Commentary

Black Friday And Cyber Monday

While Black Friday is the proverbial Groundhog Day of retail, the jury is out on whether the 2007 holiday season is going to hit retail projections or wither in the midst of a possible market recession. Initial reports indicate that this year's Black Friday retail sales rose 8.3% to over $10.3 billion, compared to 2006. (source: ShopperTrak RCT). This day alone normally represents 5% of retail sales, but according to the National Retail Federation the number of shoppers over the whole weekend rose 4.8% to 147 million customers from the previous year. At the same time, customers spent $347.44 per person, 3.5% less than a year ago, which is attributed to deep discounting and extended promotions..

Black Friday is as important to offline and multichannel retailers as Cyber Monday is to the online community. That didn't stop the marketers from pulling out every trick in the book this weekend to entice consumers to open up their wallets, via huge discounts. Not sure how many of you braved the cold, or woke up at 4:00 am to buy that PS2 or HD Flatscreen at 50% off at the early morning sales on Friday, but it was again a very hectic holiday rush by most standards, made a bit more palatable by some promotions that allowed you to buy Thanksgiving Day online.

Unlike most times of the year, this weekend wasn't focused on creating "reasons to buy" or brand connections, it's about creating a sense of urgency, creating noise amidst all the clutter of advertising and facilitating a conversion event. While we had more time to read email with a long weekend, this wasn't the time to achieve super-high viewership rates on your retention newsletters.

There was a considerable build-up to the weekend with special in-store promotions sent through email. I thought I'd call out some of the better promotions.

Wal-Mart and Target were active as usual with the build-up to the 2-day weekend sales event. Wal-Mart went even further with specific previews of what exactly would be on sale during the early morning shopping extravaganza.

Office Max had a similar theme but included an interesting twist that many followed this year: "Can't wait til Friday, buy online Thanksgiving Day." So much for sitting around with the family and watching the football blowouts, you can now get the same discounts you would have received in-store without leaving the house.

Borders had an interesting spin offering consumers 25% off one purchase if used before the 25th, while promoting its 3-day weekend sales event. (this included a print coupon to be redeemed in-store), But if you had opened the email on Tuesday rather than Thursday you would have received a 50% off coupon to be redeemed before Thanksgiving. Pays to open every email!

Many apparel retailers had their traditional promotional tactics out with 50% off Friday-only sales event, but didn't end there. Some offered follow-up promotions for the proceeding weekend with promotions like Old Navy's "Door Busters Deals."

Despite all this sense of urgency and timed promotions cluttering the inbox, I have to admit I was impressed with some of the creativity and differentiation in promotional themes, along with the timing of the messaging as it built up to the holiday weekend and the post-holiday messaging that is still hitting my inbox Monday morning.

I think we have a lot of things to look forward to this holiday season. This weekend wasn't about newsletters or community-based communications; it was ruled by promotions, timed sales events, multi-channel promotions and maximizing the retail event. In the past years the inbox would get flooded the day before and the day of or day after. This year there was a concerted effort to build to the sales event, differentiate in the messaging, target appropriately. It is evident there was a great deal of holiday planning involved.

I can't wait to see what Christmas brings us. This season certainly gave me some thought starters for great December messaging for our marketers.

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