Since the emergence of Black Friday in the United States as the venerated kickoff to the post-Thanksgiving shopping season, there have been a multitude of strategies employed by retailers to attract customers to their stores and to benefit from a swell of consumer spending. These tactics have included opening stores earlier & earlier, while others have focused on sales and deep discounting.
However, consumer purchasing habits have continued to shift in recent years, as some shoppers search for alternatives to the pandemonium associated with Black Friday crowds and pre-sunrise store opening hours. Many retailers have opened up holiday deals in advance of Black Friday. Others have levied barrages of promotional email to create a sense of urgency. And yet more have embraced it as part of mélange of cross-selling opportunities, shifting completely toward driving traffic on Cyber Monday.
In the end, the relevance of the singular ‘Black Friday’ date has been diminished in light of more of an omni-channel view to the entire holiday shopping season throughout November and December. Here are a few new trends that may further shape some retailer’s approach to Black Friday:
- Variety and new alternatives in delivery options will continue to emerge and disrupt the way consumers approach their purchasing decisions on Black Friday. Services like UberRUSH, GoogleExpress and AmazonFlex all work with flexible fleets of urban, street-friendly cars or vans to deliver items to consumers, sometimes without the need for intensive fleet management. Having the ability to rush orders out from either fulfillment centers or retail backrooms offer consumers speedy delivery and convenience of orders, most notably in urban and core suburban areas.
- Utilization of “dead-zone retail spaces” by retailers may continue to blur the start of storefront and supply-chains as the emergence of seasonal or mobile “pick-up” or “pop-up” locations throughout urban areas. Already being introduced through partnerships like Amazon and 7-11 in the form of pick-up locker-boxes, continued experimentation by retailers and e-tailers to alleviate the headaches and bottlenecks associated with holiday order seasonal demand.
- Attesting to the flexibility of the shared economy delivery fleets, vacant or under-utilized retail space can act as either a temporary pick-up location for online consumers hoping to avoid the large crowds associated with retail stores on Black Friday, or as micro-distribution centers where early morning- or late night-deliveries are made from larger hubs to in-fill urban locations.
- Increasingly, retailers as varied as GameStop to Staples attempt to embrace the public contention toward the blurring of Black Friday into “Grey Thursday” as early hour openings have shifted into late night Thanksgiving door openings. Some retailers like REI are actively driving campaigns based around the notion of completely avoiding the consumer-holiday, beginning its #OptOutside social media campaign in late October of this year. The ripples of such marketing strategies have yet to be seen, however if physical stores remain closed for the holiday shoppers will be driven to a given retailer’s website to make purchases, especially if the Black Friday deal-hype can be leveraged online. Increased flexibility in the retail supply chain will be necessary to handle the additional traffic generated by such anti-Black Friday sentiment campaigns.
The stresses of Black Friday serve to test the limits of retailers – both traditional, and pure e-
commerce-based, as well as those that have begun to blend both – in their ability to drive business successfully through all sales channels in a concentrated time period.
Supply chain strategy is often defined and reasserted on a brand’s performance following how well or poorly it handles Black Friday. Key trends that will be highlighted by Black Friday, but will also be large pieces of the ‘Last Mile’ puzzle. Black Friday may be but one day a year, but the lessons learned about the limits of current supply chains and possible creative solutions to address given limits are invaluable year-round.