Black Friday events of yesteryear looked very different from those of 2018. There’s a noticeable shortage of viral videos depicting shopper stampedes or hand-to-hand consumer combat this holiday season.
Some have even declared Black Friday to be “dead,” though that’s an extreme statement.
Tech innovation is impacting retail and retail events like Black Friday in a big way. Here’s what’s really happening: Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) are losing distinction as sales stretch for weeks instead of a single day.
The frenzy of finding deep discounts can no longer be confined to a single day, nor within the four walls of a physical store.
Grocery stores have never been prime locations for Black Friday action—but they’ll be impacted by the digital shift too. Grocers face increased competition from tech-powered hypermarkets who are moving into the grocery vertical, and increased price scrutiny from cost conscious customers.
The danger is real—but so is the opportunity.
Crowd sizes are down… but profits are up.
Web shopping and click-and-collect solutions (also known as BOPIS or Buy Online, Pickup In-Store) give grocers new ways to lure shoppers in and capture more consumer dollars during holiday rush periods.
2018’s Black Friday saw shorter lines and less in-store chaos, but 2018’s overall holiday season may boast record breaking sales numbers. Adobe Analytics found that this year’s Cyber Monday broke the online sales record at $7.9 billion. They also found a massive increase in volume for sales made via smartphone and click-and-collect / BOPIS:
“Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPIS) over the weekend saw a record 50 percent increase year-over-year. As the online and offline retail experience continues to blend, retailers with physical stores drove 28 percent higher conversions online.”
Adobe Analytics Data Shows Cyber Monday Broke Online Sales Record with $7.9 Billion
From Thanksgiving to Christmas, there’s a digitally-powered holiday shopathon going on even as in-store crowds seem to be shrinking.
There are a number of factors contributing to this shift:
- Always-online consumers are now searching and finding deep discounts throughout the year.
- Retailers are extending discounts and deals well beyond one designated Friday. (Alibaba, for example, has even created their own shopping holiday with Single’s Day.)
- Web shopping is on the rise. Some shoppers will prefer to stay home entirely and select a delivery option.
- Click-and-collect solutions are rising in popularity. More and more, consumers are doing their primary shopping online and grabbing a few last-minute items while in-store.
That last point is particularly relevant to grocers.
Click & Collect is blurring the lines between in-store and online shopping.
People are less likely to pitch a tent outside of their local Best Buy or Walmart when they can simply open up their phones and scroll through the same sales from the convenience of their homes. Why stand in line and deal with the hassle of being trampled by a crowd while you are trying to browse merch?
why don’t grocery stores participate in black friday?? i don’t need 20% off a flatscreen – give me half price tide pods and $1 coffee creamers and then you better believe i’ll be at the doors at 3am
— sarah kirby (@sarahgkirby) November 23, 2018
There’s still the factor of time. Ordering online around the holidays and selecting delivery may mean delays. Shoppers want immediate access to their purchases… but without the lines. That’s where click-and-collect comes in.
Click-and-collect is exactly what it says it is. The ability to shop online (click) via web or mobile device and then pick up (collect) items in-store.
Rob Preston, wrote in Forbes for Oracle BRANDVOICE, that:
“One analytics firm estimated in early November that the volume of such “click-and-collect” orders in the US more than doubled since January 2018 across all retailers and increased about 250 for large retailers.”
If the numbers are accurate, that’s huge and it’s happening fast. Imagine what might happen for volume in the grocery vertical if grocers get into the game. (Imagine what might happen if they don’t.)
Why should grocers give in to Black Friday?
Most grocers are already busy around the holiday rush and they’re making lots of sales, even without creating their own Black Friday campaigns. After all, everyone’s gotta eat and everyone has a need for household goods. So why do grocers need to change things up? Why give into the Black Friday spirit?
Grocers could leverage click-and-collect crowds the same way other retailers do. They could use the opportunity to:
- record consumer data for marketing research,
- upsell and increase consumer spend online and in-store, or
- offer targeted promotions.
A Black Friday in grocery might also eliminate any post-Thanksgiving sales slump. Who is going grocery shopping the weekend after Thanksgiving? Most American consumers will have a fridge full of leftover food… but with the right deals, a grocer might possibly persuade shoppers to part with a few more dollars and abandon the leftovers, cold turkey!
