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Planning Black Friday and Cyber Monday marketing strategies begins far in advance. Since September 59 percent of retailers had kicked off their holiday promotional campaigns, based on ChannelAdvisor’s 2015 Online Retail Survey. Consumers’ start planning and shopping for the upcoming holiday season further and further in advance. By retailers starting their holiday promotions earlier, they hope to increase sales over last year. It is an important time of year for retailers because nearly 20 percent of annual sales are accrued from the holiday season.

It is estimated that 2015 holiday retail sales could reach $630 billion in the United States with the average American shopper spending as much as $600, according to a recent study from the National Retail Federation. In order to reach consumers, marketers have learned that nearly half of shoppers learn about Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals from email. Furthermore, using social media to reach out to consumers is imperative to gain more sales from Black Friday shoppers.

Although in the U.S. Black Friday improves sales for retailers, the introduction of Black Friday in other countries has not been as successful. For example, in the U.K. Black Friday is not profitable for retailers, as no additional demand has been created by the “holiday,” instead demand for Christmas gifts has moved a month earlier. Although customers may naturally buy products cheaper, in the long run, retailers cannot offer low discounted prices and must compensate during the year to make up for previously discounted periods.

Even though most businesses see Black Friday and Cyber Monday as a profitable marketing strategy and a way to increase quarter four sales, there are still businesses that opt out of the holiday sales. One major retailer this year who has decided to close its stores for Black Friday, rather than have a sale, is REI, a specialty outdoor retailer. REI has chosen to banish Black Friday stating “life outdoors is a life well lived” and is using the hashtag #OptOutside to encourage shoppers to not participate and share alternative plans. This strategy is part of REI’s reinforcement of its brand positioning, that REI ultimately strives to inspire, educate, and outfit its community for outdoor adventure and stewardship. Furthermore, by not participating, REI is differentiating itself, doing the opposite of all other stores, which in turn has increased its media coverage and consumer responsiveness.

A picture of the side of a mountain with the words “ REI is closing on Black Friday” and a countdown clock with number of days, hours, and minutes until #optoutside.

REI has chosen not to participate in Black Friday but rather encourage consumers to spend time outside or doing other things. Source: Google Images.

Marketers see Black Friday and Cyber Monday as a way to increase sales and reach out to consumers through heavily discounting products. 3 in 5 consumers plan to shop on Black Friday making the holiday still a lucrative marketing strategy for retailers. 45 percent of consumers participate in Cyber Monday and take advantage of pre-Christmas sales. Whether its shopping in-store or online, consumers believe there is a benefit to purchasing goods during Black Friday or Cyber Monday and retailers are likely to continue offering discounts on these days far into the future.

From a marketing management perspective, here are some questions to consider:

  • What other strategies can marketers use to get people to purchase their brands on Black Friday or Cyber Monday?
  • Research other countries that have tried similar marketing strategies, deeply discounting products before a holiday, were they successful? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think consumers still are willing to go in-store rather than purchase items online?