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Does Black Friday Exemplify Wartime Retail?

Wartime retail. I first heard this phrase about a year ago, but at the time thought it was a bit extreme. As the year went on, I started to realize there might be something to it. After “Black Friday,” I’m convinced there is.

Retailers and marketers pulled out all the stops this year, turning “Black Friday” into a week-long event. There were “Better-Than-Black-Friday” sales, retailers opening at midnight on Thanksgiving night – some didn’t even close for the holiday – and in addition to the discounts, some offered money back in the form of gift cards for certain purchases. Several of the major retailers finally clued in, offering many of the same in-store sales online – and those that didn’t missed a huge key segment of buyers. Even Apple finally jumped on the bandwagon and offered deep discounts. That in itself points to the current situation…wartime retail.

Black Friday, however, shouldn’t be relegated solely to large, big-box retailers. Independent small businesses absolutely need to be in the mix competing for the traffic. Even if the marketing budget is minuscule compared to the national chains, it’s essential to get out there through other avenues.

Take social media for example, from Nov. 5 through Nov. 28, Google tracked more than 13 million blog posts mentioning “Black Friday.” On Twitter during that same time period the average daily posts topped 55,000. People are talking about great deals and they’re sharing the information with their friends. Obviously the same golden rules of social media still apply. Focus on information rather than shameless self promotion.

If you missed the boat on Black Friday, commit yourself to getting your name out there for “Cyber Monday,” which is just hours away, or throughout the rest of the holiday season. What are you doing to engage an audience that’s already listening? Can you partner with other local retailers to offer deals? Non-retail based businesses can also tap into the season. Restaurant owners might offer specials for hungry and tired shoppers or run promotions on gift cards.

Recently, 12 downtown Phoenix retailers joined forces to host a Twitter Hunt, a scavenger hunt that not only brought potential buyers to all 12 spots, but also helped develop deeper relationships with consumers. Local First Arizona is also helping local retailers with its Buy Local Week, an opportunity to get your promotions in front of Arizona residents.

Bottom line, get creative with your promotions and how you are engaging your target audience. Remember it’s wartime retail.

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