customers that many would make efforts to meet the required threshold. Last year, 69% of respondents in a survey spent more than intended during Thanksgiving week in order to meet the free shipping thresholds. Furthermore, 25% indicated they would not shop anywhere that does not offer free shipping. Perhaps just as important as  free shipping, reliable delivery options are a must.

According to this survey, 44% of shoppers who faced issues with their delivery would no longer shop with that retailer in the future. It is interesting to note that although undelivered items are the shipping company’s responsibility, consumers associate the retailer with the full shopping experience and hold it accountable.

To provide an outstanding shopping experience, we strongly suggest putting a special emphasis on an exceptional delivery experience. To remove much of the associated uncertainty, consider laying out shipping and delivery date estimations before a customer places an order; send an email promptly to let consumers know about any expected shipping delays and shipping schedules during the holiday season, so there are no surprises. Also, pack your most top selling item or items ahead of time.

Mobile will continue to be the #1 channel for shoppers

In previous Black Friday events, mobile has surpassed desktop at a staggering rate. More and more shoppers are choosing to make purchases online. Eighty-five percent of online shoppers start a purchase on one device and finish on another, according to ThinkWithGoogle. Nearly 45% of respondents plan to do some of their holiday shopping online while only 8% plan to shop in-store this year. Shoppers are also very price-conscious. In-store shoppers are more likely to check prices on their mobile device. Fifty-four percent of respondents in a nationwide survey say they use their personal device to compare prices online while in a store.

Some may even decide to buy online rather than purchase in-store if the deal is more attractive. Consider giving your customers a reward for visiting your store with a promotion they could redeem in-store or online. As customers expect a connected digital shopping experience, it’s important to check and test for a consistent, seamless device agnostic experience across all digital touchpoints before launch. Customers are also looking in particular for a smooth  checkout experience. Offer a quick and easy checkout, and click and collect options to increase both web and foot traffic. Last, make sure your mobile site is ready for peak traffic as downtime during Black Friday could be very costly.

As Black Friday is morphing into “Thanksgiving week special,” retailers must re-think about this week more holistically. While customers are still on the lookout for the best deals of the year, more and more customers are preferring to shop online and avoid the stampeding usually associated with the in-store shopping experience. Today’s customers are very tech-savvy and will go through great efforts to find the best deal across what they perceive to be comparable brands. In such a hypercompetitive marketplace retailers must deliver flawlessly against every aspect of their interface with customers. While this holds true in general, it is particularly crucial to Thanksgiving week. Free delivery and reliable delivery options, seamless, device agnostic connected experience, and time sensitive promotions are key. Last, making sure your website will be available (and respond quickly) during the highest peaks of traffic, across all devices is imperative. Black Friday is changing direction and retailers should adopt quickly to connect with Black Friday shoppers earlier, over a period of time, and gain the trust of ever-changing customers.