Black Friday has evolved dramatically from a day into a season.
As Cofactor data confirms, it is now a multi-week period where consumers begin shopping as soon as offers are made available and retailers have flooded the market with more promotional offers than ever.
We ran an in-depth year-over-year analysis of online promotions from October through November across more than 30 retailers, 2,100 brands and 35,901 stores in the U.S, including Target, Kohl’s, Sears, Office Depot, Lowe’s, and Toys R Us. The data provides a glimpse into what retailers are promoting and when as well as the interest levels and interactions of holiday shoppers leading up to Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
Our holiday retail data found that Black Friday is now not only extended, but consumer behavior has changed dramatically as well – shifting towards early browsing, early ad fatigue, and a preference for mobile shopping.
Black Friday Holiday Retail Data Finding #1: Consumers are ready for seasonal offers as soon as the retailers are.
The abundance of retail promotions and offers specifically tied to Black Friday was alarming and Cofactor data found that consumers started searching for holiday offers as soon as they became available.
In addition to a seven percent growth in the number of deals offered compared to October last year, we tracked a six percent increase in visits on leading retailers’ websites over last year for October. We also found a three percent increase in time spent on leading retailers’ websites over last year for October.
— Best Buy (@BestBuy) October 6, 2015
Best Buy’s #WinTheHolidays campaign kicked off back in October.
Black Friday Holiday Retail Data Finding #2: The earlier the holiday marketing comes, the earlier consumer fatigue arrives.
In terms of response to these earlier efforts from retailers to capture consumer attention, October saw an early spike in traffic. However, it may have also led to consumer fatigue and disinterest in November.
Website traffic and time on site decreased on leading retailers’ websites over last year for November.
This year several brands broke through the seasonal noise by spinning Black Friday in a different direction. Perhaps the more novel take was a campaign from the irreverent game Cards Against Humanity. CAH solicited a gag campaign to collect donations from consumers with nothing being offered in return. They also hiked the price of their product up by $5.
While you can’t capture lightning in a bottle twice, this sort of creative thinking is fundamental to standing apart in a cluttered marketplace. Cards Against Humanity raised $71,000 from their donation stunt and their results show retailers that Black Friday can be about more than discounts.
Consumers are eager – if not desperate – to engage something different during holiday season.
Marketers who want to succeed today must understand the individual motivations, behaviors and varying paths to purchase of consumers first. From there, it’s up to marketers to customize content and stage cross-channel promotions in response to consumer cues versus the former date-driven tactics. If they don’t, consumers will quickly move on to competitors who do.
Black Friday Holiday Retail Data Finding #3: Rest and relaxation took priority over shopping on Thanksgiving Day.
REI’s much talked about and engaged #OptOutside campaign appears to have spoken to an underlying desire consumers had to disengage from shopping on Thanksgiving.
We saw peak traffic at 8pm CST on Thanksgiving Day – well after dinner time – and time spent on side decreased five percent. And while we saw an overall uptick in mobile traffic this early holiday season, it appears most consumers preferred to put down their devices during Thanksgiving.
Again, discounts just don’t cut it anymore. Consumers aren’t going to risk encountering long lines – or worse door buster stampedes and mall brawls – at a brick-and-mortar location when they can get a comparable offer online. (And the NRF’s numbers confirm this: While Black Friday shopping numbers and spend were up, the time split between in-store and online was about even.)
Steve Barr, retail consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, told the WSJ:
“This holiday may be a wake-up call for store-based retailers to recognize they are going to have to transform their store models to compete with online retailers.”
Our data bears this out. Consumers may still want the in-store experience, but retailers need to make sure they’re saying something meaningful to them to actually get them there.