2. Focus on experiences, not just transactions
Once you have a strategy in mind based on understanding who your customers are and what they want, the second part of the jigsaw is providing the experiences that will encourage them to spend more with you.
While discounts and promotions, as always, will be a critical part of your peak holiday shopping strategy (not least because consumers are feeling the financial pinch), it is important at this time to look at the bigger picture beyond sales. Customers want products, yes. But they also want reassurance, support, the feeling that they are buying from brands that care. Black Friday 2020 could end up being the first ever to take place under an enforced lockdown. In that case, it is important to position yourself as supportive and engaging, rather than overly commercial and potentially exploitative.
On your digital channels especially, much of this boils down to optimizing your content and understanding the role it plays in customer journeys. The old-fashioned linear ‘sales funnel’ is dead - modern consumers take all sorts of paths through inspiration and discovery, using multiple different channels, before deciding to buy. Your content is what locks them into your brand. For that reason, your content and the experiences you create have to work seamlessly across all channels, across both marketing and commerce operations.
Nowadays, you have to be ready to engage where you sell and sell where you engage—that’s what we mean by an omnichannel approach.
Experiences and engagement start with messaging, and as we have noted, there should be a big emphasis on reassurance this year. This obviously relates to getting your COVID policies right. If stores are open, use your digital channels to promote what measures you have put in place around social distancing, staff protection, and so on, how you intend to mitigate the impact on the in-store experience in terms of waiting times, etc. Letting people know what to expect will go a long way to addressing concerns.
There is also a more general need to address a certain amount of skepticism around Black Friday and other peak season events. Last year, 59.9% of shoppers said that they thought that Black Friday deals are misleading and only 27.9% of consumers believe that they get the best deals of the year during Black Friday. In the wider context of reassurance and building rapport, transparency over deals will be essential this year.
Finally, perhaps the strongest overarching narrative you can create around this year’s peak campaign is this—we’ve all had a long, tough year, and we’re not out of the woods yet; but right now you deserve a treat. We know that a majority of shoppers use the Black Friday period to do some of their holiday shopping (64% of consumers last year), but we also saw 41% of people treating themselves to something in 2019.
The holiday gift trade is guaranteed, although we may see revenues from it fall as consumers become more cautious with their spending. Pushing the "self-gift" trend with the right "treat yourself" messaging and product placement to encourage cross-sales could go some way to counter this.
Finally, take care not to come across as trying to cash in, at a time when many consumers are struggling. Think about balancing your more overt promotional tactics with community-based or charitable gestures—perhaps donating a small donation per sale to the NHS or local charities for example.