For many years, Black Friday has been a huge day for brick-and-mortar retailers —but how is the explosion of eCommerce changing holiday shopping? Today’s retail behemoths build their online and retail deals to meet the needs of a constantly evolving digital and in-store go-to-market strategy. A one-size-fits-all approach to Black Friday advertising is no longer enough: Executives need to know where, why and when their audiences interact with their brands during the holiday shopping season.
The costs of creating a brand’s online and in-store presence can be daunting. More than ever before, consumers are turning to online outlets to make purchases and opting for showrooming (reviewing items in-person before buying at home) when visiting stores, reacting to those shopping experiences through channels online. Companies like Nordstrom have created complementary fast fashion subsidiaries like Rack to promote flash sales, and while there are a lot of online flash sale sites, Rack has an advantage because it offers in-store returns. This allows for the duel and most powerful of experiences: online research and in-person returns and therefore, perusing.
But, if shoppers’ experiences are not satisfactory, you’ll hear about it, in two ways: through customer service reviews and on social media. So how can businesses react appropriately to evolving consumer feedback? And, as we approach the busiest shopping season of the year, what matters most to today’s consumers? Who buys what? How do online audiences differ from traditional in-store audiences? Social media analytics can help provide brands with the information they need to make informed decisions throughout this holiday season, starting with the first retail event of the year: Black Friday.
In this post, we’ll lay out the easiest ways to use social media analytics to understand your brand baseline, your Black Friday audience, your competitive Black Friday advantages and more.
Building a brand baseline for #BlackFriday comparison
So what’s the first step? In order to understand the differences between your Black Friday digital audiences, you need to establish what your brand digital baseline presence is. Let’s focus on two Black Friday mainstays: Kohl’s and Sears.
Above you’ll see the interests of the general audience of social media compared to Kohl’s customers’ interests. This analysis shows us that Kohl’s shoppers are deal-seeking moms who enjoy cooking, makeup and blogs. But what about Kohl’s Black Friday buyers specifically? Do they have different interests than the standard Kohl’s audience? Let’s take a look.
For the most part, the interests are shared between the standard Kohl’s buyer and the Black Friday buyer, but there are a few differentiators to capitalize on. Video games seem to be the sweet spot for Kohl’s shoppers on Black Friday, as video games, Xbox 360, and Xbox are all mentioned as interests.
With this data, Kohl’s can retarget audiences — young gamers — that otherwise might be out of touch for their brand.
Black Friday Competition: Where can you gain attention?
So now that we have a social brand and Black Friday baseline, what can brands do during this time to gain an edge over a competitor? What do these retail audiences have in common? What unique brand differences can these retail leaders leverage from social data? Using Kohl’s as an example, we’ll investigate these questions.
Kohl’s has their individual brand strategy for Black Friday, but how can they compete with other retailers? Analyzing what Sears’ audiences were interested in last year could offer powerful new campaign targeting to win business. What types of posts have been really successful, particularly on newer channels, like Instagram?
Kohl’s knocked it out of the park on Instagram recently with a picture of a relaxing bathtub. This post was shared many times as users framed it as #amazing and #relaxing. Asking its audience to picture themselves in that moment seems to be a successful route.
For Kohl’s competition, Sears, fashion and home decor are definitely driving their successful brand engagement on Instagram. The majority of posts feature an outfit laid out for wear, or an aspect of home furnishings appropriate for the season.
Taking a look at the data, we can see that, overall, people are happier with Kohl’s than with Sears’ during Black Friday. Why is that? What’s the anger about?
Diving into the posts, we can see that advertising fatigue on the 25th was one of the prominent reasons for frustration (an easy fix looking into 2016), as well as a negatively categorized Black Friday joking post that mentioned the brand on Tumblr. So, removing those two factors, this a relatively positive time for both brands. Looking into the conversations related to Black Friday can allow for a better understanding of the public perception of these retail giants during this time.
What audience interests could allow Kohl’s to steal the interest of Sears’ customers?
Comparing the Black Friday audiences of Sears and Kohl’s, we can see that Kohl’s definitely draws some more masculine interests than Sears. Prominent categories show Nascar, Basketball, Games, and NFl are all categories where Kohl’s thrives, while some of the stronger interests in Sears tie to Recipes, Parenting, Ebay, Jeaniene Frost and more.
Comparatively speaking, on Black Friday, it looks like Kohl’s has a larger male audience than its direct competitor. This can be a great time to pivot away from their traditionally female-driven audience to capitalize on some additional business from the other 50% of the population.
Accounting for different Black Friday environments: In-store vs. Online
What makes users want to buy in stores rather than online? There are a number of different reasons, but Kohl’s Black Friday buyers enjoyed the in-store experience last year. The deals are the primary reason they braved the lines, and even though some were exhausted, they were happy to get great prices for what they needed. Online, users were pleased to get their Christmas shopping done in advance with a deal online.
@Kohls thank you for having your black Friday sales early online, I scored 2 great presents and saved $219.00. You are the best.
— Karen Hunt (@karebearv1) November 24, 2015
The majority of Kohl’s conversation was neutral. Some of the most negative posts related to Kohl’s Facebook page, where customers were sharing frustrations about their experiences. The frustrations expressed aren’t too surprising: fear of lines, and exhaustion from waiting in and outside the stores.
Black Friday shopping at kohls I'm so tired I'm going home soon
— ❁ 𝕞𝕒𝕕𝕪 ❁ (@madykatie) November 27, 2015
I went Black Friday shopping at kohls once……………..
— gracie¨̮ (@17gclevenger) November 27, 2015
For Sears customers, third party references helped them achieve success online, like Consumer Reports tagging them in their their latest reviews for home appliances:
Do you have a plan of attack for tomorrow or are you going to wing it?
In person, some shoppers were “pre-shopping” so they knew exactly what items to go for on Black Friday itself. They also seemed excited for the arrival of the shopping day.
— Parenting (@Parentng) November 23, 2015
Overall, the majority of conversation for Sears on Black Friday is neutral, but the negative conversations seem to focus on the potential for aggressive shopping behavior at this events, and frustrations over their experiences ordering online, mostly directed at the company Facebook page.
Uncle Art: Hey Carol, wanna go to Sears for Black Friday?
Aunt Carol: What the hell…No! Are yah nuts?!
— morticia munster🦇 (@taylorrandsuchh) November 26, 2015
All in all, in-person shopping might cause some customers less stress or negative feedback than online. Expectations for in-store have been set, while negative experiences of online shopping are changing and evolving as websites grow to accommodate the flood of users during these holiday specials. In many cases, online shoppers needed to return items to the store to have full discounts applied, which certainly affected sentiment surrounding the Black Friday sales.
So what can today’s retail brands take away from these unsolicited consumer conversations? First of all, troubleshoot your online portals that they are up and running effectively. Gear up your customer service, and listen to the feedback of negative experience to continually improve for the next Black Friday wave.
Retailers can leverage these tips to improve each year making a more user friendly experience for their customers. For more insight on how to use social analytics in the retail world, check our our latest guide here.