Black Friday Marketing Strategies: 10 Tricks To Win Online & Offline

Beyond deals, what can mar­keters do to appeal to con­sumers on Black Fri­day? Here’s what you need to know about this hol­i­day mar­ket­ing moment.

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Out­door retail­er REI struck hol­i­day mar­ket­ing gold with its #OptOut­side cam­paign, which will like­ly pay great div­i­dends this sea­son even though the brand itself will be closed on what was once the holi­est of shop­ping days. While the effort has inspired much chat­ter in the dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing uni­verse over what this means for the future of Black Fri­day, it remains a rel­e­vant mar­ket­ing moment.

Black Fri­day isn’t dying, it’s sim­ply chang­ing, accord­ing to the Nation­al Retail Fed­er­a­tion. Stephen Lark­in, chief mar­ket­ing offi­cer of cre­ative agen­cy 180LA, agrees there are too many greedy retail­ers and too many con­sumers look­ing to get a deal for Black Fri­day to ever real­ly die out. “As long as there is a Fri­day after Thanks­giv­ing, there will be a Black Fri­day,” Lark­in said. So what do mar­keters need to know now about this hol­i­day mar­ket­ing moment? Here are 10 tips.

1. Start Black Friday Early

It is crit­i­cal to get infor­ma­tion about Black Fri­day sales out ear­ly to max­i­mize impact, accord­ing to Rebec­ca Brooks, part­ner at mar­ket research com­pa­ny Alter Agents. “Cus­tomers plan this shop­ping event and you don’t want news of your sales to reach poten­tial cus­tomers after they’ve already solid­i­fied their plans,” Brooks adds. In fact, per Google, 20 per­cent of con­sumers start their hol­i­day shop­ping in Sep­tem­ber.

2. Check Your Organic Search Visibility

A recent analy­sis by SEO plat­form Linkdex of the most pop­u­lar phras­es used by UK shop­pers research­ing Christ­mas gifts under­scores the impor­tance of organ­ic search. “Brands who per­form poor­ly in organ­ic search are often forced to invest heav­i­ly in paid media and adver­tis­ing to make up for short­falls in vis­i­tor and sales vol­umes in a peri­od when such costs are fre­quent­ly heav­i­ly inflat­ed by high lev­els of com­pe­ti­tion,” accord­ing to the study. Jonathan Alder­son, glob­al head of dig­i­tal at Linkdex, points to invest­ment in SEO strate­gies, site improve­ments, con­tent mar­ket­ing and PR as means to improve retail­ers’ search vis­i­bil­i­ty ahead of this cru­cial shop­ping peri­od.

3. Try Facebook Retargeting

While Black Fri­day and Cyber Mon­day present spec­tac­u­lar oppor­tu­ni­ties to dri­ve con­sumers to web­sites in search of spe­cials, pro­mo­tions and dis­counts, many busi­ness­es fall short here, said Kyle Reyes, pres­i­dent and cre­ative direc­tor of The Silent Part­ner Mar­ket­ing. That’s pre­cise­ly why brands need to start invest­ing in dis­play retar­get­ing strate­gies – par­tic­u­lar­ly on Face­book – to fur­ther enhance their close ratios. “The first step is run­ning a Face­book Dark Post cam­paign,” he said. “Cre­ate a cus­tom audi­ence and dri­ve that audi­ence to your web­site. Then drop a cook­ie in their browser that will fol­low them after they leave your web­site back onto Face­book or through­out Google’s adver­tis­ing net­work. The­se pen­nies-on-the-dol­lar adver­tis­ing strate­gies return tremen­dous div­i­dends when exe­cut­ed prop­er­ly.”

4. Make Black Friday An Experience

Brands can fur­ther cap­i­tal­ize on Black Fri­day by turn­ing the day into more of an expe­ri­ence for con­sumers, said Cody Sim­monds, strate­gist at cre­ative agen­cy Struck. “This is some­thing intan­gi­ble that isn’t direct­ly tied to the ratio­nal ben­e­fit of sav­ing on items, gifts, etc.,” he said. “Retail­ers are already doing things to make Black Fri­day more com­fort­able for cus­tomers, such as offer­ing more places to sit, cof­fee, food, etc.”

