Black Friday is now black November

Retail strategies are forcing PR pros to pivot, says Kite Hill PR's Jeanne Meyer.

A sign announces a price markdown for Black Friday on the display window of a shop in Madrid. ( GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)
A sign announces a price markdown for Black Friday on the display window of a shop in Madrid. ( GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)

In 2020, the tradition of consumers flocking to the big box stores after Thanksgiving in pursuit of Black Friday deals will make way for more of a slow rollout of bargains. In fact, it's looking a lot like Black November, as major brands like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy scuttle one-day doorbusters this year.

The new strategies of retailers are forcing marketing and PR pros to do a quick pivot to adjust tried-and-true plans.

In an effort to maintain safe and socially distanced shopping environments during the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the world's biggest retailers are eschewing the allure of single-day deals in favor of week-by-week offers, contactless payment, home delivery, and curbside pick-up.

One of the biggest PR implications is that local TV news crews and photographers will be looking for other ways to capture consumer activity around holiday shopping in lieu of the traditional shots of long lines and crowded stores.

Smart comms pros would do well to pivot and take a page from Agile workflow concepts. Here are a few smart strategies to consider:

Data and research

Can you offer reporters hard numbers pointing them to trends or activity in the online shopping world for comparisons to years past? Human mobility company Unacast, which works with aggregated, anonymized location data, is often a go-to among retail and real estate reporters hoping to surface trends.

Unacast recently looked at how four brick-and-mortar luxury shopping districts in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco were faring, citing declines compared to 2019 of between 32% and 80%.

The Unacast study pointed out that some mid-priced brands like H&M's location in Chicago's Oak Street district were showing relatively strong performance, approaching 2019 levels by 7%, while Montblanc's Madison Avenue location in New York was down 84% year over year. Another great example? Deloitte's annual holiday insights survey packs up the numbers into some stunning and shareable visuals.

Bring the online experience to life

Brands like Macy's are turning to TVPage to change in-store salespeople into effective online influencers.

They've increased conversion for clients by 500%. TVPage has produced videos helping TV stations explain this trend. In addition, brands like Square and Salesfloor are helping retailers set up physical, visual displays to allow window shoppers to browse outside and then use contactless payment technology to buy what they like. This creates a more interesting visual than showing a shopper sitting in front of a laptop.

Staying home to decorate and chill

More consumers say they're staying close to home this holiday, foregoing out of town trips or even jaunts to the store. Many of these home-bounders are doubling down on holiday decor, according to the National Retail Federation.

With spending on lights, tinsel expected to be slightly up this year, these more extravagant home displays might give news cameras something to capture. Even Saks Fifth Avenue has adapted its usually over-the-top lighting extravaganza, opting for smaller made-for-streaming vignettes and charitable fundraisers with nightly celebrity stars who will be celebrating the season in a way that will engage shoppers in a socially distanced way that will also be a telegenic feel-good story for the media.

Without the traditional stories of shoppers camping out on Thanksgiving and hitting the stores at dawn for their seasonal score, these brands and marketers are demonstrating some clever, highly visual ways to convey the excitement of this extraordinary holiday 2020 shopping season.

Jeanne Meyer is the chief client officer of Kite Hill PR.

(Note: TVPage is a current  Kite Hill PR client and Unacast is a former client.)

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