Can you feel it? Black Friday is nigh. With Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday and Small Business Saturday poised right behind. The signs are up and consumers will soon be checking their dignity at the door – or will they?
Black Friday may still conjure up images of stampeding crowds, but the year’s biggest shopping day has taken a decidedly digital turn in recent years. That, coupled with Black Friday’s (ever so) slightly lapsing appeal – just over half of Deloitte’s 2016 Holiday Survey respondents said they “don’t rely on Black Friday as much to they used to” – means it’s time for marketers to leverage the day more in their long-game, rather than merely concentrate on the short.
For the first time, consumers are choosing online over in-store
According to Deloitte, this Black Friday will be the first time respondents said they plan to spend more online than in-store. The big brands are already on it. Walmart, for example, is increasing its online discount offering by 50%. So we can expect to see the most omnichannel Black Friday yet.
To cope, your customer database will need to be agile enough to keep up with individuals’ brand interactions across channels. If you can’t do this, you’ll lose precious fans and purchases through avoidable frustrations.
Social media: good for more than just promos
As digital retail muscles its way into the holidays, social media also continues to rise as a driver of where online and in-store shoppers spend their cash. Last year, more than 1.4 million tweets referencing Black Friday went out in the weeks leading up to it (up from 1.2 million in 2014).
So while you will naturally be hitting your social channels with your choicest bargains, you should also consider how to best leverage it to facilitate the customer experience – in other words, keeping stressed-out shoppers from hashtag-cursing your brand.
At the bare minimum, that means posting those small but crucial details such as store location and opening times. You could also use social on the day to announce when deals are sold out. This will save your offline customers a lot of time and frustration. It’s also a great way to sync-up social media with brick and mortar.
Someone had better be watching your channels
This is mandatory. On such a high-octane day customer frustrations go up exponentially. Social media is a favorite and very public place to vent for both online and offline shoppers. So it’s worth doubling down on your social engagement for the holiday weekend. Preparing answers to likely questions is a good idea and time-saving. The key thing here is that even if would-be customers aren’t fast enough to get the deal, they can still get a good impression of you. And that’s what counts in the long run.
Recently, events company Dayglo Ventures shared with us how beneficial real-time social media engagement proves to be at their big crowd events.
Brands with real-time social listening capabilities also have a marked advantage here. They can monitor the buzz and pick up any mentions of themselves or competitors. As well as detecting opportunities, say a competitor is out of stock of a hot item you still have, you can jump on angry brand mentions, and share positive ones.
Connect the dots for next year
When the sun sets on Black Friday – or Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday and Small Business Saturday for that matter – it’s time to make sense of what just happened.
One thing’s for sure. For every sale made, many more will be missed. But with every site visitor, off and online subscriber, social clicker and poster that moment of purchase can still come. You’ve (hopefully) got the data and it’s time for some personalized retargeting. But the moment will have passed altogether if their brief bargain-hunting window into your brand was a negative one.
Although 73% of Deloitte’s respondents said they would be experimenting with new brands this holiday season, 76% said they will most likely spend their bucks at the places they know. So ultimately, even on what feels like the most cutthroat capitalist day of the year, customer loyalty remains a key differentiator of successful brands.
Be the brand they come back to in January
As the big day approaches it’s only natural for retailers to focus on social buzz and ending Friday in the black.
But bear in mind, the age-old maxim that “people buy from people they like” holds true on Black Friday like any other day, perhaps even more so. Positive customer experiences are just as important as your holiday sales, and they’ll keep paying off long after the holiday hangover passes.