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Black Friday 2019: 10 Things Smart Retailers Do to Get Customers In the Door

Times've changed. This year's Black Friday isn't last year's. Here's what you can do to make the most of it.

Todd Wasserman
November 11 2019

Based purely on the hype, Black Friday may appear to grow bigger every year, but in reality, that’s not necessarily the case. In 2018, sales fell about 9% from 2017. Purchases shifted online, even for low-income consumers, while visits to retail stores fell 5-9% from the previous year. Retailers must constantly adjust their plan for the big day, determining the best course of action. It’s worth taking the long view to make that determination. With that in mind, we came up with a list of 10 things smart retailers can do to make the most of Black Friday.

1. Start in July: Dozens of retailers this year including Macy’s, JC Penney, Best Buy and about 250 others launched Black Friday deals in July. No wonder 84% of retailers say driving sales during Prime Week is the key directive for back-to-school sales. Amazon’s mid-July promotion was so successful that nearly half the 1,000 consumers surveyed reported that the summer deals were better than Black Friday’s. The day, of course, is a huge deal for Amazon Prime’s 100 million members, but it has become a focal point for the summer shopping season.

2. Start planning for Black Friday ahead of November: Black Friday implementation begins three weeks before the day, so retailers need to formulate their strategies well before the first of November.

3. Expect unusual competition: Last year, Black Friday wasn’t the only game in town. There was Free Shipping Day, tax-free weekends, and a whole host of other holiday shopping events

4. Watch out for Amazon: Retailers can’t ignore the 800-ton gorilla in the room. Last year, Amazon expanded free holiday shipping to non-Prime members the week before Christmas. This year, the eTail giant announced an early kickoff, starting November 22.

Customer marketing challenges and opportunities

5. On that note, keep an eye on Kohl’s: Last year, Kohl’s partnered with Amazon and gave customers Kohl’s Cash on purchases. Kohl’s Black Friday sales begin before Thanksgiving.

6.  Look out for retail mistakes: Last year, traffic overwhelmed J. Crew’s site, and technical glitches lasted most of the day. Lowe’s also experienced problems with its website last year. Learn from their mistakes and form a plan ahead of time.

7. Take a cue from the mavericks: REI earned praise for its #OptOutside effort, which argued that customers should spend the day after Thanksgiving outdoors instead of inside a store. The retailer also closed its own stores, contributing to the momentum of an already developing anti-consumerism movement.

8. Mind the gap: Last year, there were 32 days between Black Friday and Christmas, not counting the holidays. This year, there are 26. Hanukkah is also starting late, falling out on December 22. This is another reason for earlier sales period kickoffs this year.

9. Consider focusing online: You may feel like you’re wasting your time focusing on traditional retail this season, and with so many consumers opting for Cyber Monday in 2018, this isn’t a baseless argument. Instead of putting all your ornaments into one basket, put some of your focus online instead.

20. Promote deals early in the month. Shoppers know that Black Friday has evolved into an entire month of deals. Start promoting them in early November and update your prices as we near Thanksgiving.

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Todd Wasserman

Todd Wasserman is a journalist with 25 years of experience. He has been freelancing full time since 2015. Before that he was the business editor for Mashable from 2010-2015. From 1999-2010 he worked at Adweek's Brandweek, starting as a reporter and ending as editor-in-chief (2007-2010). He has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, The Washington Post and The Economist, among other publications.

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