My 2012 Black Friday Experience

My experience at Target on Black Friday. What can we, as eCommerce merchants, learn and adapt to our preparation to the Holiday shopping rush.As online retailers we do not get to see our customers in action. So every year I visit a few stores on Black Friday to observe customer behavior on this crucial day. This year I chose to visit Target and since they opened at 9:00PM on Thanksgiving day it was easy for me to be there when the doors opened.
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My Black Friday ‘Real World’ Lessons

This year, for the first time in my life I decided to brave the cold weather and visit the large retail stores on the legendary Black Friday retail celebration day. I wanted to see the madness firsthand and learn about customer behavior. I thought that there is no better time or place then the big box retailers on Black Friday.

I got to Target early in the morning the place was already vibrant with shoppers loading up full shopping carts of discounted merchandise. I saw the discount DVD rack which was placed right by the door. At 7:00 am it already looked as if it has been rampaged. I kept on walking through the store trying to study by listening and observing shoppers as they shop on the busiest shopping day of the year.

Black Friday DealsLooking at the shoppers a few things became very clear. First, many shoppers came in knowing what they were here to buy. These people were not here to just have a good time. They wanted deals on specific items. They were searching for the items they wanted making sure that the prices fit their budget.

Next I noticed that while there were a lot of shoppers in the store they congregated in specific areas. These were areas where special deals were offered and the large green cardboard bins indicated a 48 hour sale. Some areas such as the discount DVD section were busier then others.

When I got into Kohl’s it was slightly later in the day, but still early in retail standards. The place was humming with shoppers searching for deals. Kohl’s had most of their discounted merchandise displayed in the isles which made the isles narrow and with the increased shopping traffic it gave the store a feeling of a bustling market place. In both cases once you left the busy sections the rest of the store lacked the frenzied feeling of Black Friday shopping.

As I strolled through the stores I thought to myself what can an online retailer do? What sort of things are my shoppers looking for when they click their way into my store? How can we create a busy discount section. The deal bins. Still expecting some shoppers to step out into the remote isles and purchase the full priced merchandise. From this inspiration came the idea of the Black Friday / Cyber Monday discount gallery. This gallery was populated with over two hundred and fifty paintings. The art was discounted aggressively with a variety of coupons. However, utilizing cross sell features and full price frames shoppers were still able to find the full price art and frames as well.

This online navigation tactic was a major part in overstockArt.com’s ability to grow sales over the Black Friday Cyber Monday weekend by over 70% year over year. Cyber Monday was our best performing day ever. It goes to show that shoppers make decisions and navigate through a store online very similar to how they would shop in a traditional brick-and-mortar store.

As online merchants we might not be there when customers checkout, however, observing and staying in tuned with the ‘real world’ is an important task that can be converted, at least to some degree, to cyber-space.