Black Friday is a yearly tradition for millions of families around the United States. Stores open before dawn, and everyone tries to snag the deal-of-the-century. However, the early morning shopping event has seen a change in the past decade as shoppers have begun sleeping in on Friday in favor of shopping online for gifts.
Excepting multinational businesses with marketing budgets that reach into the millions of dollars, the average business must get creative to stand out from the crowd on Black Friday. For a small business, every marketing dollar counts, so efficient and effective advertising offer the best returns.
Here's what you need to know about the changing attitudes of today's Black Friday shoppers and the creative marketing options you can use to gain visibility during the most important shopping time of the year.
The Era of the Socially Conscious Consumer
On one hand, standing outside a business in the freezing cold when the sun is hours from rising is an oddly exciting experience. Oddly, the number of businesses opening at midnight or on Thanksgiving has grown exponentially at the same time shoppers have started trading Black Friday for Cyber Monday.
Seeking to capitalize on the public's sudden dislike of companies that take advantage of consumers, some major corporations have gone out of their way to tell consumers they're not opening on Thanksgiving. Some retailers have even gone further by closing completely on Black Friday.
Outdoor equipment retailer REI made headlines earlier this year with their announcement they wouldn't open at all on Black Friday.
"…outdoor-equipment retailer REI announced on Monday that it plans to close its distribution centers, all 143 of its stores, its headquarters, and even its website on Black Friday this year. There will be no special promotions that day, either."
Building brand loyalty requires that a company transform itself from a faceless corporation or business into an entity with personality. The president and CEO of REI explained that the company felt Black Friday had gotten "out of hand" and that the company was "investing in helping people get outside."
After the backlash some retailers have experienced from their Thanksgiving Day sales and midnight door buster deals, REI's announcement is a savvy move to increase the respect its customers have for the company.
A business isn't "alive," but some decisions can increase the respect customers have for the company. REI's announcement is a perfect example of listening to public sentiment and capitalizing on that public opinion.
Black Friday Isn't a Single Day
Thousands of businesses around the United States will probably continue to open at the crack of dawn on Friday with huge deals and Black Friday specials, but it's important for business owners to understand that Black Friday isn't really a single day anymore. It's an entire season.
Deals that arrive well in advance of Black Friday are still called "Black Friday sales." The public associates late autumn deals with Black Friday almost as much as Christmas, so it's in a business's best interest to consider a marketing strategy that includes mentions of Black Friday on deals that may not actually fall on the day after Thanksgiving.
In addition to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, consumers also see mentions of Small Business Saturday, which is the Saturday that falls right after Thanksgiving. The number of holidays and special discount days may run together after a while. However, that doesn't mean a small business should ever ignore specialized events like Small Business Saturday.
According to a recent write-up from the Charlotte Observer:
"…small businesses may no longer need the help. Awareness of the day remains strong, with 88 million consumers shopping in 2014, according to a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express."
Digital Marketing for Brick & Mortar Shoppers
Smartphones have become an indispensable shopping tool for many Americans. It's common to see shoppers with their heads tilted down at their smartphone screens as they look at deals from competitors. It's safe to say every business benefits from digital marketing, and that's definitely the case when it comes to internet marketing standards like email lists.
A recent article from Digital Marketing Magazine reveals a surprising statistic about email marketing:
"Many people may know about Black Friday/Cyber Monday, but do your existing and potential customers know what your brand is doing this year? Email marketing reportedly drove the most sales over the weekend in 2014 and accounted for more than a fifth (23.9%) of sales on Cyber Monday, so correct messaging within this marketing channel is key."
Even if your business doesn't feature an online store, that doesn't mean online marketing won't offer significant benefit. Like any robust marketing campaign, earmarking a portion of the budget for online marketing is a smart move in today's digital economy. The Amazon generation of holiday shoppers drives huge sales in November and December, but your company doesn't need online checkout to reap the benefits of online marketing.
Boast About Your Uniqueness
You might own a business that's rather similar to a thousand other businesses, but that doesn't mean your organization is identical to every other business out there. Around the world, millions of people own iPhones, but Apple manages to create a sense of uniqueness and creativity about their products. Every other person might have an Apple smartphone in his or her pocket, but every owner is unique, just like the phone.
Setting your business apart from the crowd isn't something you can do in a single day. According to an article published by ClickZ, a campaign might best be run "in the opposite direction its' supposed to go."
"Not just for the sake of it: make it coincide with a grand vision and values that will echo with your core audience. For example, Patagonia this year perpetuated their green stance by advocating for less consumption in favor of using and patching what consumers already possess, with their #WornWear campaign."
Running green, eco-friendly, and sustainable marketing campaigns is an exceptional way to increase customer appreciation. Adding recyclable and sustainable packaging and bags to your marketing plan can help your business connect with conscientious consumers, as well as buyers who might not have considered shopping at your particular establishment in years past.
Start planning your creative marketing plans early! Don't wait until the fourth quarter of the year to try and come up with an idea that will inspire your customers.
Keep Customers Coming Back Next Year
One of the most important features of a well-run holiday shopping campaign is one that encourages customers to shop again after the holiday season has ended. Stellar Black Friday and holiday sales help boost profits, but it's the sustained interest and repeat patronage that really fuels growth.
One of the easiest ways to bring people back to your store is through future discounts. An article on Vertical Response reveals:
"If you run a boutique pet supply store, offer as much of a discount as you can and throw in a free grooming session for the following year. If you sell electronics, mention your one-on-one customer service or training courses in your email. Remember, a good deal isn’t defined solely by price. Point out your strengths to sweeten that last-minute holiday deal."
The deals a customer will see on Black Friday will certainly encourage purchases, but will those buyers come back when the entire store isn't bathed in discounts and Black Friday steals?
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