Shopper Marketing

Shopper Marketing Trends: When even is Black Friday?!

Black Friday graphic

For decades, Black Friday kicked off the holiday season for shoppers on the day after Thanksgiving. Great deals were offered for that day or the weekend. As a result, people knew what to expect and customers flooded stores.

And, then, in 2005, Cyber Monday was created to encourage online shopping during the season. Next came Cyber Week. Recently, by trying to capture every dollar and capitalize on shoppers looking for deals, the maddening confusion of pre-Halloween sales, Black Friday in July deals, and other marketing has created consumers who are overwhelmed and frustrated. What should retailers and brands do about the possible death knell for Black Friday? 

Is All the Confusion Bad for Brands?

Each year, the sales and celebrations seem to get started a little earlier. At first, this “Christmas creep” appeared to be a positive prolonging of good deals, offering more opportunities for shoppers during the holidays. This year, many major retailers were promoting holiday specials in early Fall. Amazon created “Prime Early Access” for subscribers which began October 11, and Walmart and Target (the two other leading retailers for holiday shopping) followed suit with their own versions. This system continues to open the windows of time for these deals wider and wider.Some shoppers are even getting their holiday buys in before October

The ever-growing ‘mini-Black Fridays’ that now pulse over months, rather than a day or a week, have left many consumers more confused than confident in the ‘deals’ they’re really getting. And with the fear of inflation and a recession on everyone’s mind, people want to know more than ever that they are making really smart and sustainable decisions. With “Best Deal of the Season” ads, quickly followed by “Holiday Deal Busters”, and then “Black Friday Specials,” many advertisers are at risk of losing the trust of their core shopper base.

Break Through the Confusion with Clear Messaging

 ‘Tis the season to be spending, and people definitely plan for that. According to a 2022 study, 70% of shoppers have said they plan to rely on holiday sales to help them through; and 40% said they will put off all shopping until the start of Black Friday sales. But, as we’ve seen, this focused time of great deals is becoming less and less clear with every passing year. In order to make themselves seen and heard, brands are reacting to retailers and are planing earlier and earlier for inventory as well as content and campaigns.

In our view, when a brand plans a major holiday sale, it’s time to go big or go home. Whether the sale occurs on Black Friday or in the middle of September, marketers need to get the messaging right to instill consumer confidence in the quality and veracity of the ‘deal.’ If this really is “the biggest sale of the year,” say it, and mean it! Don’t confuse your customers if it’s not. Authenticity and honesty are crucial in the modern age of advertising.

Additionally, your retail business needs to make sure it has the inventory available before making a major retail marketing push. While supply chain shortages are becoming less common as we recover from the pandemic, inventory issues can persist. The last thing you want is to promote a product and not have the inventory to fulfill the demand.

Online Holiday Shopping is Here to Stay

An estimated 69% of Black Friday shoppers are expected to shop online, with only 32% still doing their shopping solely in store. Even Baby Boomers are breaking into virtual buying at a suspected rate of 49% this year, as well as 86% of Millennials and Gen Z who are expected to do the majority of their holiday shopping online.

Between Covid, infamous Black Friday crowds and online deals, consumers are overwhelmingly making the shift. Though some are ready to get back out there in malls and stores for the 2022 holiday season, the move to online is still dominating. Large swaths of shoppers no longer want to partake in the potentially dangerous crowds and madness if they don’t have to. Beyond that, most shoppers aren’t willing to wait more than half an hour in line either. 

It’s Time to Start Thinking About 2023 Holiday Marketing Strategy

As we’ve seen from major sellers like Amazon and Target, if we wait until it’s practically showtime, it will already be too late to catch that segment of shoppers who are looking for deals earlier and earlier. Any ‘sale’ messaging sent too late is likely to be lost in the noise of every other ad and marketing campaign bombarding consumers. Getting your brand and your product out there in a timely, and clear, manner is what removes confusion and builds trust with your customers. 

For a business to stand out to the crowd, transparency and quality content are key. As previously noted, people are overwhelmed with ads during the holiday season, so presenting your product early and honestly to the right audience is what will make it stick in people’s minds. It may appear as though behemoths like Amazon, Walmart and Target can afford to squeeze the smaller guys out of Black Friday profits by promoting louder, longer, and “bigger” deals, but brands big and small are also figuring out how to play the game by working smarter and not harder.

With the official Black Friday of 2022 only a week away, it’s already time to start preparing for the Black Friday season of 2023. The shopper marketing and eCommerce team at MHP/Team SI is here to help. Fill out the form below to get in touch with our team and get started on your upcoming campaigns.


    Scott Caldwell