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November 03, 2016

Black Friday has become one of the most important days of the year for marketers. Months of preparation lead to this critical 24-hour period, and having a strong Black Friday retail strategy more important than ever, as retailers kick off of a month-long stretch that can make or break their year. As the National Retail Federation notes, over $600 billion of all retail sales happened during the winter holidays in 2015, with back-to-school season in a distant second at $68 billion.

Over the last three years, we have seen an increasing amount of retail holiday sales shift from offline to online, with mobile playing an ever-increasing role. However, the lion's share of retail sales still take place in brick and mortar locations. As such, retailers need to continually seek out new strategies for Black Friday and other peak sales times to better understand their customers' journey and employ tactics to capture those valuable in-store dollars.

During a recent McKinsey podcast focused on "designing the next mobile experience," experts discussed how mobile is changing retail. Of particular interest were Jones's insights around shoppers and the fact that many are using their desktop and mobile devices to plan their in-store visits ahead of time. Specifically, Jones notes that some of these customers are outside the geofences set up retailers (or malls), but they are on the retailers' sites, researching items they plan to purchase in the physical store. These types of digital clues give marketers an opportunity to tailor experiences to their customers.

With this as a backdrop, here are five Black Friday retail strategies that marketers should consider for this upcoming holiday season.

Data, Data, Data!

With years of data on customer purchase behavior augmented by third party research, marketers can see who came to their stores on Black Friday, when (down to the hour) they arrived, how much they spent, what types of products they were buying, and in some cases, where they were coming from and where they were headed. If you are missing any of this information, you may need to shift your digital strategy.

Build a Wall

All retailers should start thinking about geofencing in order to understand where their customers are. These virtual fences also allow for two-way conversations between retailers and their customers via mobile, which can improve engagement.

Surveil Thy Customers

No, this isn't as creepy as it sounds. Companies like Estimote now offer beacons that use Bluetooth low energy technology that retailers can install in their stores. These beacons can "talk" with third-party or custom mobile applications, providing product information, offers to help answer questions, and more. Even better, they allow marketers to gain down-to-the-shelf information about their customers' buying habits.

Consider Advertising on Third-Party Mobile Apps
If your business has its own app, and it's proven successful, that's great. It can be an effective way to communicate with your audience. If not, you may want to consider placement on a third-party app before investing in your own. Apps consumers use for maps (like Waze), directions, music, and social media already have a proven following—and many allow for location-based targeting.

Study What Happens This Black Friday
While it might be too late to rebuild your digital customer experience as part of your Black Friday retail strategy, it's not too late to go into the holidays with a curious mindset. Ask customers questions about their experience while they are shopping and build inquiries into post-shopping surveys.

≥≥ Need a Shortcut?
1. History tends to repeat itself: make sure to keep past Black Fridays' data handy when planning this year's digital strategy.
2. Be creative about using tools like geofencing and beacons to create two-way conversations between you and your customers.
3. Consider using a third-party app to keep your brand top-of-mind this holiday shopping season.
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