2021 Black Friday and Cyber Monday Trends

2021 Black Friday and Cyber Monday Trends

Retail

It was another year of uncertainty for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which together are considered the official start of the holiday shopping season. The emergence of another COVID-19 variant, ongoing supply chain problems, and inflation all called into question what kind of experience shoppers and retailers would have this year. Now that the numbers are in, here are some takeaways:

  • Black Friday and Cyber Monday underperformed online. For the first time ever, Black Friday spending online dropped from the previous year, according to Adobe Analytics. Cyber Monday didn’t fare much better: Adobe said that online spending was essentially flat.
  • People returned to stores on Black Friday. Sales rose 29.8 percent on Black Friday compared to 2020, and sales in stores rose 42.9 percent, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks sales activity online and in stores within the Mastercard payments network (combined with estimates for all other forms of payment, including cash). But foot traffic to stores did not return to pre-pandemic levels.
  • Amazon and Walmart were big winners. According to PYMNTS, nearly 71 percent of Black Friday shoppers made their online purchases at Amazon. Nearly 59 percent of consumers who shopped in-store visited Walmart. Overall, Walmart did quite well. Although Amazon got the lion’s share of online traffic, Walmart came in second place, capturing 41 percent of digital purchases.
  • Consumers got an early start on holiday shopping. Sixty-one percent of shoppers surveyed by the NRF said they had started their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, up from 59 percent in 2020 and 51 percent in 2011. And 31 percent of U.S. shoppers started their holiday shopping in June.
  • Supply chain problems were evident. Digital out-of-stock messages are up 261 percent in November compared to November 2019, according to Adobe.

So, what should we take away from these numbers?

  • Advertisers who get an early start on the holiday season are winning. Each year, it seems that holiday sales and promotions happen earlier and earlier. And it’s true: advertisers such as Target and Walmart have been rolling out holiday promotions well in advance of November. According to Brian Field, senior director of global retail consulting, Sensormatic Solutions, “Retailers kicked off holiday deals early this year to spread traffic peaks out throughout the season, helping to avoid crowded stores on Black Friday, better track and plan inventory, and create an improved holiday shopping experience.” The data shows that consumers will respond to those deals. This was especially true in 2021, when consumers were worried about supply chain problems hurting product availability.
  • Advertising on retail networks is getting more important. Google remains the Number One go-to platform for online advertising – but advertisers cannot deny the growth of retail ad platforms such as Amazon Advertising and Walmart Connect. These platforms mine first-party shopping and search data on their platforms to offer businesses personalized ad units — even if you do not sell products on their sites. They are part of a growing industry of retailer-based advertising networks.
  • With shoppers returning to stores, advertisers should apply digital tools that make your offline inventory more visible and appealing. Consider options such as local inventory ads from Google to promote items available for purchase in store. In addition, retailers can use the local product inventory feed for local inventory ads and free local product listings.

Contact True Interactive

To maximize the value of your holiday shopping ad campaigns, contact True Interactive. We help our clients create effective online advertising all year-round, including the holiday season, and we understand the nuances of creating effective holiday ad campaigns.

Photo by Arturo Rey on Unsplash

Related Posts

Consumer Shopping Trends for the 2021 Holiday Season,” Clare O’Shea.

Why Big Retailers Are Ramping up Holiday Shopping Promotions – and What Advertisers Should Do,” Kurt Anagnostopoulos.

How Retailers Can Prepare for the 2021 Holiday Season,” Kurt Anagnostopoulos.

 

Consumer Shopping Trends for the 2021 Holiday Season

Consumer Shopping Trends for the 2021 Holiday Season

Amazon Google Social media

What does the holiday shopping season hold for businesses? We have already heard plenty about the potential problems that a global supply chain crisis will pose. They include product shipping delays, bare shelves, and higher prices. But how are consumers planning to research and buy as the shopping season kicks into full gear? A recently conducted webinar by ChannelAdvisor, “Navigating Online Consumer Behavior: 2021 E-Commerce Trends and Forecasts,” provided some answers.

