Beyond Black Friday
Last Thanksgiving, I hardly had time to pick the turkey from between my teeth before I found myself squatting, credit card in hand, in a pup tent pitched in front of a Best Buy to get my holiday shopping on.
It was then that I realized how much I missed the holidays of my youth, when Christmas shopping meant careening around the mall at 4 p.m. on December 23, cursing every loved one on my list.
Then came Black Friday. (Actually there is some debate as to when Black Friday officially became part of the zeitgeist. Some say it was coined in the early 1950s, when droves of workers called in sick the day after Thanksgiving. Others maintain that Philadelphia cops created the phrase in the 1960s in response to the day’s crushing traffic. In the early 1980s, Black Friday was used to commemorate the day retailers started seeing profits – black ink instead of red.) Now as iconic as the day it precedes, Black Friday stands as the definitive kick-off of the holiday shopping season.
Well, sort of. It is a fact that more people are doing their holiday shopping earlier. According to the National Retail Federation’s Consumer Holiday Spending Survey, 56.6 percent of those celebrating the holidays had already started shopping by early November, up from 54.4 percent last year. But Black Friday remains important, if not as a kick-off, then as a focal point.
This year, Black Friday is my cue to closely observe how retail marketers handle the tricky-but-critical integration of in-store and digital communications when holiday shopping. (Which I believe is powerful every day, and mandatory during the holiday.) In the four weeks leading up to Christmas, retailers must align signage and display with online activity to give shoppers the seamless, time-efficient, value-rich experience they demand.
I’ll be looking for:
An expanded social presence. During the holidays, shoppers seek the opinions of peers, and they do it largely through social media. Smart retail marketers will keep their Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram accounts current and lively with a mix of inspirational, in-store and shopper visuals.
Real-time interaction with shoppers. That heightened social presence should included timely responses to shopper posts. Thank them for compliments, and listen and solve their problems. Quickly. Maybe there’s a way to broadcast from an in-store webcam.
Mega VIP programming. ‘Tis the season to reward important customers. They expect some attention, so surpass those expectations. Deep discounts (delivered via email and social media) are always appreciated; supplement with exclusive access to experiences (online and in-store), product previews, sweepstakes events and more.
Influencer activation. Smart retail marketers will create opportunities for fans to share the benefits of the brand. Make it easy for high-profile social media stars to broadcast their (great) brand experiences. Consider hosting website guests or social media take-overs. Give influencers a platform from which to demonstrate their expertise or display their creativity (in-store events?). Acknowledge, incentivize and reward them for being an active part of the brand family.
Digital lookbooks and gift guides. Inspire the shopper with dynamic digital lookbooks and gift guides. She is seeking ideas and suggestions; provide them in a lifestyle context. Digital publications are great for demonstrating how the product can be used and how it will make life better. Curate narrowly focused gift guides – for Him, Her, Home, Kids, Chefs, Athletes, Shoe Lovers – to allow the shopper to browse efficiently. And extra points if the publication is shop-able.
Increased focus on mobile. She’s shopping on her smartphone, and with her smartphone. So make sure it works in the store, and that her experience is flawless, regardless of her device. Ensure that what she sees online mirrors what she sees in the store. Don’t forget to create store environments so that the shopper can take and post selfies (which smart retail marketers have incentivized her to do).