black-friday-cyber-monday-mark-f-simmonsBlack Friday used to be synonomous with camping out, long lines, crazy cheap deals and even a little mayhem and assault. In 2013, the face of Black Friday has changed. Mainly because it’s no longer just one day. Last year, we witnessed a major shift when stores opened as early as noon on Thanksgiving Day! Much to the ire of employees, retailers felt the need to get a head start on the Holiday season. Now, we’re seeing Black Friday sales in October! Where will it end and where is this taking us? What does this mean for Black Friday’s savvy cousin Cyber Monday?

Keep reading on to find out.

 I used to work in the e-commerce department of The Body Shop’s US headquarters. Back in the Fall of 2009 I started witnessing the first major shift in retail. We constantly ran promotions, strategically spaced out and coordinated with the physical stores with military precision. What I noticed was that discounts of 10 -20% were becoming more common amongst our competitors and thus less effective. It took deeper discounts to rise above the noise. In the crowded beauty products space, it became increasingly important to test out different offer scenarios and discount points. We certainly found that 30% and higher got attention and led to a healthier bottom line for the department. One thing we did not do that year was have a Black Friday sale before Black Friday. Sure, we had the sale start and last for a while in between that and the Christmas sales. Plus there was Cyber Monday to tackle. Things have changed.

Speaking of which….Just got this “Pre-Black Friday” email today…

thebodyshop

Black Friday In October

I wish I had kept a screenshot of the ads I noticed, but I didn’t. You’ll have to trust me – they were out there. Companies are trying to get a jump on the early revenues before the big in-store shopping starts. But they are also not offering their best prices before Black Friday. It can be a bit confusing to the consumer and the retailer is literally banking on that confusion to make a profit. This Yahoo article explains how stores are targeting a younger demographic with this strategy. Additionally, some of the prices – outside of “door-busters” – will actually be higher on Black Friday than in the weeks leading up.

This excellent video from the Wall Street Journal shows that, among other things,  “the Friday after Thanksgiving may not be such a great time to shop”

 

 

What Does This Mean For Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday was supposed to be the holy grail for online deals and has been in the past as companies stayed true to the Black Friday plan. Now that sales start much earlier, it’s my opinion that Cyber Monday will become less and less relevant over time. Why wait till Monday when you can get deals without leaving the comfort of your warm home weeks ahead of Thanksgiving? I saw the writing on the wall at The Body Shop – that the retail sector in general was due for a shift because it was getting increasingly difficult to stay ahead of the game unless you were truly unique. How many companies can say that? The natural result was a shift forward in sales promotions to extend the holiday season. Holiday revenues can be as much as 50% of the annual revenue for a retail company. It’s that important. Why not make it last longer?

The Marketing Take

This shift in strategy has certainly presented challenges for marketers in the space. Working with my retail clients, we try to balance out the need to  book as much revenue during the season as possible, but not dilute the brand with too many promotions or ill-timed ones. It’s complicated, but seems to require an earlier start just to keep in step with everyone else. It’s almost that you can’t afford to wait or risk losing out. I mean, consumers have finite budgets right? If you miss an opportunity to convert them now because you waited a week or two to start your sale, it’s not like they will add to their budget and shop from you as well. At least, we can’t assume that.

What Does This Mean To You?

Whether you’re a marketer or a consumer, you’re impacted by Black Friday. Please share your take on this fascinating phenomenon in the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

More On The Subject

Check out a related articles Does Cyber Monday Have a Limited Shelf Life? and How Small Business Saturday Is Bad For The Local Economy? for more on the subject.

 

Yours in success,

MFS

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I’m currently working on a comprehensive Twitter e-guide “The Twitter Master Guide.”  This will address the most common issues people have with Twitter and how to effectively manage the profile to grow your community, extend your voice and generate revenue. There will also be a few free bonuses – including the “Master Guide to Twitter Advertising” and “How To Use Twitter for Customer Service” – to accompany the main guide which we be sold for less than $50. Five lucky newsletter subscribers will get a free copy to evaluate. Stay tuned….