Black Friday & Cyber Monday: New Traditions for Shoppers & Marketers

Thanksgiving leftovers have all been eaten and many Americans already have their stockings hung by the chimney with care. And for the better part of the past week, many of our inboxes were filled with offers of Black Friday and Cyber Monday super deals. Retailers did well again this year, with Black Friday sales up $17.9% to $7.9 billion and projected Cyber Monday sales up 16.8% to $6.59 billion.* But are these two big shopping days still really a big deal?

While holiday shoppers still love a bargain, the way they shop is shifting, thanks to better technology and faster internet. Does anyone remember that Cyber Monday started way back in 2005, when many consumers didn’t have high-speed internet at home and shopped online at the office after returning from the Thanksgiving holiday?

Today, most not only have high-speed connections at home, but also smartphones that allow them to shop anywhere. Those two developments in technology continue to blur the lines of these traditional offline and online mega shopping days. This year, most Black Friday sales didn’t happen amidst crowds that got in line at 4:00 a.m. to rush big box doors when they opened. A full $5.03 billion came from shoppers who opted to stay home and shop online, instead. On Cyber Monday, many shoppers browsed and bought from wherever they wanted, with a record-breaking $1.12 billion of those sales coming from mobile purchases.

So, what do these trends mean for marketers? For some, like serial pranksters Cards Against Humanity, it was business as usual with a big Black Friday PR stunt. The game maker announced it will leave the games industry to focus on its real passion of “revolutionizing snack food.”  The announcement came with real Original Prongles chips appearing on store shelves and a website promoting the stackable snack.

Some retailers walked away from the hoopla all together. REI pretty quietly decided to #OptOutside for the third year in a row, closing its doors and urging consumers to skip the mall and get outside. Arguably it’s less of a stunt at this point than a cultural norm for the brand.

Others crossed over into the Giving Tuesday trend a little early and went charitable with their promotions. ModCloth, literally broke up with Black Friday, shutting down its site for the day and basically giving the “holiday” an “it’s not you, it’s me” on its blog. Employees got the day off and the online clothing retailer donated $5 million to nonprofit Dress for Success. Even Old Navy, famous for its celebrity holiday campaigns, opted to go lower-key with digital-only video spots featuring a voiceover by Jenny Slate and a promotion that donated up to $1 million to Boys and Girls Clubs.

And then, there were those that, well . . . were so over it they forgot to do anything?

As technology continues to influence our holiday traditions, it seems the one thing we can still look forward to (at least for now) is a handful of beautiful, emotive, big-budget TV spots from big brands. How has it changed your holiday traditions as a shopper or marketer?