Shopper Insights: The New Black Friday

As I had expressed in a previous post, given Webster Dictionary definitions of evolution and revolution, we are in a state of social media evolution. The continuous change we have been experiencing is not limited solely to the social sphere; we are experiencing a similar pace of change in everything from listening to the music to shopping.

Turning to the holiday season, for as long as we can remember, this time of the year has kicked off with the Macy’s Day Parade, the Detroit Lions playing football, a Thanksgiving feast, and Black Friday. Many of those traditions have remained relatively intact. We still start our day by viewing the Thanksgiving Day parade followed by watching NFL football, with a central part of our day conveying thanks as we consume a spirited holiday meal with loved ones. However, one aspect of the overall experience has changed. The following day known as Black Friday is no longer the same Black Friday we once knew.

The name Black Friday originated in Philadelphia and eventually spread throughout the U.S. to symbolize the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Many retailers considered it the busiest day of the year and therefore robust sales on this day could place a retailer in the black. But, is Black Friday truly the busiest day of the year for retailers given Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday, and certain major retailers opening on Thanksgiving evening? Some information that may surprise you:

  • A 2011 survey indicated that 26% expressed planning to shop on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Only half of retailers promote Black Friday deals on their website’s homepage.
  • Polls show that many consumers are not happy towards retailers who open on Thanksgiving Day.
  • According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Small Business Saturday is the most important shopping day of the season for 36% of independent retailers while only 24% say it is Black Friday.
  • 2012 Cyber Monday reached $1.46 billion in sales which is 17% above last year.

Given that our holiday season path to purchase is in a state of evolution, with Black Friday no longer limited to Friday, retailers ought to consider factors relating to public perception before blindly launching into a Black Friday marketing approach. As one tracks the think, feel, act aspects of holiday shopping experience while the evolution is underway, we find there are strong opinions. On social media when running key word associability and sentiment, Cyber Monday comes out more favorable than Black Friday. With that being said, some key issues retailers should diagnose when developing a holiday shopping season strategy:

  • Are consumers rationally selecting Cyber Monday or Small Business Saturday over traditional Black Friday due to convenience?
  • Do consumers feel negatively towards retailers opening on Thanksgiving Day and what might be the affect?
  • How do the actions of consumers map to this new Black Friday weekend experience?

In order to maintain and continue to build strong brands, a holistic understanding of think, feel, act as it applies to holiday season shopping appears to be more important than ever before. The risk of customers perceiving that retailers have gone too far or do not understand their shopping behavior preferences could have long-term positive or negative effects.

Hence, what we do know is that Black Friday has changed. Referring to Black Friday almost feels antiquated given the shopper evolution underway. Absent consumer insight, we are left without knowing how shopping evolution associated with Black Friday affects customers. As a result, long term adverse effects on brand may be the outcome of poor uninformed marketing decisions due to a lack of knowledge in customer perception. Such missteps might force brands to take on a major reinvention of their brand per the lyrics of Steely Dan’s prophetic, classic song “Black Friday.”

“When Black Friday comes I’m gonna stake my claim, I’ll guess I’ll change my name.”

Leveraging insight in the form of customer feedback helps mitigate what could potentially be a devastating, costly scenario.


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