The end of Black Friday (as we know it): Consumer behavior is transforming retail

by Infor Retail November 23, 2015 Customer Experience

Here’s something different for this year’s Black Friday shoppers: Wal-Mart and Best Buy, two of the largest retailers in the US, are kicking off the shopping season by opening their stores on the afternoon of Thanksgiving Day. So while you’re less likely to get trampled in a Friday morning doorbuster rush, you probably won’t be snatching up the biggest in-store deals unless you’re willing to abandon the turkey.

Elsewhere, businesses like the outdoor goods retailer REI are choosing to “opt out” of the Black Friday proceedings. While REI is a consumer co-op and makes a significant amount of its revenue from membership sales, it latched onto Black Friday as an opportunity to spread its brand philosophy: “We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth.”

Black Friday has always really been a retailer-focused event, forcing consumers to give up time and convenience—and this year, maybe even a second piece of pie at Thanksgiving dinner—for the chance to take advantage of deeply discounted, but limited-time, bargains. Even so, the Black Friday phenomenon has flourished by capitalizing on the fear of missing out and appealing to shoppers who love the thrill and bragging about their 3 a.m. bargain hunts.

“Changes in the retail environment have shifted the balance of power from the retailers to the customers.”

But according to a recent survey, only 18% of shoppers said they would spend more money on Black Friday 2015 than they spent last year, while 24% said they would spend about the same amount, but nearly half—45%—said they planned to spend less this year. Changes in the retail environment have shifted the balance of power from the retailers to the customers.

We live in an era where shoppers no longer need to choose between convenience, quality, and savings—they can find them all at the same time. Now, Black Friday bargains look less enticing than ever, with deals growing stale and e-commerce giants like Amazon already offering free one-day shipping options. In response, retailers are beginning to re-think Black Friday conventions by opening their doors earlier and, in the case of REI, opting out of the proceedings entirely in an effort to recalibrate the experiences that customers want—not just on Black Friday but all year long.

The new reality is that many customers aren’t willing to sacrifice their time to find deals anymore. Today’s brick and mortar retailers are faced with some massive challenges: if they want to keep up, they need to deliver a comprehensive customer experience that can suit the needs of the next-generation shopper. This cultivates deep, long-lasting customer relationships that are built on experiences, making the price point just one consideration in the final buying decision.

At Infor Retail, we’re deconstructing the entire enterprise software paradigm to rebuild it from the ground-up with beautiful design, intuitive social features, and next-generation customer experience functionality that focuses on what customers really want—instead of relying on Black Friday blowouts to grab their attention. This is a complex process, but it’s a crucial next step for any retailer who wants to stay truly relevant in the marketplace.

Whether it’s sending a relevant offer to shoppers on their mobile devices, reaching out to them on a pro-active basis, or letting them customize their experience to match their habits, retailers are in a unique position to elevate the act of brick and mortar shopping. And it’s only the beginning.

Black Friday isn’t going away anytime soon, but big changes in the retail industry will transform it into something entirely new. The spectacle of the event will cease to act as a draw in and of itself: instead, Black Friday will be an opportunity for retailers to create new customer experiences that will delight and attract the shoppers of the future. It’ll remain just as important, but not for the reasons we’ve become accustomed to.

Black Friday is dead, long live Black Friday.

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