Say Good-bye to Decades of Holiday Shopping Traditions

 With Thanksgiving being late this year it feels like all the world is out to compress our holiday shopping into a week-long frenzy of spend, spend, spend. As a mother of four boys I’m grateful for the sales that unfold each day. As a marketer I am fascinated with the change in how businesses of all types promote themselves. As a human I am disappointed we don’t do a better job of aligning purchase need with buying process.

The magnitude of change hit me on Thanksgiving. After eating more than our full share of turkey, stuffing and pies galore my sister and I sat with bellies full in my living room. Content we readied for our post feast tradition. Looking through all of the Black Friday flyers in the local paper. Only this year, Mom (who was the unofficially paper keeper) hadn’t thought to bring the loaded paper along. The incident led to several bad jokes about our being deprived. But once the laughter settled I realized that holiday shopping traditions have made a permanent shift – the transition years are gone for good.

  • Black Friday isn’t really a day any more – Black Friday used to be a real milestone for shoppers. It was a day when legions of people would brew their caffeine of choice, gather together in stretchy pants and sneakers and set out on a well calibrated schedule of shopping extraordinaire. With extended hours, on-line shopping and sales that go for days there is a cultural shift in the camaraderie of Black Friday gatherings. For many this is a long-awaited blessing. But for many it is a bit sad that their rallying point is no more. Regardless of your personal participation in Black Friday festivities of yesteryear one thing is certain – bargains can be found, but the security of knowing you have the best deal in town is no longer certain.
  • Encourage new ways of impulse buying for the online community – The dismay of every young child’s parent  are hose darn shelving units right at the cashier aisle. Filled with candy, drinks and silly gadgets no one needs every child goes into almost instant “I want that” mode. The in-store shopping experience has been built upon the science that we never out grow the “I wants” when presented with impulse buying options. But with fewer in-store shoppers – impulse buying principles have to change dramatically. Marketers have to seek out new ways of getting that buyer to add just one more item to their shopping cart – now virtually! And frankly, most do a terrible job.
  • Rise of the eTickler – Are you old enough to remember the Sears and JC Penny catalogs of yesteryear? When I was young my grandmother would take out these huge books of toys and give me a marker. I would spend hours diligently going through the book, circling all the toys that I wanted for the holidays. It was a visceral experience I will never forget. Today we have electronic wish lists, links to shopping carts, and the never-ending internet to browse. The possibilities are limitless, and there in lies the challenge for marketers. How do you get attention on your goods?

With all the rush to collect the last bits of 2013 revenue its easy to get lost in making the next sale. But we shouldn’t forget that our brands are more than the latest deal we closed. Our brands have to sustain us through the craze of the holidays and far beyond.

There is some good news. Cultural change offers us the opportunity to try new approaches.

Participate in #GivingTuesday – Just because people are on the hunt for a bargain does not mean they don’t have the spirit of giving in their heart. Whether it’s offering charitable donations in lieu of discounts on #GivingTuesday, or giving back a piece of your profits during sale season, showing your charitable side appeals to many buyers and may just inspire an extra level of loyalty.

Celebrate Technology – In this case I don’t mean your website and marketing automation tools. Those are business fundamentals. What often gets overlooked is your community. Say thank you. Offer season’s greetings. Crack a good joke. It’s not only OK, it’s critical you help your community enjoy the festive season. How do you leverage Facebook to get into the festive season with your most loyal advocates? Can you be seen as a resource for frenzied shoppers? Are you leveraging Pinterest and Instagram to showcase your audience?

Stay True To Your Brand –  It’s easy to get lost in communications about the next big discount, but it is a mistake not to leverage your voice in non-price related ways. When the only communication we have is about price discounts we risk de-valuing our products and services.  Discounts and special offers drive holiday shopping behavior just remember not to make your communications all about low price. Remember your value.

I for one can’t wait to see how these cultural shifts continue to evolve.

Happy shopping to all!