ChannelAdvisor and Dynata surveyed 5,000 global consumers to learn how they are shopping this holiday season, including 1,000 U.S. consumers. ChannelAdvisor also relied on secondary research from sources such as eMarketer. Here are some major takeaways:

E-Commerce Is Exploding

eMarketer data

 

Chart showing people shopping more

E-commerce has accelerated by two-to-three years as a percentage of total retail sales. ChannelAdvisor says that the accelerated pace will continue for the next few years. That’s because Covid-19 forced more shoppers online. Nearly 60 percent of consumers are shopping online more frequently than before the pandemic, and 32 percent of U.S. consumers have more confidence shopping online than they did before the pandemic. A whopping 58 percent of consumers are spending more time on Amazon.

Key takeaway: businesses should expect the major ad platforms such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok to integrate advertising and commerce more aggressively. We recently saw Google make it easier for shoppers to find products through visual search and display. TikTok continues to launch new shopping features. It’s important that businesses capitalize on these opportunities to capture revenue in these moments when people are searching and browsing on digital.

Get Ready for a Strong Holiday Shopping Season

A chart showing people shopping online

Holiday shopping is increasing in 2021

More than half of U.S. consumers will shop online more than before the pandemic. By contrast, 38 percent of U.S. consumers said they’d shop more online when they were surveyed in May 2020. And 37 percent of U.S. consumers expect to do more holiday shopping online compared to 2020. Only 6 percent of shoppers will shop less.

This finding is not surprising. We saw that even during the hardest days of the pandemic when the world faced economic uncertainty, consumers were willing to open up their pocketbooks and spend. But as ChannelAdvisor noted, much of that spending happened online.

Key takeaway: it’s going to be a busy holiday shopping season, and savvy advertisers are already ramping up their holiday shopping advertising. According to Deloitte, consumers will spend 9 percent more this holiday season compared to 2020. A new survey from JLL says that consumers plan to spend an average of $870 per person on holiday expenses this year, a 25.4 percent increase from last year. Consumers are ready to shop. On the downside, if the global shipping crisis is as bad as economists say it’s going to be, those consumers may experience the disappointment of product shortages. So advertisers are encouraging people to shop sooner while inventory is in stock.

Amazon and Google Dominate Product Research and Purchase

 

Research online

Purchase online

Amazon is the Number One destination for people to research product: 41 percent use Amazon to research products. Google, though, is a strong second place finisher. Amazon has built strong trust because when people are checking reviews, prices, and product inventory, Amazon gives them one easy place to do all that. During the holiday shopping season, even more consumers will do research on Amazon, and  65 percent will purchase on Amazon.

Key takeaway: capitalizing on Amazon Advertising products is a must if you want your brand to be visible when shoppers are doing deep product research. But don’t shift your ad budget from Google if you’re already a Google Ads customer. A two-pronged approach works best.

Social Media Is More Important for Younger Audiences

 

chart showing Instagram usage

People buying on social

Social is the key research channel for younger audiences. 53 percent of 18-to-25 year olds have researched products on Instagram. 51 percent have discovered products they purchased on social media sites. Facebook remains a strong source of product research for 26-to-35 year olds. Meanwhile, 30 percent of 26-to-45 year olds will do the majority of their holiday purchasing on social sites.

Key takeaway: although social media sites lag far behind Amazon and Google for product research, they index high for Millennial and Gen Z shoppers. Given the popularity of Instagram as a shopping destination, it’s important that advertisers capitalize on Instagram ad products such as Instagram Shop to reach younger shoppers. Essentially, Instagram ad products make it possible for businesses to turn posts and stories into ads. Instagram also makes it possible to create ads across Instagram and Facebook, which sounds very efficient – but remember that what works on Instagram might not be as effective on Facebook because Facebook appeals to a slightly older audience.

For more insight into holiday shopping trends, read a recently published True Interactive post, “How Retailers Can Prepare for the Holiday Shopping Season.”

Contact True Interactive

To maximize the value of your holiday shopping ad campaigns, contact True Interactive. We help our clients create effective online advertising all year-round, including the holiday season, and we understand the nuances of creating effective holiday ad campaigns.

