Black Friday: History & Marketing Strategies to Win This Holiday Season
Many of us spend the last two months of the year shopping, preparing to shop, or recovering from shopping. This holiday shopping season is kicked off by Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and continues through the New Year.
But is Black Friday still as important as it used to be? Should companies continue to invest in it when shopping habits change and people increasingly move online?
Read more about Black Friday, how it affects our current shopping experiences, and what marketers can do to make sure they have a successful holiday season.
Black Friday History
The idea of Black Friday is that it’s the official start of the holiday shopping season, where companies can turn “red” ledgers (losses) into "black" (profits). Hence the name Black Friday.
For most of the 20th century, Black Friday was considered the start of the holiday shopping season, coinciding with several winter holidays including Christmas and Hannukah. This holiday season also is Q4 for retailers, meaning it’s the last few months they have to increase profits to close out their year (and the quarter) “in the black."
The holiday shopping season traditionally began the day after Thanksgiving, dating back to the 19th century. However, it wasn't a widely accepted name for the event until the 1960s.
Even before Black Friday was Black Friday, it was so influential to retailers that in 1939, the Retail Dry Goods Association got President Roosevelt to literally change Thanksgiving. The holiday was officially moved from the last Thursday in November to the third Thursday in November to allow for an extra week of retail shopping.
Since then, Black Friday and the holiday shopping season have continued to become major events that influence culture. Ever stood in line at a Best Buy at 2am? Yeah, we know.
Cyber Monday is a new part of the holiday shopping season, which promotes the same type of sales as Black Friday, but in the online space. Now, many of the sales extend beyond these two days, and “Christmas creep” means that sometimes sales begin even earlier.
Why Black Friday Matters
An annual Gallup poll shows that Americans will spend an estimated $932 on gifts and holiday items in 2022. Numbers in previous years are similar – while there was a drop in 2021 and 2020, the numbers remain in a similar range. Additionally, as many as 150 million people are estimated to shop during this holiday season, and 88 million will do so online.
Promising a strong digital shopping experience is a huge deal for brands during the holidays. Gen Z in particular is one of the biggest groups of Black Friday shoppers with 75% of them planning to shop sales this season.
Social commerce is a major opportunity for retailers because of these younger generations' shopping habits. For example, this year, 72% of Snapchatters are planning to take advantage of Black Friday sales – and the platform shows a 2.1x YOY increase in Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
Some companies worry about the cost of spending on advertising and marketing during this season, but not spending is an even bigger risk. People will be shopping. And nearly half of them are going to buy one of the first things they see. You need to make sure your brand is the one that's making an impression.
Even More Benefits
Black Friday is not only a revenue-generating opportunity. It’s also a brand-building opportunity. Companies can use this time to promote themselves and offer deals that help build brand loyalty. It's a great opportunity to get in front of consumers because so many people are looking for products and brands at this time. A positive shopping experience or interaction can create repeat customers and build trust.
Is It Effective?
Black Friday is a bit of a misnomer because a company probably isn't posting "red" ledgers all year and then able to convert them to "black" based on the holiday season alone. With that said, Black Friday is still by far the most important shopping day of the year for brands, and the holiday season promises plenty of opportunity for revenue – as long as brands decide to go after it.
There are a handful of companies that do rely on the holiday season for the year, such as toy companies or seasonal shops. Then there are other companies that aren't strictly seasonal but are major retailers that traditionally see heavy traffic in holiday shopping.
It may seem like there's a lot of pressure on Black Friday and Cyber Monday for a company to make a lot of sales, but the good news is that these dates are just the kickoff of a huge shopping season. Black Friday success should be judged by both the success of the day and of the season. With the right investment, retailers can make profits and set themselves up for the following year.
What Can Brands Do?
A brand should always stay true to its identity and values, especially when it comes to Black Friday. You don’t want to be seen as a company desperate for sales or just jumping onto trends that don’t align with your brand.
With that said, here are a few Black Friday core theories to abide by when you're planning:
- Don’t wait for Black Friday to begin your promotion. Black Friday is the sale, but you also need to market your sale. Figure out the best way to reach your target audience and start your ads early.
- Make sure your online shopping experience is optimized. Your experience should be the best it can be, optimized for search, and without issues for shoppers. You don’t want to risk having frustrated shoppers on such a big shopping day.
- Create a sense of urgency. Maybe your sale isn’t limited to Black Friday, but you want your ads and your messaging to convey that the sale is for a limited time only, or while supplies last.
- Use Black Friday to push overstocked product. This little Black Friday secret can help you move items that you otherwise couldn’t. It’ll help you get older items off your shelves. Offering deep discounts will draw people in, and get them to spend more time shopping with your brand.
- Push memberships. Have a rewards program? Use Black Friday as an opportunity to build your membership lists by offering additional exclusive deals for members, or deals that can be “unlocked” immediately by becoming a member, with minimum spend. Take advantage of your site traffic while you have it.
Ready to go after everything Black Friday has to offer? Contact us now to talk about how we can help.
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