In the past, large retailers thought of Black Friday as the biggest single day of the year, one that would determine the success of the quarter, or even the year, in 24 hours. But as the ecommerce boom took root, Cyber Monday and the days in between grew in importance significantly. Retailers and marketers then pivoted to think of Black Friday more as a five day event “Turkey 5” (T5) covering thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, and strategized collectively around this larger window of time for their promotional holiday marketing.
But even with this five-day view, recent trends have suggested that consumers may be eschewing these tentpole holiday moments and seeking deals with a broader timeframe during the holiday season. Enabled in part by higher ecommerce adoption, and demonstrated by the acceleration of promotions happening long before T5 itself, there is evidence to suggest that the landscape is shifting significantly.
But despite these indications of change, exactly how important was Black Friday—or even T5 as a whole—in comparison to the rest of the season? Has the landscape actually flipped, or is it more nuanced? And how should this affect our thinking around retail media networks in addition to DTC sites?
Guidance from Amazon and retail media networks
Retail media guidance from Amazon suggests there still may be truth to the “earlier than ever” trend. This year’s holiday guide for retail advertisers emphasized the importance of holiday tentpole dates as early as October as key moments for media planning. With this methodology, the “holiday shopping period,” where marketers should consider elevating their retail media spend, begins when Q4 does.
While Amazon’s new “Prime Early Access Sale” was not as strong as the company had hoped, the event capitalized on a concern that rising inflation would push consumers to spread holiday purchases over more pay-periods, thus increasing the need to be present with promotional messaging in October. That said, despite early shopping, ~80% of consumers surveyed said they would return to Amazon over the quarter to purchase more holiday items.
Walmart has a broader and more nuanced perspective, given its physical and digital footprint. According to a survey taken of Walmart customers, 82% were planning to shop in store, where 70% planned to visit Walmart.com - indicating many consumers surveyed actually planned to do both, with preference leaning slightly towards in-store purchases.
This is in contrast to overall in-store shopping data which is trending downward - sitecore’s 2022 Holiday Report featured a survey where only 1 in 4 respondents planned to do holiday shopping in-store at all. This data suggests that different retailers have different customer bases who are likely to shop in different ways. Walmart seems to be weathering the economic uncertainties this quarter better than its competitors, partially due to its large grocery business.
Despite the emphasis on “earlier than ever” among media networks and marketers, it’s important to balance against how consumers are actually shopping. One trend many retailers observed this year is uncertainty from shoppers as to the value, frequency and longevity of promotions. One Kepler apparel client kickstarted their T5 sales a full week before Black Friday. While they saw a significant rise in traffic and engagement in the initial days, revenue didn’t immediately follow, indicating consumers were in a “wait and see” mindset to determine whether better sales would follow.
While there is a case to start promotions and increased marketing spending earlier than ever, it may take longer for the market to react and trust that they’re getting the best deals possible. Some brands capitalized on this confusion with clear messaging designed to instill confidence and trust in consumers and drive more consistent sales over the time period.
What does this mean for Black Friday, T5 and retail media?
Successful retail marketers didn’t keep T5 as their singular focus of the season this year, but they likely still saw a large percentage of their sales over those days. Early and smart messaging encouraged consumers to browse and engage, and consistent promotions through Cyber Monday have pushed shoppers to purchase.
When Q4 wraps up, marketers who started holiday early will have benefitted from that more balanced approach, starting in October. But the most successful advertisers will have incorporated the knowledge that T5 is still the most important set of individual dates of the season, leveraging their understanding of the different ways that these trends are affecting their retail distribution partners and their customers.
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