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Why Big Retailers Are Ramping up Holiday Shopping Promotions – and What Advertisers Should Do

Why Big Retailers Are Ramping up Holiday Shopping Promotions – and What Advertisers Should Do

Advertising

It still feels a bit like summer in early October, and retailers are already starting to ramp up their holiday shopping promotions:

  • On September 29, Walmart announced its Top-Rated by Kids Toy List, “featuring the must-have toys of the holiday season.”
  • On September 30, Target announced that its Holiday Price Match Guarantee would kick off October 10 (earlier than ever) and that Target Deal Days would be back October 10-12.
  • Amazon quickly responded on October 4 by releasing “Black Friday-worthy deals.”

Why are these retailers getting out in front of the holiday season, and what are the implications for other advertisers?

Digging Deeper in Major Announcements

The announcements require a bit of unpacking.

Target’s Holiday Price Match Guarantee allows shoppers to request a price adjustment on all qualifying items purchased if they go on sale before December 24. This news sends a signal that Target expects shoppers to begin looking for deals earlier in the season.  On the other hand, Target Deal Days and the Walmart Top-Rated Kids Toy list (the largest ever such list by Walmart) are clearly intended to stoke shopper demand for the holidays. As Target announced, “For three full days, shoppers can get a head start checking off their holiday lists with incredible deals on favorite products like Beats, fleece, kitchen gifts and more.”

Amazon made the most overt holiday land grab with its October 4 announcement. The company’s epic-length 3,000-word press release looked like a laundry list of holiday deals and related news, ranging from discounts for “need to have electronics” to a detailed list of gift guides. The announcement was peppered with references to Black Friday – an attempt to gain the upper hand on traditional offline Black Friday events.

What the Announcements Mean

Retailers want to stoke demand now for a few reasons:

  • They want to capitalize on the anticipated surge in holiday spending resulting from pent-up demand for discretionary goods. Buoyed by stimulus checks, consumers have been confounding economists with their robust spending, showing once again how unpredictable consumer behavior can be during the pandemic.
  • Retailers also want to encourage people to buy now before the effects of the global supply chain crisis kick in. The lingering supply chain bottleneck is expected to result in higher prices and product shortages later in the holiday season. Retailers want people to spend now when consumers are more likely to find what they want.
  • Retailers are also following a practice that has prevailed since before the pandemic: extending Black Friday. For the past few years, retailers have been tinkering with the Black Friday format as holiday shopping becomes more multi-channel. Black Friday as an in-store event still matters very much, and in 2021, with shopping returning to pre-pandemic behaviors, we should see the offline Black Friday becoming more popular again. But Black Friday has changed forever: it’s an online event, too, and retailers are no longer constricted to saving Black Friday deals until the day after Thanksgiving.

So, in a sense, bellwether retailers are following a pattern they started in recent years – creating holiday shopping demand earlier – but with a newfound sense of urgency to get out in front of the impact of the supply chain bottleneck.

What Advertisers Should Do

  • Realize that when big retailers launch holiday promotions, they create general consumer awareness of the holiday shopping season. As a result, retailers should expect an uptick in searches for holiday sales and promotions. Now might be a good time to capitalize on that increased search activity to activate your own campaigns.
  • Create a sense of urgency in your holiday campaigns – but don’t overplay your hand. If you expect the supply chain bottleneck to create limited inventory later this season, do get proactive about promoting deals now, and let shoppers know why they need to act sooner rather than later. But be careful with your tone. A “shop now and avoid headaches later” approach could backfire if your inventory levels are not affected as seriously as you thought they would.
  • If you’re an Amazon Advertising customer, optimize your holiday advertising now by maximizing the value of Amazon’s various advertising products, such as Sponsored Ads. Amazon also recommends experimenting with video with shoppable links, Amazon Live, and actionable ads (voice and remote). Amazon raising awareness for holiday shopping deals is like the rising tide that lifts all boats. With increased awareness for holiday deals comes more search traffic on Amazon, and you should capitalize on that.
  • Capitalize on Google advertising products. Inevitably, the increased chatter about the holidays from these big retailers will create an uptick in searches for holiday merchandise online. For example, Discovery ads are designed to show more relevant products in moments where customers are exploring their interests in Google’s feeds.
  • As shoppers respond to the holiday blitz, make sure you are using all tools at your disposal to accelerate the path to purchase. For instance, we’ve discussed on our blog the rise of social commerce options on apps such as Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and TikTok, which make it easier for shoppers to browse and shop with an easy click. Snapchat recently shared a holiday shopping guide with detailed campaign strategies. Snapchat notes that most Snapchatters start planning gift purchases and creating wishlists two-to-three months before Christmas. Snapchat urges retailers to launch holiday ads in October to stay top of mind with shoppers who are browsing for gifts and building wish lists.
  • Manage your expectations – and shoppers’, too. Yes, there will be an uptick in search and shopping behavior sooner than normal. But human nature is not going to change: many people will continue to wait until the last minute to do their shopping. Have a game plan in place to respond to shoppers who experience product shortages (if indeed predictions for the 2021 season play out as expected). Be ready for an uptick in negative reviews, and be ready to respond. Retailers should also be ready to offer top rated alternatives to products out of stock as this example shows.

