For this marketer, the chance to experience Black Friday in the flesh is always welcome. It's different, it's fun and it's a great way of witnessing how brands fight it out in the retail battlefield. I mean, what could be a more perfect preamble for the Christmas season? So just like last year, equipped with my camera and my two cousins, we hit the streets of Miami for a reprise of an unforgettable - and crowded - shopping spree.
According to the National Retail Federation, consumers spent approximately $59 billion during Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2012, with an estimated 247 million people who visited stores and websites. As people flocked brick-and-mortar stores, the online platforms exploded. This year was no different.
In 2013, while in-store sales dropped by 2.7%, online sales increased by 15% and 21% on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, respectively. This led many retailers to target mobile and tablets shoppers more than ever before. According to Ron Josey, "This is the first holiday season when mobile is having its mark on overall retail sales. The online frenzy has couriers with higher shipping volumes., with an expected 420 million packages, a 10% increase from last year." The age of online shopping is at an all-time high.
So how did brands compensate? Simple, they started with discounts a lot sooner. By sooner, I mean days - even weeks - in advance. This substitution effect made us ask ourselves: "Why should I spend the day being shoved, when I can enjoy my discounts beforehand without the masses? Or better yet - in the comfort of my own home?" Is this all still worth the hassle? As Rafi Mohammed from the Harvard Business Reviews points out, retailers are stuck with the "discounting prisoner's dilemma."
CNN conducted a survey in which they asked people if considered Black Friday to be worth it, and the result was a resounding "No" by 54%, and comments such as "Online shopping is the way to go" by 37%. True, web deals were hard to beat, but isn't Black Friday supposed to be about the shopping experience? Could online platforms give us that same taste of the holiday season? Is this effort from our part as marketers, to be ahead of the game, to beat the time, eventually killing the purpose of it all in the first place?
On another note, according to the folks of Kenshoo, ad performance was in an all time high. Retailers generated up to 15 times more revenue from Facebook ads on Black Friday and Cyber Monday and saw a growth on its Return on Ad Spend by 93%. But what is really interesting is how Black Friday and Cyber Monday generated triple the average number of conversions with clients.
Will this be an interesting phenomenon to study through the course of the following years? You bet. As far as I can tell, Black Friday is a festivity unlike any other, whose dynamics are transforming before our very eyes. It will be intriguing to see what the next twelve months will bring.
Check out my pictures from this year's Black Friday:
Meanwhile, in Santo Domingo, my sister snapped this picture of one cute little shopper:
"How Thanksgiving lost its Mojo", Rafi Mohammed. Harvard Business Review.
"Cyber Monday Sales at Record as Amazon, eBay win Shoppers", Danielle Kucera. Bloomberg Technology.
"Poll: Do you think Black Friday is worth it?", CNN Money.
"Infographic: How well did Facebook ads perform during Black Friday, Cyber Monday?", Justin Lafferty. Inside Facebook.