The Real Danger of Black Friday/Cyber Monday Madness

The post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy started early this year, with some stores actually holding Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving evening.  Just to complicate things, online merchants started holding Black Friday events, and some brick and mortar stores held Cyber Monday sales.  And in the ultimate confusion, Honda had two full weeks of Black Friday sales events…huh?

But that’s not the real danger of all this madness.
American retailers have traditionally relied on the holiday shopping season for a good chunk of their revenues.  The day after Thanksgiving was when they were likely to break even, or to come out in the “black” for the year.  Not to be left out, online merchants added Cyber Monday, and American Express OPEN started pushing Small Business Saturday a couple of years ago.

But this year, the gloves came off and previously sacred traditions (like Thanksgiving as an actual non-shopping family oriented holiday) were sacrificed.

As consumers, we all love a sale… and we absolutely love a special, limited, exclusive deal that we can get before everyone else.  However, what’s happening now is a race to ruin.  The results are not yet in, but it’s likely that this year’s shopping season will not be much better than last year’s – in spite of an improving economy.

One reason is the focus on Special Daily Deals and disappearing discounts.  We’re training consumers to look for the discount, wait for the deal, and to – heaven forbid – never, ever, ever, pay full price.  As a result, flash sales may bring in business, but at much lower margins.

It’s not just a holiday season problem.  Bed, Bath and Beyond’s 20% off coupons are so ubiquitous (and accepted by stores forever regardless of expiration date) that the store has in effect cut their margins by 20% for all but those few buyers who aren’t savvy or dedicated enough to cut out that big blue coupon.

Macy’s One Day Sale du jour and discount coupons have made it nearly impossible to buy something at the full retail price.  Groupon, LivingSocial, etc. have done the same for many goods and services – why pay full price for a facial or sushi dinner when there’ll be another special deal around the corner any minute?

The problem is that these “deals” result in transactions – they don’t build relationships.  Long-term success with your customers, whether you’re in the B2C or B2B market, requires providing goods and services that your customers value at a fair price to both you, the provider, and to the customer.  It requires listening to what’s on your customer’s mind and being both engaged and responsive in a proactive manner.  It requires responding to and anticipating their needs and going the extra mile.

Consumers flock to Amazon, not just during the holidays but all year, because the value proposition works: good prices on a broad, ever expanding assortment of merchandise, quick delivery, low cost shipping (free with a Prime membership), and a fun shopping experience.

Instead of jumping into the feeding frenzy, take the time to understand your target customers and how you can become indispensable to them…all year round.  To do anything else would be a bad deal for both of you.

About Linda Popky

Linda J. Popky, a past president of WIC and the founder and president of Silicon Valley-based Leverage2Market Associates, helps organizations be heard above the noise. She is the author of the recently released book Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing That Matters. Connect with her on Twitter at @popky

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