Contact True Interactive

At True Interactive, we help businesses maximize their online spend all year-round, and we have deep experience managing holiday shopping campaigns online, ranging from campaigns on Google to Amazon Advertising. Contact us to learn how we can help you.

How Retailers Can Prepare for the 2021 Holiday Season

How Retailers Can Prepare for the 2021 Holiday Season

Advertising Retail

Will there be a return to a pre-Covid holiday season? Yes, and no. Shoppers are coming back to stores – so the holiday season will be more omnichannel than it was in 2020. But shoppers now face another set of challenges that could once again make the holiday season seem different than it was in the past – namely a global supply chain bottleneck that will likely cause product shortages and higher prices. Here are a few ways retailers can prepare:

1 Buckle Up

The pandemic has taught us that even in times of uncertainty, people will spend. Granted, they might spend money on different things and in different ways (such as adopting online more aggressively). But they will spend.

This holiday season, be prepared for a holiday spending surge. Don’t let negative news about the Delta variant convince you otherwise. According to Deloitte, consumers will spend 9 percent more this holiday season compared to 2020.

But here’s the rub: with increased spending, consumers may experience increased levels of frustration. Because of the global supply chain crisis, consumers may encounter product shortages and higher prices. And they may not understand why, either, which could create a backlash against retailers, fair or not. Retailers can mitigate against the disappointment somewhat by relying on your website, Google My Business listings, and other points of contact to discuss the inventory shortage and its potential impact. But that doesn’t mean consumers will notice your efforts.

What can a retailer do, then? For one thing, be ready for an uptick in negative reviews, and be ready to respond. Retailers should also also be ready to offer top rated alternatives to products out of stock as this example shows:

Inventory on a website

At the same time, consider how your ad copy might encourage shoppers to get out in front of shopping for the holiday season. Make sure they understand the advantages of tapping into your fulfillment options to encourage purchases. Consider tools such as free and fast shipping annotations to encourage early shopping. But just the same, many consumers will continue the time-honored tradition of putting off their holiday shopping until the last moment, and because of the product shortage, they’re going to be in for an unpleasant surprise.

2 Be Ready for a Multichannel Experience

Shoppers are ready to come back to physical stores. According to Google, as of mid-August, 70 percent of U.S. shoppers are buying the majority of the items they need in stores, compared to 61 percent in June. And they’re spending online, too: U.S. ecommerce sales continue to rise. Here’s what this means:

  • Keep online advertising for online purchase and fulfillment strong. The surging online behaviors are not going away.
  • Welcome people back to stores. Let shoppers know your stores are open, and in your ad copy, play up a positive and warm in-store experience. Your stores may not be quite ready to offer in-store events to the extent you did pre-pandemic days, but neither will they be empty. Consider options such as local inventory ads to promote items available for purchase in store.
  • Continue to plan for a hybrid digital/in-store Black Friday that extends far beyond the actual date of Black Friday. This trend pre-dated the pandemic. The difference between 2021 and 2020 is that more shoppers will be willing to experience Black Friday in physical stores (although Thanksgiving Day shopping won’t surge like it has in recent years with big retailers announcing closures that day).

