As I write this, I'm still shocked by recent news clips of people being trampled in front of a Wal-Mart and by other stories of violence associated with Black Friday. This kind of competitive shopping underscores the physical safety of mail order. Sure, you might get carpal tunnel syndrome from excessive Web surfing or a nasty paper cut from a catalog page, but these maladies are far more easy to avoid than being punched in the face for a cheap laptop.
Interestingly, none of the reporters covering such acts of shopping violence thought to note that some people were avoiding the retail mayhem altogether by making their purchases online. But the blog community, as usual, was alive and kicking. Before, during and after Black Friday, bloggers and their visitors were passing information around on which companies were offering the same discounts online and in the store—as well as which weren't. While you had to weed through what could be a bunch of disinformation, at least the blogs provided you with a starting point for your deal-shopping.
In reading the posts on numerous blogs, one point really was driven home to me: People truly prefer different shopping channels. For every blogger who talked about the excitement (and entertainment) of standing in line to get an Xbox 360, there were just as many who said you couldn't pay them to go to a mall or other retail outlet during the holiday season. And many of them account for the rise of a new term in the marketing world: Cyber Monday. Coined by Shop.org, the association that represents online retailing, Cyber Monday is the Monday after Black Friday and one of online retailing's top sales days. While most online retailers tend to have their strongest selling period between Dec. 5 and Dec. 15, Cyber Monday is generating quite a bit of interest—likely because consumers seem to be using their work Internet connections to nab gift items they either didn't have time to pick up or couldn't locate during their Thanksgiving weekend shopping.
What does this mean for you, the direct marketer? Even if you have retail stores, you can capitalize on the growing number of consumers who are going online to conduct their holiday shopping. I, for one, would be sure that my promotional messaging around Black Friday offered great deals to online customers as well as the benefit of not having to leave their warm homes with shields and nunchucks to find great gifts at a good price. And think of the business you might be able to scoop up right after Black Friday with a few well-timed e-mails letting tired, frustrated consumers know the best deals are not all gone—they need only visit your site for door-buster specials.
As always, the best results come from giving the right audience the right offer at the right time … and in the right channel.