5. Reward Consumers In Multiple Ways

Retail­ers should also look for emo­tion­al rewards in addi­tion to eco­nom­ic ones. “For exam­ple, a retail­er like Tar­get could use its loy­al­ty card to offer tiered shop­ping times, start­ing with the most loy­al cus­tomers — may­be Red­card users,” Sim­monds said. “This does not have an entire­ly emo­tion­al val­ue, but it elim­i­nates some of the in-store chaos and incen­tivizes shop­pers to shop more fre­quent­ly or apply for a Red­card.” Fur­ther, the­se extra incen­tives can help com­bat price trans­paren­cy as con­sumers real­ize they may not be sav­ing as much on Black Fri­day pur­chas­es after all, he added.

6. Tap Into Distinct Consumer Motivators

Some con­sumers still love the thrill of the hunt when it comes to find­ing great bar­gains, said Sarah Hard­wick, CEO of val­ues-based mar­ket­ing agen­cy Zen­zi. Brands tar­get­ing the­se con­sumers want to build excite­ment for great deals. Oth­er con­sumers may be focused on the tra­di­tion of the sea­son, like shop­ping trips with fam­i­ly and friends or see­ing San­ta and dec­o­ra­tions. “Brands whose top cus­tomers are most moti­vat­ed by tra­di­tion will want to tap in to the cus­tom­ary sights, smells, and sounds of the sea­son to con­nect,” she said. Still oth­er con­sumers may see the hol­i­days as a time to pri­or­i­tize giv­ing back to oth­ers. “Brands whose cus­tomers fall pre­dom­i­nant­ly into this group can bet­ter con­nect with their top con­sumers with inspir­ing cam­paigns focused on giv­ing back and enjoy­ing the spir­it of the sea­son to make life bet­ter for those around them,” Hard­wick said. “The impor­tant thing for any brand is to under­stand what is impor­tant to its top con­sumers and to tap in to those moti­va­tors in a cre­ative, brand­ed way to lever­age what mat­ters the most to their con­sumers dur­ing this sea­son.”

7. Find Shared Values

Julie Lyons, pres­i­dent and COO of Zen­zi, says it’s all about under­stand­ing top cus­tomers and what is most impor­tant to them – and then con­nect­ing with them on those shared val­ues. Again, Hard­wick points to REI’s #OptOut­side cam­paign as a good strat­e­gy because it focus­es on con­nect­ing with cus­tomers’ shared val­ues of expe­ri­enc­ing nature and enjoy­ing the com­pa­ny of oth­ers ver­sus the chaos of the hol­i­day sea­son. “This is a good way for REI to con­nect on shared val­ues with its con­sumers, but it is not nec­es­sar­i­ly the best strat­e­gy for every brand,” she said.

8. Accommodate Millennial Preferences

Mil­len­ni­als are deal hunters and will pur­sue Black Fri­day spe­cials in this tight econ­o­my, but they are also extreme­ly eager to revamp the retail expe­ri­ence to match their dig­i­tal lives, Brooks said. For exam­ple, inter­est in online pur­chas­es that can be picked up at the store is rapid­ly grow­ing, she not­ed.

9. Make Black Friday Work For Your Brand

Brands also need to look at their mis­sions and pur­pos­es and fig­ure out what they can do to make an event like Black Fri­day unique, Sim­monds said, point­ing once more to REI and #OptOut­side. “They’ve cap­i­tal­ized on the wide­spread trend of con­sumer back­lash to the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of the hol­i­days in a way that’s authen­tic to the brand and its pur­pose,” he says. “With­out call­ing it cause mar­ket­ing, [mar­keters should look at] how defy­ing Black Fri­day can work in favor of a brand while build­ing cus­tomer loy­al­ty and cred­i­bil­i­ty in the process.”

10. Consider Closing

If your pri­ma­ry goal is build­ing a brand, rather than max­i­miz­ing hol­i­day sales, you could take a page from REI’s book and close on Black Fri­day, Brooks said. “This will send a mes­sage to your staff and cus­tomers that you stand for more than just prof­its,” she said. “It’s the smart strat­e­gy in the long run than a pric­ing race to the bot­tom.”

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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