This Black Friday is set to be bigger than ever, with pre-sales already up 19 percent year over year, according to IBM. But there is huge overlap on product offerings for many big box stores and if social media is any indicator, the core opportunity (and challenge) is differentiation on anything other than price.
Messages highlighting heavily discounted products, coupons, hashtags and free gifts are everywhere, with one brand even offering to discount a pair of boots by $90 if their Instagram post receives 25,000 likes:
Retailers such as Target, Amazon, Walmart, Sears and many more have kicked off early Black Friday sales, in many cases posting their most aggressive discounts early to get a jump on share of the consumer's wallet this holiday. Amazon is even releasing new deals every ten minutes, creating anticipation and an auction-like atmosphere that drives stickiness on site, time pressure and -- hopefully for Amazon -- a compulsive desire to keep coming back throughout the sale period.
But how can shoppers sustain meaningful excitement when EVERYONE is heavily discounting many of the same products, with no real demarcation between when the sales end and begin? Are we going to soon have Black November with the whole month on sale? It can get overwhelming just keeping on top of all the timing and lists, and Black Friday hasn't even officially begun.
Which has left many wondering -- will we have anything left in us for the actual Black Friday, let alone by the time Cyber Monday rolls around?
If social media is any indication, retailers have nothing to worry about. Since the start of the month, social shoppers have shared more than 120 million moments with retail brands such as Macy's, Amazon, Nordstrom and more -- sharing, commenting, tweeting and liking their way towards Black Friday sales, with no sign of slowing down. This also reflects a 109 percent growth over 2013, based on findings from social media measurement provider Shareablee.
Social clicking is also on the rise, with major retailers receiving 2.2 clicks for every other kind of engagement on social media, indicating that social audiences on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter do find it compelling to click back to a site to learn more about offers, products and other content. In fact, social clicking has risen 127 percent over 2013. This is a particularly strong sign given the opportunity in e-commerce for Cyber Monday, despite the prevalence of Instagram, a platform that has not yet enabled retailers or brands to place live links inside of posts to drove referral traffic.
For me, lining up for hours in order to stampede my way through packed physical spaces strewn with discounted goods has never sounded like an ideal cure for overindulgence on Thanksgiving. But like any shopper, the appeal of the timely discount is strong, and Cyber Monday is a compelling counter balance to the drama of Black Friday -- particularly if I can partake in the shopping tradition in a few clicks, from the warmth and comfort of my home. This becomes truer as each year passes and the lead-up becomes more protracted -- the simplicity of Cyber Monday, a one-day free-for-all in which shoppers get to bypass the in-person madness while deriving much of the benefit. It is a simple way to partake in an established tradition, with a hint of counter culture to it.
As time becomes more scarce, I like to think of this as "Effective/Efficient Shopping Management."