Some people look forward to the day after Thanksgiving even more than the day of feasting itself.
That day is Black Friday – the day that retailers look forward to because their profit sheets have traditionally turned from red to black, and the day that consumers look forward to because retailers everywhere offer significant deals the likes of which are not seen at any other time.
Every Black Friday offers marketers new information about what consumers are looking for and how brands can better connect with them. Here are some of our key takeaways from Black Friday 2016:
Interest is Declining
A decade or more ago, Black Friday was a major event.
People would plan their holiday dinners around when they would have to leave their homes to line up at their favorite retailer to be first in line for the hot deal.
Lines would wrap around stores, and people would camp out overnight. People would break into fights scrambling to get one of the three TVs available or to get the hot toy for their kids.
Over time, we’ve seen a decline in that enthusiasm. This year, interest in Black Friday shopping seemed to be at an all-time low.
Marketers have been looking at social media conversation around Black Friday as one metric of interest, and there was a 72 percent decrease in mentions about the event.
Overall, there is still healthy interest. After all, there were still 782,000 mentions of Black Friday shopping, and 74.2 million people shopped on the day. On average, each person spent $300 the day after Thanksgiving.
Not Everyone Thinks Well of Black Friday
Black Friday’s reputation has become almost as black as its name.
Many consumers now have outright negative feelings about Black Friday, which could explain some of the waning interest in this annual shopping event.
Many people have expressed contempt at the garish display of rampant consumerism. News stories abound about consumers going to more and more extreme lengths to get the goods they want – fighting, missing out on time with family, losing their sense of propriety.
Others question how great the sales really are, saying that the money you save isn’t really worth all the trouble. They feel they can get a fair price on the same items at other times of the year.
Because Black Friday shopping has creeped back more and more each year, many have also become disgusted with retailers who require their employees to work on Thanksgiving, either to set up for the shopping in the pre-dawn hours or to start serving customers on Thanksgiving Day itself.
Some have expressed moral outrage over what they see Black Friday represents, and others have simply stated that the lack of sleep, long lines and crowds just aren’t worth it.
If brands want to keep the Black Friday momentum going, they are going to have to think about how to heal the reputation around the event. That might mean returning to strict shopping hours, or it might mean instituting tighter protocols for decorum while shopping.
Many consumers view Small Business Saturday favorably, showing that they are rejecting the mass consumerism and major profits, not the shopping itself. Brands will need to revamp their image to gain back some goodwill.
Online Shopping is Preferred
No one wants to get out of their bed and head out into a long line in the cold to buy a new laptop. Some wouldn’t even do it for a free laptop.
More people prefer to do their shopping online, and retailers are meeting that demand by offering some of their discounts online instead of strictly in the store. Some split the difference and provide a limited amount of stock in store and a limited amount online. You might still have to be waiting for the online sales to open to ensure you are one of the first, but at least you can do it from the comfort of your own home.
Many brands are bleeding their Black Friday and Cyber Money sales so that they are one seamless sales event. Websites don’t open and close, so it’s easier to keep the party going when everyone is snapping up deals.
It is important that brands find ways to improve the online experience for Black Friday and other post-Thanksgiving shopping. The website should be able to handle the increased traffic, and it should make it easy to find the deals and to add to the shopping cart.
Brands cannot take it for granted that Black Friday will always be a shopping bonanza. Trends change, and consumer habits change quite frequently, especially in the online era. If you want to continue to reap big profits on this day, you need to learn from these lessons and change your marketing strategies accordingly next year. Take advantage of the insights that each year offers, and make the appropriate changes to keep moving forward.