We’ve heard countless times that e-commerce is going to be the death of brick-and-mortar retail, and now it seems that not even Black Friday is safe, with Cyber Monday hot on its heels.
It is true that more consumers are opting to shop from the comfort of their own homes. And who can blame them? The novelty of getting up at 4am on a chilly winter’s morning to fight their way through the crowds is starting to wear off.
So the latest debate amongst retailers is about how brick-and-mortar retailers can compete with an event like Cyber Monday. Our advice: don’t bother competing at all.
No, we don’t mean give up and shut up shop - although some retailers are actually closing altogether over the BFCM period.
Instead, we’re arguing that brick-and-mortar retailers should capitalize on what they can offer consumers, rather than worrying about what they can’t offer.
And after all, people are still willing to go to physical stores - according to Adobe, last year 77 million shoppers purchased items in-store, whereas 66 million bought online.
With all this in mind, here are a few ways that brick-and-mortar retailers can boost their sales this Black Friday without worrying about its online competition.
Remember that Black Friday is a marathon, not a sprint
Black Friday might have been limited to just the one day in its early years, but its popularity has naturally led to a gradual extension of deals, with some retailers now offering discounts over a week in advance of the actual day.
Consumers are spoilt for choice over this period, so it’s good sense to start discounting early so that you’re already on their radar when they decide to make a purchase.
Be smart about the kind of deals you offer
The mistake that some retailers make is giving in to the temptation of discounting far too heavily in an attempt to outdo online deals, which can result in major losses that can be hard to recover from.
A smarter move is to use Black Friday as an occasion for clearing aged stock from stores, rather than aggressively discounting everything and losing profit over it.
It’s also important to bear in mind that shoppers are now far more strategic about what they buy on Black Friday. They don’t walk into a store on the busiest day of the year just to browse - they have a plan, they’re on a mission.
Retailers should be anticipating these strategies and drawing customers in by offering them exactly what they’re looking for. Then once they’re in the store and have what they came for, sales associates can focus on increasing their basket size.
Make good use of in-store technology
Just because your customers aren’t shopping online, it doesn’t mean that technology can be taken out the equation altogether - far from it!
More and more shoppers use their smartphones to make a more informed decisions whilst they're actually in the store, whether it's looking up product reviews, checking availability in other stores, or comparing prices.
If you equip store teams with this technology, they can provide the customer with all that information themselves and create a smoother customer experience that will encourage spending.
Social media is also becoming an indispensable tool for retailers, which should absolutely be used to help drive sales over the BFCM period. For example, last year Walmart promoted hourly in-store specials over Facebook. The fact that people are always switched on means that retailers are able to reach them via more channels than ever before and get them into stores.
Another way of utilizing technology is monitoring foot traffic to determine when stores are at their busiest. According to data gathered last year, most consumers shop around midday, and - unsurprisingly - not at the crack of dawn. Understanding and acting on this kind of data can make a real difference to sales figures, as it provides retailers with a much more focused approach to their BFCM strategy.
Focus on the things that online shopping can't offer
Lastly, and most importantly, retailers have to remember what makes them unique in the age of online shopping.
The major selling-point of brick-and-mortar retail is that it provides the customer with an experience. They can actually see and try out products before purchasing them, and get advice from helpful sales associates.
They also don't have to worry about orders being cancelled, extortionate shipping fees, or potentially having to compete with thousands of other customers for one item, like they would online.
As well as reminding shoppers of all of these advantages, retailers might also decide to offer deals that are only available in-store - if there’s one thing people love more than a bargain, it’s an exclusive bargain.
Sure, online sales might have the edge at the moment. But if physical stores stop focusing on how e-commerce is defeating them and concentrate instead on playing to their strengths and making Black Friday shopping an enjoyable experience, the two arenas can - and should - complement each other.
"Fantastic results from our Black Friday campaign and thanks to YOOBIC they all launched on the same day, on time!" - The Foschini Group