Black Friday during a pandemic? A retailer's guide to Black Friday marketing and care

Jackson Kushner

The weather may have only cooled down in the past few weeks, but retailers and consumers alike are already gearing up for the holidays. Pumpkin scented candles are wafting throughout the US and holiday wishlists are being prepared.

November through December, especially Black Friday, is typically the busiest shopping season of the year. And all of that holiday magic requires a ton of little (and expensive) elves making the magic happen behind the scenes. Think holiday marketing campaigns, building up stock, and shoring up customer service teams. It's high stakes with major rewards. But 2020 has been different from previous years in so many ways — what about the holidays? Is your retail brand ready for a post-COVID-19 Black Friday?

Whether you are planning a standout holiday campaign or anxiously awaiting an uptick in seasonal care volume, we’ve gathered insights using Khoros Deep Listening looking at the National Retail Federations’ top 100 retailers to uncover useful insights for retail marketers and customer care agents to crush Black Friday and beyond.

When does holiday shopping officially start?

While the holiday shopping season seems to creep earlier each year, the week of Thanksgiving still heralds its official start. The moment Thanksgiving dinner comes to an end, Black Friday will gear up, online more than ever this year.

Of course, Cyber Monday is in itself a major shopping day, and with more people staying home to shop for the holidays this year, it may grow in size. But even so, Black Friday still reigns supreme for holiday shopping.

So, let’s get a bit more specific.

When do consumers set the clock to shop for Black Friday?

Understanding when consumers shift their focus from their Thanksgiving meal to shopping is paramount when scheduling marketing campaigns to promote your Black Friday deals. You want your emails, social media posts, and paid ads to hit the right audiences at the right times. Generally, this is when your audience stops talking turkey and #BlackFriday conversations take over for various retail sectors:

As you can see, the typical consumer uses those post-turkey hours to browse for promotions, generally starting around 6:30 p.m. When scheduling social media posts or digital advertisements, remain conscious about the hours when you'll get the biggest bang for your buck in terms of engagement. A majority of consumers are in the mindset to shop at this point, so it's up to retailers to make their deals front and center.

For strategies to make the most of Black Friday, check out our blog post on how to boost your holiday marketing campaigns.

Is your customer care team ready for the influx of support requests?

An increase in shopping means an increase in customer care volume across channels. Social mention volume spikes during the holiday season, so staff accordingly.

*MoM comparison between 11/25-12/26 and the month prior.

To properly prepare your customer care team for the influx of support requests during Black Friday, you'll need a multi-pronged approach including staff and processes for social media customer service, online chat, and contact centers.

In many ways, how your retail business handles customer support needs around the holidays is just as important as marketing. While your campaigns might get potential customers in the door, customer care has the power to create customers for life — or ruin your chances of that person ever becoming a customer.

A recent Khoros survey found that when consumers interact with a brand on social media, about half of them expect a response within three hours. On Black Friday, with its emphasis on scoring deals before they sell out or end, this timeframe is likely much shorter. And if brands fail to respond within a consumer's expected timeframe, it can result in that consumer not purchasing from the brand again, not to mention discouraging friends and family from purchasing. On the flip side, brands that meet consumers' expectations are more likely to foster loyal customers who will also serve as unofficial — but powerful — brand ambassadors.

Who’s talking to you during the holidays?

During the holidays, expect to hear from gift-givers and gift-recipients alike. Who is actually mentioning your brand? The following stats show the ratio of men vs. women engaging in Twitter conversations related to retail sectors during Black Friday through December.

How will the 2020 holiday shopping season be different?

Black Friday 2020 is bound to take the biggest divergence from any other Black Friday in history. Not only are we dealing with a global pandemic, which makes in-person shopping and large crowds much more complicated, but thousands of Americans have also lost their jobs and the economy is vulnerable. And while we can make predictions about what Black Friday will look like this year, virtually all of us are entering uncharted territory. It’s never been more important for retailers to be prepared for anything that might come.

For most retailers, this means taking a fresh look at how they approach the holiday season. Typically, peak holiday shopping runs between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This period is where brands put most of their focus and the largest promotions occurred. This year will be different as more retailers are planning to start holiday promotions much sooner. Walmart announced that it would run Black Friday-like sales in mid-October during its Big Save Event. Likewise, both Amazon and Target announced mid-October their own promotions.

Some retailers are starting early and extending promotion length. After its Deal Days event, Target will run additional holiday promotions on its website throughout the whole month of November. HomeDepot announced that it would hold holiday promotions that start in early November and run all the way through Christmas.

Retailers such as Macy’s say they are also relying on new curbside pickup options to capitalize on holiday shopping this season. This will be ideal for last-minute shoppers and shoppers who want to save on shipping costs.

Plan smarter campaigns and provide better customer care all year long

Black Friday presents a major opportunity for retailers to improve processes that can sustain them beyond the holiday shopping season. Sustainable processes, however, require reliable and multi-faceted systems. Khoros' suite of digital-first communication tools was built to help major retailers in times just like this. Khoros Deep Listening provides immediate, accessible, and actionable insights to inform your social marketing campaigns, while Khoros Care offers a comprehensive customer service center, including social care, modern chat, and messaging.

To learn more about how Khoros can help take your brand's digital presence to the next level, schedule a demo today.

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