Guest Column | November 20, 2018

The Best Retailers Are Leveraging These Experiential Trends On Black Friday

By Ben Hindman, Splash

Black Friday And Cyber Monday Purchasing Decisions

Retail is evolving––and Black Friday might be the ultimate yardstick.

For many retailers, the chance to drive sales via big discounts dominates their holiday marketing strategy. But the most enterprising retailers are treating Black Friday like much more than a shot at boosting their in-store sales: they’re treating it like a unique opportunity to welcome consumers to connect with their brand in meaningful and memorable ways.

If your brand hopes to make an impact during one of the biggest sales of the year, you need to step out of the box, and get ahead of your competitors. Here are some of the most effective experiential marketing strategies retail brands are serving up this season.

Strategize Your Guest List (And Customize Your Approach)

Getting the right people in the room is important, but it’s much harder to pull it off with a one-size-fits-all approach. Your brand may cater to a few customer types who care about different things (e.g. your stores may want to reward existing customers to drive loyalty, but they also need to get new people through the door). This range of audiences ups the need for a targeted, personalized approach.

For your existing customers, use what you know about them to share event information they’re likely to find relevant (and de-emphasize whatever they probably don’t care about).

For your potential brand-new foot traffic, collect guest data (to complement their customer profiles) in exchange for a future discount or in-store perk. Whether or not they make a purchase during the event is less important than showing them a good time and making sure there’s a way to remind them about it afterwards.

Leverage Internal Influencers

Some of your most capable brand ambassadors are also your employees. Whether they help host or promote your Black Friday event, tapping into your existing workforce can prove just as effective as working with external influencers.

Just ask the marketing team at Macy’s. As of June 2018, their internal influencer program includes 300 store employees and stylists nationwide. For a sales-based commission, their influencers share short video clips featuring equal parts product and personality.

When you apply this approach to an in-store event, you put the real ambassadors up-front––all of the great team members on staff who live and breathe your brand every day. They’re the experts capable of telling some of the most authentic stories.

Provide An Escape From The Madness

Black Friday events imply chaos. From overnight campouts to aggressive stampedes, the stress associated with participating in person can rob brick-and-mortar shopping of its distinct appeal.

Believe it or not, this is great news for retail brands. If you can create an event that offers customers a reprieve from shopping––think yoga sessions, tea parties, or alternate reality (AR) experiences––your brand will do more than set itself apart. You’ll elicit positive emotions like appreciation, relaxation, and feeling understood, and you’ll get people in your store.

These are the things shoppers will remember the most (plus, make sure you’re capturing event data without disturbing the peace!).

Incentivize Individual Stores

Nothing motivates a team quite like transparency around numbers. That’s why the most successful retailers set measurable event goals and regularly share the results with their stores.

Making sense of the data can be daunting, but the benefits are empowering. Stores gain recognition––and extra bonuses, in many cases––for an event well done. They may also receive store-specific coaching to address factors that might limit event success. You’ll know you’re doing incentives right when everyone has a vested interest in helping the business drive revenue.

In the process, event performance becomes a front-of-mind metric for everyone, a shift which encourages and rewards a growth mindset.

About The Author

Ben Hindman is co-founder and CEO of Splash, the fastest-growing end-to-end event marketing technology used by over half of the Fortune 500. An event planner turned tech entrepreneur, events are in Ben’s DNA. Prior to starting Splash, Ben was the Director of Events at Thrillist, where he produced large-scale events from concerts to mystery fly-aways. He is also a co-founder of the Summit Series, the renowned invite-only destination event for the greatest minds in tech.