That’s not the sound of jingle bells in the air: it’s the sighs of consumers who can’t believe they’re seeing holiday ads already. While we’re used to holiday deals well before Thanksgiving, it’s a smidge disconcerting to see Christmas lights for sale alongside Halloween costumes.
But while it may seem like Christmas came way too soon this year, the truth is that we’re all suffering from holiday amnesia. In fact, ads have started popping during early Fall for decades – and “most people don’t mind,” according to The Atlantic.
So if consumers are neutral toward early holiday ads, why were Black Friday sales down 11 percent last year? Certainly that shouldn’t be the case, especially as extended retail hours stretch all the way into Thanksgiving Day.
As it turns out, buyers would much rather shop in their sweatpants than risk stranger danger. That sentiment is more than an emotion: it’s driving serious trends. Black Friday online shoppers were up 9.5 percent, and over 50 percent of that traffic was on mobile.
Surprisingly, this didn’t detract from Cyber Monday’s performance, which grew about 8 percent last year. Since its inception in 2005, Cyber Monday hasn’t once stalled, growing anywhere from 5 to 25 percent over the last decade.
This has the boldest of brands asking important questions: Who says retailers should focus on two days of holiday spending? Should the Thanksgiving Day retail trend continue? Perhaps most importantly, is Black Friday going away?
Let’s take a look at the brands bucking the status quo with marketing strategies that break the mold.
Black Friday – emphasis on “Friday”
Despite public outcry, retailers have been loose with the “Friday” part of Black Friday. In fact, huge brands are opening their doors as early as 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
As Black Friday numbers continue to dip, it should hardly be a surprise that stores are scrambling to get consumer holiday cash. When billions of dollars are at stake, a few extra hours hardly seems like an unreasonable sacrifice.
Yet our first batch of Black Friday misfits don’t seem to think so. Big brands such as Staples and REI are saying “no” to post-turkey shopping, despite past Black Friday slam dunks.
In fact, REI has stated they won’t open on Black Friday at all. Instead, they’re opting to make it a paid holiday for their employees to “get outside” and enjoy the four-day weekend.
But don’t think this is all holiday cheer. REI stands to gain a lot of brand affinity and (hopefully) more purchases as a vote of support from consumers. In fact, REI took out a full-page ad announcing the decision.
Regardless of motive, REI is taking a stand on “employees over profit,” which you can’t really argue with in the end.
Black Friday isn’t the only shopping day with question marks. Despite Cyber Monday’s consistent growth, average spend decreased 3.5 percent to $124 per order last year. Meanwhile, overall holiday sales increased 4 percent.
What caused this discrepancy, and how can brands profit on Christmas if they can’t capitalize on Black Friday or Cyber Monday?
Enter digital retailers such as Groupon and Amazon. These brands and others have seen the holiday spend trends and decided to spread out their efforts. This means offering deals earlier and longer. Groupon, for example, has Black Friday deals available for purchase right now. Amazon is offering the same.
Though you can expect both brands to boost their deals come Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the statement is clear: find the shoppers where and when they want to be found. Single-day sales simply aren’t the answer any more, especially when half of holiday shopping has gone mobile.
Groupon and Amazon have poured a lot of ad dollars and content marketing into this bet, as well. Groupon’s daily emails have been holiday themed for weeks, boasting banners such as “12 Days of Doorbuster” deals. Amazon has followed suit, posting a new Black Friday deal on social media almost daily.
The Nordstrom Grinch Who Stole Christmas
Let’s be honest: September is way too early to hear Christmas songs during your weekend grocery store trip. Yet holiday decor and endcaps are in place months before Santa rolls into town.
“Not us,” says Nordstrom, who will postpone the holiday until consumers have had their fill of stuffing. Not only will they follow Staples’ lead and close on Thanksgiving, they won’t even decorate for Christmas until Black Friday.
Though not a new tradition, the policy is smart according to RichRelevance, who found that 65 percent of American shoppers disapprove of Thanksgiving Day shopping. Whether or not those same respondents stay home every year, the sentiment from Nordstrom’s is clear: let them eat cranberry.
Can we expect more retailers to follow Nordstrom’s example? Certainly this year will be a good indicator. With declining in-store sales on the one hand and consumer disapproval on the other, you can be sure that brands won’t consider Black Friday a “given” for much longer.
Despite their misfit nature, there is one thing most of these retailers have in common: They’ll be open for business on Black Friday – big time. After all, billions of shopping dollars are still up for grabs, despite declining sales numbers.
Not to mention, these retailers will push customers heavily toward their Cyber Monday deals. Even the Thanksgiving-friendly REI and Christmas-wary Nordstrom’s have splash pages live and at the ready.
We predict you’ll continue to see brands shaping their holiday marketing to reach consumers in the ways they truly want. That means deals without a strict timeline, and more marketing trends that push consumers to buy online.
In the meantime, let’s gather ‘round the fire and talk about the things that really matter: favorite turkey gravy recipes, holiday wish lists and of course, how you really feel about that holiday Starbucks cup.
Read more: Increase Sales by 30% on Black Friday
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