by Katherine Schober, Social Media Strategist
As soon as Thanksgiving ends, Christmas shopping begins. Although Black Friday isn’t actually a holiday, many workers and students take a break from their normal lives to celebrate Thanksgiving, spend time with their families, and kick off their holiday spending on this most famous Friday.
For years, Black Friday has been defined by doorbusting deals, early-bird prices, and crowds that make Woodstock look spacious. Regardless of the weather, dedicated Black Friday shoppers would wait endless hours outside retail stores in hopes of making the most of their holiday shopping budgets. The hardcore retailers began opening their doors at six in the morning, but over the years, many stores have moved to opening as early as four. Once inside, bargain seekers become relentless and all courtesies are thrown out the window with last year’s Apple iPad 1st Generation (so last season). Some shoppers resort to good old-fashioned shoving, while others might get creative using their shopping carts as shields to grab that last Play Station on the shelf. These extreme tactics may have been necessary for successful shopping on previous Black Fridays, but in this new digital era long lines, elbowing our way through crowds, and early mornings outside a store in the freezing cold could be a memory of the past.
The growing presence of brands on social media sites has already begun to change the way we “clip coupons.” For consumers, following their favorite brands on Facebook or Twitter allow them to get the latest updates on product shipments, quick sales, and even compete against other customers through contests for a special deal offered only through this medium. Companies have been utilizing the popularity and convenience of social media in their everyday business routines. Not to be excluded, Black Friday and the buzz that surrounds it is just as present this year on social media sites as all your favorite brands. In fact, Christine Erickson of Mashable.com claims, “Black Friday is a lot like Facebook — you’re either obsessed with it, or you try to avoid it at all costs. It’s also equally as fast and crowded, which is why the two are so perfect for each other!” Macy’s, Walmart, and Best Buy are just a few of the companies taking Black Friday to a social level. Announcing last minute doorbusters, previews of in-stock products, and exclusive fan-offers, companies have their customers visiting their pages incessantly to stay on top of the latest Black Friday news.
Social media isn’t the only game changer this year. Our mobile devices have evolved to be so much more than the telephones we originally used them for. Smart phones now email, browse the Internet, stream music, and more recently allow for purchases to be made in the palm of your hand. Many companies have developed mobile friendly websites so that their customers can conveniently shop or get information from wherever they are. Another mobile trend coming on strong is the use of QR codes. These codes are popping up everywhere, in magazines, newspapers, and online. All the consumer has to do is take a picture of it with their phone and the deal is revealed and ready to use when they get to the store.
In recent years, retailers have coined the term Cyber Monday to encourage shoppers to go online and buy products they weren’t able to sell on Black Friday for bargain prices. Since many students and workers return to their normal lives after Thanksgiving weekend, retailers have acknowledged that people still have a lot of holiday shopping ahead of them. Some might even continue this shopping from their desk if they can. Cyber Monday has been around for less than a decade and has already gained a level of popularity similar to that of Black Friday. In fact, some shoppers prefer to wait until Cyber Monday to catch the same great deals without the hustle.
This year has been a growing one for social media and mobile marketing. Already, these new trends are affecting how we get ready for Black Friday. Looking for special offers on social media sites and through QR codes has taken consumers down a different path of prepping for the holidays than years past. These changes are only the beginning. This Black Friday will be different from the last, but next year, will people even wait in line? Will stores continue to open as early as midnight and will crowds be as large? What effect will social media and mobile marketing have on the already digital Cyber Monday?
In the past, these two retailer-made-holidays were easily distinguished from one another. Prices offered in-store on Black Friday weren’t available online and featured products online for Cyber Mondays weren’t always available in-store. Does anyone else see where I’m going with this? At the rate these trends are taking over, it’s anyone’s guess as to how much longer these two days and the characteristics that define them actually remain separated. Social media and mobile marketing are going to continue to change our familiarity with brands, and days like the crazed Black Friday, might soon be a pleasant experience after all.