How Retailers Are Preparing to Stand Out on Black Friday

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Black Friday and the holiday shopping rush are getting closer — and retailers are getting prepared. Inflation and economic uncertainty have the potential to make the 2022 holiday season a rocky one, putting extra pressure on retailers to beef up their marketing and advertising strategies even earlier than usual.

Walmart released its 2022 Top Toy List in August this year, months before most consumers start their holiday shopping. It’s just one example of retailers looking to get a head start on the season.

The days when consumers would wait until Black Friday to start their holiday shopping are long gone. According to the National Retail Federation, nearly half of consumers last year started their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving. The trend is expected to continue this year, as more shoppers search for discounts and deals as a way to combat the effects of inflation. 

Forty-two percent more shoppers worldwide and 37% more in the U.S. plan to start buying gifts earlier this season, according to Salesforce, with inflation cited as the main motivating factor driving those early purchases. Concerns over potential supply chain issues and shipping delays are also leading consumers to lock in their must-have items earlier than usual.

“In today’s economic climate, there is extra pressure for retailers to stand out from their competitors and create an environment that provides comfort and trust in shopping decisions, no matter what channel shoppers use,” says Janelle Estes, chief insights officer at UserTesting, a company that delivers on-demand consumer insights to brands.

UserTesting recently released new test templates to help retailers prepare for the Black Friday and holiday shopping rush by gathering feedback from customers before, during, and after their buying journeys. UserTesting’s new templates include pre-built test plans, which retailers and marketing teams can use to formulate Black Friday promotions that drive greater sales and offer a better understanding of shopping behaviors in real-time.

Estes says now is the time for brands to put the tools in place, so they can keep up with the demand of consumers who expect fast, automated digital experiences. Once the holiday rush hits, it might already be too late.

“This all comes down to deeply understanding customers’ perceptions and expectations,” Estes says. “Retailers should focus on improving their CX and can do so by deeply understanding customer behavior and attitudes and then tailoring experiences based on what your customers need most.”

Many retailers made adjustments to their customer experience in 2021 in an effort to adapt to the new hybrid digital and physical shopping trend. They added features like curbside pickup and contactless delivery options, and consumers got accustomed to a new, higher level of service. However, data shows that store traffic continues to increase as more people get “back to normal,” and the strategies that worked for attracting shoppers during the 2021 holiday season might feel stale this year.

“The key here is that customer needs and behaviors change rapidly,” Estes says. “This makes it more important than ever for brands to understand customers, their intents, and their behaviors so that they can adjust their strategies accordingly in order to create experiences that meet customers where they are.”

Understanding those intentions and behaviors comes down to data. Tracking clicks and talking regularly to customers are just two things that Estes says retailers should be doing to better understand what shoppers really need and expect during the holidays and beyond.

“This provides a holistic picture of not just what your customers are doing; it helps you understand their mindset, how and why they choose to buy, and what else they want from you,” Estes says. “By understanding users’ preferences and behavior, retailers can tailor experiences for their customers that will ultimately drive sales and build a loyal customer base.”

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.