We’re a few days from the actual Black Friday, but by now you’ve no doubt had roughly 500 emails announcing various Black Friday deals. Has this annual sale jumped the shark?
Black Friday Historically Speaking
There was a time that Black Friday was the most important shopping day of the year. Most professionals have the day after Thanksgiving off, and have spent the day with their families the day before. The 2 inch thick newspaper full of ads was the perfect escape from actually talking to our relatives. Throw in a few absurdly low priced items to get you to come in early, and you have a consumerist tradition in the making
Things are different now. Sure, we still want to avoid our relatives, but now we’re doing it on social media with the five inch computer in our pocket we call a smartphone. One reaction was to create Cyber Monday, but the vast majority of purchases still happen in person. Plus the black friday ads were often leaked well ahead of time, limiting the effect of the physical ad.
Black Friday becomes Novemeber
Reporters are all too happy to report on the leaked ads. It’s great for the attention that the deal gets, but it might actually hurt sales in the short term. After all, if you knew the TV you’d been eyeballing was going to be much cheaper if you waited, there’s no reason to buy it now.
Retailers did the obvious thing. They started selling at Black Friday prices well ahead of the actual day. It leaves the actual day for some deals that encourage odd, but newsworthy, behavior like camping out in front of the store. It’s still great for PR.
I’m left to wonder if the notion will lose its newsy appeal sooner than later. As news rooms suffer with dwindling resources, do they really want to send a crew on a holiday to interview a crazed consumer, just like they did last year, about the unbeatable laptop offer that’s worth spending the night in the cold to acquire? It comes across as an unpaid ad in so many ways. Online only outlets seem to rarely cover these sorts of events, and we suspect their traditional counterparts will do the same eventually.
It might go without saying that calling it a day doesn’t make sense any more, but the word Black Friday has taken on a life well beyond it’s literal 24 hour period. Any SEO worth their salt would tell you that people actually search that term way more than anything else you might try and call it. You can’t make people search they way you want them to, you have to use the terms they use.
Black Friday Backlash
At least one retailer has tried to set themselves apart from the rest. In a move reminiscent of Chick-Fil-A’s closed on Sunday policy, REI has decided to close on Black Friday. They’ve done it in a very on-brand way, encouraging people to use the day to actually get outside instead of shopping anywhere. It makes sense for them, and generated some positive coverage.
The truth is many more retailers should do the same, even if they aren’t associated with the outdoors. If your store isn’t about discounts, the sale seekers are just going to pass by.
Expanding the concept
Plenty of other days around Black Friday have been declared, some with very serious implications. Small Business Saturday is an encouragement (sponsored by American Express) to shop local. Decent idea, but honestly something that most do either do all the time or never. Sunday gets skipped, and then we get to Cyber Monday when the online outlets do their best version of DoorBusters.
Then we come to Giving Tuesday. This single day has been responsible for almost $250M in charitable donations in 2017 alone. With thousands of charities becoming part of this day, it’s now difficult to get individual coverage, but obviously worth the effort. It’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the billions spent on black friday and cyber Monday, but this day is showing explosive growth.
PR for Black Friday
If you’re reading this in 2019 you’re already far too late. Getting attention from news outlets on a day as well known as this takes a plan set in motion months ahead of the actual date. At this point a $99 laptop isn’t enough anymore. Doing these consumer days well requires a combination of creativity and strategy. The best strategy should leave a lasting impression, not just a loss leader item that’s soon forgotten.
Here’s a few ideas:
- Combine the whole event into one. If you’re a small business, use your small business Saturday proceeds to make a donation on giving Tuesday, for example. Nothing’s really a day anymore.
- Find Partners in the community. Work with some local restaurants for a “No Leftovers” Black Friday. Give a discount card with purchases that’s co-branded. I
- nvite a personality to the event. I still recall a sports store that had Picabo Street on Black Friday to sign autographs for a bit. You don’t need to book Britney Spears to get attention in most cases.
Don’t forget the tactical items either. Update your website with relevant information. Use a google post on your local listing as well. Consider getting influencers to promote your ideas around this. Even “micro influencers” make sense if they’re targeted well enough. It’s a big few days. Or a month. Or a season. Make the most of it.
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