Last year retailers began promoting earlier in the season. One of the explanations for that phenomenon was the shorter number of days in the shopping season. Last year Thanksgiving fell on Nov. 26th, which left 25 days between Black Friday and Christmas, which was the shortest stretch between holidays in a decade. This year too the promotional and competitive activity began sooner and deeper, with only 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas.
Has this early push put an end to Black Friday as we know it? Will the future be more of Black November than Black Friday? And what after that? Will we see Black Friday promotions in July?
Retail sales planning used to be focused on the four p’s – product, place, price and promotion but now retailers need to rethink that planning combination. The Internet has reduced the importance of place, and now price and promotion are becoming less relevant because of information transparency as customers can now compare price and promotions on their own. Many retailers will use price as a lever, as it is easy and provides instant satisfaction of having taken action; many know that it does not always bear fruit.
Our view is that, winning retailers will need to work on a "differentiated holistic experience” using the right combination of product, experience, and offers. But this is easy to say and difficult to do.
Still, this strategy will serve to keep sales going after the holiday promotions are over. According to The salesforce blog, 30% of consumers say helpful service plays a role in their decision to shop at a particular retailer and according to the SDL annual Holiday Shopper Study, 90% of consumers expected a consistent experience; 66% of customers would pay more for a better customer experience.
It may sound idealistic, but it is increasingly possible using integrated category analytics to understand what customers want, what are they willing to pay so that retailers in turn can improve user experience online and in the store, to create long-term happy customers.
Long live Black Friday!
Mihir Kittur is a Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer at Ugam. He oversees sales, marketing and innovation and works with leading retailers and brands with insights and analytics solutions around their category decisions to improve business performance.