3 Connect Mobile to the Entire Shopper Journey – Online and Offline

The rise of mobile commerce shows that consumers are comfortable using their mobile phones to search for merchandise and pay for it. What was different about 2020 is that people relied more on their mobile phones to order merchandise for curbside pick-up, which made retailers learn (quickly) how to manage the interplay between order placement and pick-up at curbside. By now, retailers need to go beyond managing mobile efficiently; they need to consider ways to create an even better mobile experience through creative ad copy online and excellent follow-through for curbside pickup.

Contact True Interactive

To maximize the value of your holiday shopping ad campaigns, contact True Interactive. We help our clients create effective online advertising all year-round, including the holiday season, and we understand the nuances of creating effective holiday ad campaigns.

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How Businesses Are Navigating Back-to-School Season with Digital Marketing

How Businesses Are Navigating Back-to-School Season with Digital Marketing

Advertising

Back-to-school season is complicated this year. On the one hand, the proliferation of vaccines has created a certain sense of Covid-19 being sometime we can live with. But for kids, there isn’t necessarily a clear-cut “back to normal.” Although teens can be vaccinated, there is no vaccine ready for kids under 12, and the Delta variant is emerging as a real threat. Brands find themselves in a situation awkwardly similar to what they faced in 2020: welcoming kids back to school during an uncertain year. Read on to learn how some brands are navigating this delicate situation in their back-to-school digital marketing.

Embracing the Positive

The American Eagle campaign Future Together. Jeans Forever underlines the brand’s established mission of positivity. In a 30-second spot featuring singer Addison Rae and actors Caleb McLaughlin, Jenna Ortega, Chase Stokes, and Madison Bailey, the message is clear: this fall, students can at least look forward to the joy of being in the same room with their friends at school. And with the return to in-person learning, American Eagle is leaning in to the denim category. The implicit message? Now that students are back in the classroom, those go-to sweatpants that have dominated for the last 18 months of Covid and remote learning might just get kicked to the curb in favor of fun new styles—denim in particular.

The Joy of Creativity and Personal Expression

As reported in Ad Age, last year Dick’s Sporting Goods found success partnering with TikTok, and the retailer is returning to the platform as they double down on back-to-school messaging for 2021. This time around, the focus is on a “Lock In” TikTok challenge that underlines creativity: e.g., creators spend an evening in a Dick’s store and put together their own styles and content. As Ed Plummer, Dick’s chief marketing officer, explains, “We basically give them the keys to the store to see what they can come up with from a style perspective and share that with their followers.” The campaign’s energy and optimism not only reaches young consumers where they like to hang out (TikTok), but it underlines a simple message: joy in personal expression is a constant, no matter the uncertainty of the times.

Pop Art

Pop-Tarts also have personal expression on the brain. In a collaborative first for the Kellogg brand, Pop-Tarts partnered with Lyrical Lemonade to co-host a pop-up experience in Los Angeles. On August 13, select visitors were invited to decorate traditional back-to-school gear—from backpacks to notebooks and sneakers—with Pop-Tart-inspired art. The partnership gives Pop-Tarts greater access to the Gen Z demographic, as Lyrical Lemonade enjoys a wide social following. Case in point: the announcement of a limited-run Pop-Tarts x Lyrical Lemonade Toaster Pastry—the flavor is Lemon Creme Pie—generated more than 115,000 likes within 24 hours. And the benefits appear to go both ways. As Lyrical Lemonade founder Cole Bennett said in a press statement, “It’s been a while since everyone has been back together in school, and we loved the idea of collaborating with Pop-Tarts to get creative and make that first day back amazing.”

Meet the Parents

Meanwhile, Kohl’s recognizes that it’s not just students embarking on a new chapter: parents used to having their kids at home may be making their own transitions right now. As part of a campaign meant to run earlier and longer than past initiatives, a 30-second Kohl’s spot depicts a father dropping his son off at school. As the dad sits in the car singing along to a Zombies song, the son circles back to wish him a “great first day.” Greg Revelle, chief marketing officer of Kohl’s, notes, “It’s not just about your kid going back to school but all the changes going on for parents and loved ones as well.”

Lessons Learned

What can we learn from these brands?

