Black Friday or Bust: Making Your Brand Stand Out

What comes to mind when you hear “Black Friday” – Shoppers camping out for hours on end in the cold? People literally stampeding into stores at 5 a.m.? Or maybe it’s the fist fighting – Who can forget the two grandmas grappling over that $5 calculator

While many Americans probably (and rightfully) see Black Friday as some kind of contact sport where shoppers duke it out Hunger Games style in big box stores, the retail and marketing worlds view it as one of the year’s most important days. In fact, Black Friday is no longer a shopping holiday, but the shopping holiday that’s since spurred more recent shopping holidays like Cyber Monday.


To put it in perspective, nearly two-thirds of consumers plan to brave the crowds (and in many cases, cold) on Black Friday this year, with nearly half aiming to head out between 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving and 5 a.m. on Black Friday. Shoppers will also be going big online during what has become the fast-growing online sales day of the year – Americans spent $2.5 billion in 2013 and another $2.6 billion just days later on Cyber Monday, which still tops it as the largest online sales day of the year and exceeds the largest shopping day in France, Germany, Japan and the UK combined. And let’s not forget about Thanksgiving Day – the largest mobile shopping day of the year featuring the year’s lowest online prices with average discounts of 24%.

Needless to say, what’s traditionally been seen as the official kickoff to the holiday season has evolved into a weeklong event. Walmart recently announced its “New Black Friday” program that is running for five days from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. Not to be outdone, Target launched its Black Friday promotions even earlier by offering one-day access to Black Friday deals on November 10.

With the rise of digital, the Walmarts and Targets of the retail world are being forced to keep up. This is especially true in the era of e-commerce powers like Amazon, which began running its deals a full week early on November 21 and is further enticing consumers with new deals dropping every 10 minutes.

With promotional campaigns starting earlier and earlier along with the deluge of information coming at consumers from every direction, brands must be increasingly smart about setting themselves apart from the competition. It’s not all about starting earlier, so here are a few additional tips for retailers to keep in mind this Black Friday season, if they’re not using the tactics already:

Leverage email. Email your distribution list with information about your Black Friday promotions and events. Also consider featuring a button on your website allowing shoppers to sign up for your emails. If doing this well in advance of launching your deals, present these email sign-ups as subscribing to alerts for when the information does become available. Having email also allows you to build your database and reach these folks long after the holidays.

target cartwheel

Optimize your mobile site. Mobile has fully arrived on the shopping scene, with more than one-quarter of all Black Friday sales set to take place via smartphones or tablets and mobile spending alone exceeding most countries’ total online sales. Therefore, it’s a must for your website to be mobile-friendly on these devices. Also, if you have a mobile app, up the ante and bring that into the fold like Target has done with its Cartwheel app.

But don’t forget about your website. More than one-third of users will research products, prices and promotions online ahead of Black Friday. With so many consumers doing their research, work to maximize the user experience on your site, and well in advance of the holidays. Some brands like Amazon have gone a step farther and feature a Black Friday page on their sites, which is yet another way to add value to the online experience.

Make content king. Now that you’ve got your websites squared away, it’s all about creating engaging content. Showcase what sets your brand apart when it comes to deals, giveaways and the overall shopping experience (e.g., offering wristbands or even free breakfast to shoppers waiting in long lines). Be sure to leverage visuals, too – post pictures on Facebook and Twitter and dedicate time to your Pinterest page if you have one. Video is a valuable option as well, which Walmart has discovered with this video touting its early deals.

Focus on messaging and timing on social media. As is the case with any social campaign, treat each channel differently during Black Friday week. Not only should you create content specific to each network (while working to unify your messaging across those channels), but timing can also be key. With Facebook, for example, the day before Thanksgiving is ideal for engaging users whereas Tuesday marks the greatest engagement on Twitter. As a general rule of thumb, start early and give your audience at least 24 hours notice before promotional launches.

When it comes to these tips, the biggest takeaways for retailers is to remember that the Black Friday experience is all about the consumer. A senior Target officer put it best when she said, “We know our guests are pulled in a million different directions as the holidays get underway, so we’re helping them save time and money by offering more access to Black Friday deals.”

The question for retailers is now: How will your brand set itself apart?

Photo source: The Oregonian

Zach Burrus
Marketing Analyst

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