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It’s Time To Rethink Black Friday

WE Communications Blog: Consumer

— Elizabeth Herrera Smith 

The results are in. According to NRF’s annual survey, more than 103 million people shopped online over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, compared with the 102 million who braved the lines at traditional stores.

On the one hand you could say online shoppers outnumbered their brick-and-mortar counterparts during the Black Friday weekend. On the other, you could say they are neck and neck — and WOW, that’s still a lot of foot traffic to nab and make the most of.

Much has been made about the death of brick-and-mortar retail. The truth is, the vast majority of purchases still take place there. But with people increasingly turning online for discounts, I think it's time for retailers to take a second look at how they are using their four walls on Black Friday.

What if instead of the laser focus on the discount bonanza, more attention was focused on kicking off the holiday with a memorable shopping experience? Something that tells a story about the brand, offers a moment of delight and leaves a lasting impression.

Enter … your opportunity.

We know from our research that today’s Empowered Shoppers look to retail as a source of recharging, aspiration and connection.

With so many friends and families gathering for Thanksgiving, this is the perfect opportunity to tap into the social rituals of shopping together — a fun way for people to get out of the house after gorging themselves on turkey. Offer these consumers what they really want: a chance to connect with each other, to touch and feel that coveted pair of jeans they've been eyeing online, to feel the same thrill of discovery that can only be had wandering the aisles of their favorite store.

This kind of brick-and-mortar experience is a retailer’s greatest defense against mega-discounters like Amazon. Why do you think Amazon opened its first physical bookstore? Even previously online-only retailers like Birchbox, Rent the Runway and Bonobos have hung up a shingle in the physical realm. They recognize the strength of the human connection in retail experiences.

I say next year, instead of drumming up a Disneyland-like line outside your front door for rock-bottom prices, stand out from the competition. Get creative about seizing this unique opportunity to make your store an experience, a haven, a brand destination, and forge a deeper in-person connection with your customer.

I’m willing to bet that in the long run, the ROI on giving your customers a lasting experience they will talk about with their friends and family for weeks will be greater than giving them a piece of merchandise at 40 percent off for a day.