  • For starters, make no mistake: even during uncertain times, it’s okay to be upbeat. By now people are accustomed to living with uncertainty. And as Ad Age points out, consumers are “craving optimistic, forward-looking marketing.” By focusing on the positive aspects of this new school year, American Eagle generates excitement—and hope.
  • That said, be careful not to promise “back to normal.” Celebrating rekindled friendships recognizes that one aspect of school is coming back for many kids via in-person learning. But ads that promise a complete return to the way things were before the pandemic risk coming across as tone deaf. Consider the Pop-Tarts campaign that celebrates fun—in the Now.
  • Use digital wisely to appeal to the digital generation. As Dick’s Sporting Goods shows, relying on TikTok is a smart play that will reach teens and inject a sense of fun that we don’t always associate with back-to-school.
  • Finally, even as you reach out to Gen Z for back-to-school, don’t neglect other demographics. Kohl’s wisely gives a tip of the hat to the parents who are helping to keep things stable during Covid—and beyond.

Contact True Interactive

Trying to figure out how to navigate this not-quite-post-Covid era in digital? Contact us. We can help.

The Holiday Shopping Season Delivers Early Lessons for Retailers

The Holiday Shopping Season Delivers Early Lessons for Retailers

Retail

The holiday shopping season is in full swing now. Granted, it’s a looking a lot different than it did in years past, with the pandemic influencing consumers’ moods and their shopping habits. But already, some important lessons are emerging that may affect retailing all year-round:

  • Online retailing is bigger than ever. During Thanksgiving Weekend, shoppers broke records for online purchases, with Cyber Monday 2020 becoming the biggest online shopping event ever in the United States. In addition, Black Friday broke a record for most online sales. Although e-commerce was already booming in 2020, it was not certain that Black Friday and Cyber Monday would be this big. Retailers such as Walmart, had been spreading out Black Friday sales online going back to early November, which raised the question of whether those sales might cannibalize the “real” Black Friday occurring November 27 this year. There was no need for worry.
  • Thanksgiving Day is turning into a huge shopping event. According to Adobe Analytics, Thanksgiving Day spending online rose by nearly 22 percent year over year to $5.1 billion, hitting a new record. Businesses that advertised Thanksgiving Day deals online probably benefitted from the fact that many big retailers closed on Thanksgiving Day, reversing a growing practice of launching Black Friday deals in stores on a day when families normally would be gathering to eat turkey and watch football. But Thanksgiving Day 2020 was different. People visited less with families and friends given the safety risks of in-person gatherings. Apparently, they had more time on their hands to go online. And they shopped.
  • Brick-and-mortar stores still matter. Even amid the pandemic, 124 million Americans shopped in stores over Thanksgiving weekend, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). But offline stores got less foot traffic – down 52 percent from 2019. Stores offering curbside pickup saw traffic increase by 52 percent, according to Adobe. The lesson for brands is to ensure that your digital advertising and organic content plays up the availability of options such as curbside pickup, as well as clear instructions for how to use curbside.
  • Mobile keeps growing. Shopping on smartphones rose 25 percent to $3.6 billion, making up 40 percent of total online spending on Black Friday. But people are using mobile in different ways now – searching and purchasing online but also booking curbside pick-up services offline. All told, cross-channel shoppers – those who visited websites and brick-and-mortar stores — spent an average $366.79 over the holiday weekend, which exceeded by 25 percent the spend generated by people who shopped in a single channel, according to the NRF. Stores that integrate a complete cross-channel mobile experience are in the driver’s seat.

What Businesses Should Do

Retailers need to be nimble. They need to plan ahead for the holiday season as they’ve done in the past, but they also need to be ready to adapt to changing consumer behavior. For example, it’s clear now that Thanksgiving has arrived, but only retailers that paid attention to shopping trends and adapted their online advertising strategies benefitted from that shift. In addition, consumers have shown a remarkable penchant for suddenly wanting to buy products ranging from chess sets to puzzles in 2020, as they manage the realities of social distancing. But how many retailers adapted? Fortunately, tools such as Google Insights help advertisers monitor changes in consumer behavior and adjust their advertising strategies accordingly.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

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No More Shopping Stampedes: How Black Friday Is Changing

No More Shopping Stampedes: How Black Friday Is Changing

Retail

Black Friday is changing radically in 2020.

