September 22, 2023

6 Changes Transforming Black Friday Marketing Strategies


black friday and cyber monday marketing

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are synonymous with closeout deals on holiday gifts and sky-high profits for retailers. These banner shopping events are still a major aspect of the retail calendar, but the game has changed and so have Black Friday marketing strategies. 

What is Black Friday?

The term “Black Friday” originated in Philadelphia in the 1960s. It referred to the chaos that ensued as crowds flooded the city streets the day after Thanksgiving for the Army-Navy football game and to begin their holiday shopping. Black Friday became widespread when retailers realized that they could draw big crowds with discounted prices. It was followed by Cyber Monday starting in 2005. Cyber Monday began when people took the opportunity to start their holiday shopping online at work the Monday after Thanksgiving before the internet became commonplace in every home. Retailers responded with online sales and a new holiday shopping holiday was born. 

Today, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have merged into what is often known as “Cyber Week,” “Cyber Month,” or “Black November.” Instead of one or two days to mark the start of the holiday shopping season, these sales are more drawn out and complex. This is in response to major social and demographic changes that retailers continue to navigate in order to draw in customers and increase profits during this pivotal time. Let’s explore how these changes play into and give way to new Black Friday marketing strategies. 

Shopping trends changing Black Friday marketing strategies 

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are iconic holiday shopping events for shoppers and retailers alike. But, they’ve evolved. What used to be a one day sale is now weeks or even a month long. Retailers now also face internal and external competition around these sales. So what does this mean for retailers and for the future of these holiday shopping events? In order to continue to capitalize on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, retailers need to embrace key changes in shopping behaviors and demographics. Let’s explore exactly what is going on and how retailers can adapt and grow as Black Friday becomes Black November. 

1. Customers are shopping earlier 

Today, it’s not uncommon for people to start shopping for holiday gifts, decorations, and more long before Black Friday or Cyber Monday. In the 2022 McKinsey study, over 50% of people surveyed already began their holiday shopping in October. Since consumers are now shopping earlier in order to combat inflation, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are no longer the official start of the holiday shopping season. Many retailers have responded to this trend by beginning their Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales weeks before Thanksgiving. 

2. No sense of urgency 

Retailers used to only have a handful of major sales days a year. Now, it seems like retailers are hosting a new sale almost every week. This abundance of sales throughout the year creates internal competition that ultimately dilutes major sales days. With so many sales going on throughout the year, it’s hard for retailers to tap into a consumer’s sense of urgency. Customers no longer feel like they must buy on a certain day or miss out on the discount or on the item altogether. According to CNBC, consumers are shopping more strategically and are willing to hold out for better deals.

That points to risks for retailers of dragging the holiday season out for too long. If consumers know they can get the same item in mid-December that they’re eying in early November, they won’t feel the same urgency to buy right away. There is no real sense of risk that they will miss out if the same merchandise is available for three-to-four months, instead of three-to-four weeks.  

3. Non-retail competition 

Travel, dining, and entertainment are competing more with traditional retail for a share of the consumer’s holiday wallet. 74% of US consumers now value experiences over products or things. Millennials are leading this shift, but other generations are quickly jumping on the bandwagon. Travel is the most sought after type of experience. 

The result is that retailers today face competition from within their market and from travel & hospitality leaders that are capitalizing on these unofficial consumer spending holidays. Major airlines, cruise lines, resorts, and hotel chains also promote Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. So do local coffee shops and restaurants.

4. Experience economy 

Decluttering has grown in popularity over the last few years (this was supercharged by the pandemic) and many US-based consumers are purposefully not buying physical goods or at least being more intentional about the items they buy. 

Influencers, known for their shopping hauls and driving retail sales, now also de-influence consumers by sharing what not to buy. These reverse shopping hauls outline products that weren’t worth the price, don’t serve a real purpose, or didn’t live up to the hype. In light of the trend toward less stuff and more experiences, people don’t necessarily want to receive as many physical gifts as they once did. Instead, they would rather go on or give a trip or other experience. While still a major part of the holidays, gifting physical things may not always be the default anymore. 

Discover more on the experience economy and why retailers should embrace it. 

5. Chaotic in-store experiences 

The Black Friday in-store experience has long been notorious for long lines, unmanageable crowds, fights over merchandise, and swarms of customers camping out outside of stores. The rise of e-commerce and the convenience of shopping from home have thankfully put an end to this mayhem and shoppers don’t seem to miss it. According to Drive Research’s 2022 Cyber Week Survey, 69% of people planned to shop online for Black Friday, while only 32% planned to shop in-person. That’s a 33% increase from 2021 in online shopping on Black Friday and a 9% decrease in in-store shopping on Black Friday. 79% of the 1,200 consumers surveyed agree that retail stores should be closed on Thanksgiving. 

6. Extended holiday travel 

Remote work has given more people the flexibility to extend their holiday travel. Now that more people can travel for longer periods of time around the holidays, they may not be as focused on physical goods. Remote workers can stay at their destination longer and travel on off peak days. According to American Airlines CEO Robert Isom, stressful peak travel days around the holidays may be a thing of the past as demand is more spread out. 

While some people find longer family visits stressful, others see the extended time with loved ones as relaxing and rejuvenating. Time will tell if these longer holiday visits change holiday buying patterns for retail. But, they have certainly changed consumer spending around travel during this lucrative time. 

The future of Black Friday and Cyber Monday 

The evolution of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is a huge opportunity for retailers to drive holiday sales, connect with customers, and reach new shoppers. But, it means throwing out the old playbook and strategically playing into the extended holiday shopping season and changing demographics in holiday marketing campaigns. In addition to more traditional holiday shopping messaging, forward-thinking retailers will also create more diverse digital holiday marketing campaigns around self-gifting, empty nesters, and more. Learn how AI and holiday shopping can be a game-changing combination.

Rather than trying to compete with the experience economy, retailers should embrace it. Retailers can do so through partnerships with travel brands, restaurants, spas, and more. They can also create standalone experiences that drive shoppers to the stores. The mall or department store Santa was one of the first ways retailers embraced the experience economy “in store”. While this is still a relevant experience, retailers should also create in-store holiday experiences that cater to adults. Think holiday cocktail tastings or an in-store coffee shop. In 2022, Nordstrom hosted many holiday in-store events with influencers, music, and more. 

Black Friday’s past and present

Retailers have mostly gotten away from the ghosts of Black Fridays past with early openings on Thanksgiving and shoppers competing for discounted items in crowded stores. Retailers should continue to distance themselves from that and remain closed on Thanksgiving to honor the holiday and let employees do the same. Thanks to e-commerce, there isn’t a need for extended store hours or rowdy crowds. Despite the return to normal life after the pandemic, retailers should not try to go back to the sense of scarcity that Black Friday used to evoke. Instead, embrace the abundance of an extended sales event that customers can enjoy for weeks from the comfort of their own home. 

Retailers who take the time to reflect on social changes and demographics will write the new Black Friday and Cyber Monday playbook by utilizing innovative ideas and technology to engage with shoppers. For more on holiday marketing check out our Holiday Marketing Guide: How to Optimize Campaign Performance in the Era of Holiday Creep.

To learn how to reduce cart abandonment and deliver the highest-performing digital marketing messaging across every stage and channel of the digital shopping experience using Generative AI, request a risk-free trial of Persado Motivation AI