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

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, the 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, which 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.”

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