A Google-commissioned Ipsos survey found that 74 percent of U.S. shoppers said they plan to shop online more than they have done in previous seasons. And people who shop in stores will rely on services such as curbside pickup to limit their contact with other people. In response, retailers are taking a hard look at their Black Friday experience.

Retailers Reinvent Black Friday

Consider what some of the heavy hitters are doing to re-imagine what Black Friday means during a year when many people simply don’t want to go into stores.

As noted in RetailWire, “Walmart has long been one of the retailers noted for performing at a high level when facing down natural disasters and economic tumult.” The retail monolith’s response to Black Friday is no exception. As reported by CNBC.com, Walmart is taking an innovative approach, staggering three holiday sales events through the month of November. Each sales event will begin on the Walmart website. Brick-and-mortar stores will continue the sales a few days later, after some demand has presumably been satisfied online (thus mitigating crowds). On the holiday sales days, stores will open at 5:00 a.m. local time. Shoppers will encounter COVID-era precautions: single-file lines; limits on the number of shoppers inside at any given time; sanitized shopping carts; and store “health ambassadors,” who will greet shoppers and remind them to wear a mask. Bargain hunters who prefer to bypass in-store shopping can shop online, or take advantage of Walmart’s curbside pickup.

As Scott McCall, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S., shared in a news release, “By spreading deals out across multiple days and making our hottest deals available online, we expect the Black Friday experience in our stores will be safer and more manageable for both our customers and our associates.”

Walmart’s not the only one to re-think what Black Friday looks like this year. Many other retailers have announced that they are redefining the traditional in-store Black Friday sales as a digital experience that occurs over days, weeks, or even months. Home Depot set the tone early, announcing in September that Black Friday prices would be available throughout the entire holiday season, both online and in-store. Though a few “unique deals” are planned to launch later in the season, the store is orchestrating a campaign that consciously sidesteps that single day of crowded, feverish shopping.

Retailers are also capitalizing on opportunities like Amazon Prime Day to generate a surge in sales that businesses often associate with Black Friday. This year’s event ran for two days, October 13 and 14, during which marketplace sellers netted $3.5 billion+. Third-party merchants on Amazon generally reported good results. As noted in practicalecommerce.com, along with the increased sales came increased advertising costs. At the same time, the results speak for themselves: for one of our clients, we secured 44 percent more revenue and a 33 percent increase in return on ad spend on Prime Day — with only an 8 percent increase in advertising costs. We were happy with the outcome, as our client was.

Shipping during the 2020 Holiday Season

As retailers respond to a changing retail landscape, they must also face the reality that with a surge in online ordering throughout November comes the potential for shipping delays as businesses send more packages. More packages being delivered puts more of a strain on shipping services – and possibly a strain on retailers’ fulfillment capability. On the other hand, FedEx has said it is hiring 70,000 seasonal workers to manage an expected surge, and bellwether retailers such as Target are hiring aggressively to ensure they can handle the increased volume in online orders.

What Should You Do?

How do you plan to stay competitive during an unprecedented year? We recommend:

  • Don’t wait for Black Friday to promote your holiday deals. Activate your display advertising, search marketing, and paid social media programs now.
  • Consider creating events of your own. Don’t worry about creating a blowout on the scale of Amazon’s Prime Day. Instead, take a page from Walmart’s book and ask yourself how you might create your own “Black Friday” digital events. Learn from the bellwether brands!
  • It goes without saying, on the operational side, prepare yourself for the expected uptick in orders. Assuming you have done so, promote any deals you’re offering on shipping (something we’ve blogged about here). In addition, set expectations with your customers. Let them know that waiting until the last minute to order and ship may incur additional delays this holiday season in particular.
  • Be mindful of tone in everything you do. People want to shop, yes—but as we’ve blogged here, they are also under stress. Many shoppers will be ordering gifts for loved ones from whom they will be socially distanced this holiday—and feeling a sense of loss as they do so. Others may be overwhelmed by COVID-19 news: fearful of a spike in the virus, or a lockdown of stores and businesses. Be sensitive to these anxieties in your messaging.

Contact True Interactive

In a year like 2020, even traditions like Black Friday are going to look different. We can help you maximize digital and rise to the occasion. Contact us.

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