Commerce is converging. Digital channels extend a brand’s reach so that a retailer can interact with a customer at almost any time, any place. Given that they can, they should. Soon e-commerce will simply be commerce. Nearly all in-store transactions will rely on and be enhanced by internet functionalities.
Why not be proactive and propel your profits along the way?
The results of 2018’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday are indicative of what comes next for retail. Retail will offer an experience where both online and offline interactions impact their bottom line and define their personal relationship with each of their customers. It’s up to grocers to make those relationships profitable.
Global giants will defeat grocers who refuse to innovate.
Hypermarkets, like Walmart, are already well established as Black Friday bastions and they’re embracing click-and-collect / BOPIS. Hypermarkets are also fighting for grocery dollar share.They are an existential threat to pureplay grocers.
Here’s a quick (but by no means comprehensive) rundown of threats on the horizon:
- Amazon is moving into physical spaces with their acquisition of Whole Foods and the debut of their automated Amazon Go stores. They plan to open thousands of locations in the years ahead.
- Walmart and Target are advancing into grocery and technology e-commerce verticals too, acquiring Jet.com and Shipt respectively, to facilitate deliveries.
- In Asia, Alibaba is aggressively moving to fuse digital and physical retail into one experience as well — and they’ve got their eyes on Western consumers. They’re simply calling their fused approach “new retail.”
There’s also growing concern that delivery services (like Instacart) may someday compete with the very stores they currently rely on for order fulfillment.
Do grocers have to move into a hypermarket format?
Kroger is considered a supermarket pure play, but they’re the biggest brand on the block in the vertical. They’re getting tech-focused too. What’s more, they’re inching further and further toward a hypermarket approach, even launching their own fashion brand for clothing.
Does your local or regional grocery enterprise need to follow in their footsteps?
Not necessarily. Grocery stores won’t win more market share by simply taking an “also-ran” approach when it comes to innovation in technology or service. They can’t simply copy what’s come before. But hypermarket presence does promise increased competition from companies that are already playing the Black Friday game… and click and collect capability is a key component. They’re campaigning from January to December with deep discounts, targeted marketing, and a promise of convenience.
Grocers have to commit to connecting with their customers on all channels, and campaigning just as hard… harder than their larger and sometimes more sluggish hypermarket competitors. They have to establish authenticity, appeal, and trust using every tool available.
Black Friday Forever
Grocery pureplays can still beat big box competitors, it’s a winnable battle. (But it’s also one grocers can’t choose to ignore.) Grocers have to out-innovate their conglomerate competitors. Deploying powerful technology is the first step to out-innovating the competition, not the end point. To win will require extreme authenticity and unbeatable brand appeal.
If you’re a grocer, here’s how you can make every day Black Friday:
- Always offer incentives via loyalty programs.
A good loyalty program further reinforces efforts to establish personal connections and brand authenticity. Loyalty programs that cater to customer shopping habits and those programs that frequently reward those habits will keep them coming back into your store.
- Encourage trips into brick and mortar locations with beacon technology.
Offering deals exclusively through proximity will help you increase customer spend and facilitate upsell opportunities. With beacon technology, a shopper’s mobile device becomes another salesman for your store. Shoppers will come to know that a trip into your store may mean deeper discounts than a routine run to a hypermarket.
- Sell the experience with smart store design.
There are many reasons that click-and-collect solutions are more popular than online ordering and delivery, but one is pretty simple: people still like to browse with their own eyes. Smart store design, heavily curated product offerings, and in-house experiences (think cooking classes, coffee, and cafes) can keep the crowds flowing. Click-and-collect functionality can play a part too, cutting down checkout times by busting up long lines.
- Focus on providing personalized, human-driven customer service.
Amazon’s Alexa may be able to tell you about the weather, but she still can’t tell you what her favorite local craft brew is. She also can’t recommend her favorite brut champagne for your New Year’s Eve party. With high-touch, human-driven customer service, your store staff can help establish your brand as an important, authentic part of your local community.
Black Friday was once the capstone of gamification in retail marketing: a single day of sales the customers couldn’t bear to miss. In an age of commerce convergence and digitally-powered deals, Black-Friday-like deals are becoming a year-round sport. To defend their turf or even take more market share, grocers need to treat every day like Black Friday.