Behind the retail bonanza of Black Friday
Eighty-four percent of Americans will be shopping that day
November 15, 2012
Come Black Friday, just a week from now, 84 percent of Americans will be shopping, and 74 percent of them will have a good experience. That’s according to a new report from the research company Qualtrics studying the booming business that is Black Friday. Last year the number of shoppers on Black Friday weekend hit an all-time high of 226 million, and Qualtrics finds that 56 percent of shoppers plan to go to a store to shop this year, with 28 percent doing their shopping online only. Just 16 percent don’t plan to do any shopping on the big day. Shoppers are being spurred into stores with sales that keep getting more attractive. This year a number of stores actually plan to open on Thanksgiving for their Black Friday sales, which they’ve been advertising for weeks. Shoppers say that discounts are the biggest influence on their buying decisions. Danielle Wanderer, chief marketing officer at Qualtrics, talks to Media Life about why mobile phones will be crucial for advertisers, how Black Friday turned into such an event, and how Cyber Monday impacts Black Friday.
What did you find most interesting or most surprising about this study?
For us, when we pulled the data we were looking to understand how much Black Friday is still playing with consumers, do they still like it and want to participate? And also the impact of mobile on consumers this holiday season.
If I look at Black Friday I was pretty surprised that almost three quarters of people who are going out shopping like their experience–that surprised me. Companies like Kohl's and Target and Best Buy are studying these trends. And they were three of the first ones to bring the start time to midnight on Thanksgiving [rather than early the next morning].
This year the ads are already out. Target is starting at 9 p.m. this year. I think they're taking advantage of the trend that people like to go out on Black Friday.
What's the most important thing that media buyers and planners can take from it?
In the area of mobile, people want to be alerted to deals, but they'll also go in-store. So the earlier media people can communicate deals to consumers on their mobile device as they're planning where they're going to go, the better.
Using that as a source for information is a great opportunity, instead of consumers having to go search for the deals online.
How have marketers succeeded in turning Black Friday into such an "event?" When did the day really reach "event" status?
I think it really does boil down to the pocketbook for consumers. There's also something to the frenzy of kicking off the shopping season. Things that have worked are having those short bursts of deals, which take place within a finite amount of time. But it really boils down to the impact on your wallet.
How I understand it, it started around 2005 or 2006 [as the busiest shopping day of the year]. I'm not sure what triggered it, but it has just kind of evolved.
How has the rise of online shopping and Cyber Monday impacted Black Friday?
I thought that was an interesting trend. It doesn't appear in our research that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are conflicting yet.
It's almost as if consumers look at both opportunities to optimize their shopping lists. People love shopping online–they have a great experience and can get good deals. So media and retail have balanced the need for in-store, as well as the online shopping experience.
Why does the in-store atmosphere have such little effect on shoppers?
I did think that was interesting. I read a survey in the past week that said nobody wants to see any Christmas stuff put up in stores until about Thanksgiving. If it's around Halloween or before, it's a turnoff. But I don’t think it affects the shopping in stores on Black Friday.
Especially if you're looking for great electronics deals or something at a retailer, and it makes people flock and stampede, I find that frightening myself, but that didn't come across in the research. It's an opportunity to understand that people aren't worried about that, so what can improve the experience while in the stores?
Mobile devices will be used in greater numbers this year to research gifts, but only 10 percent of survey respondents plan to actually buy on their phones. Why?
I'm not sure if there's much of a disparity across age groups at all, but I was a bit surprised that it wasn't at least double that.
I'm not sure if they just want to be able to do more price comparing online and then see and touch the product in the store, or if it's just harder to see on a smaller device. I'm not sure what the rationale would be for that.
Will holiday spending be up or down this year?
We are seeing that about two-thirds of shoppers said they would spend $600 on holiday gifts, and 14 percent sad $1,000 or more. This is the first survey we've done so I don’t have comparisons, but it seems like a healthy amount to me. I'd have to look at other research to see if that's higher or lower than last year.
Does it seem that economic worries are impacting holiday shopping more, less or the same amount as last year? Why?
We didn't ask that, so I don't have an opinion on that at this point. The indicator might be the amount they're looking to spend, which seems rather healthy. But people are still looking for the best deals and to save money, so I don't think we're completely out of the dark yet.
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