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How Black Friday Went Digital
By: Kevin Weaver
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If we've seen it once, we've seen it a thousand times. Hundreds of people lined up outside a department store in the wee hours of the morning. They're snuggled up in their winter coats and huddled together to keep from freezing to death. Thanksgiving has come and gone and now it's time for a real all-American tradition: Black Friday. 

There was a lot of uncertainty about how this past weekend of shopping would play out. Consumer behavior proved tough to predict with millions of people on the east coast recovering from hurricane Sandy and the underlying thought of an impending "fiscal cliff" looming. But this past Thanksgiving weekend proved to be another successful one while both Internet and mobile purchases soared.

Unlike in previous years, big box retailers like Sears, Target, and Walmart all elected to open their doors on Thanksgiving day with the idea that they would be able to gain customers who would otherwise wait in lines at other stores early Friday morning. This is a pretty good idea and I'm surprised that no one tried this sooner. Opening their doors a day earlier did have its effects on Black Friday and the rest of the weekend, but not in the way you might think. While foot traffic on Black Friday was up 3.5% from last year, brick-and-mortar sales dipped down to $11.2 billion, which is a 1.8% decrease. What this means is that more people were price shopping rather than spending their dollars in the brick-and-mortar stores. 

By giving people an extra day, you effectively give consumers more opportunities to shop around and find the best deal. Shoppers peruse through stores equipped with their smartphones and iPads, comparing prices to items online. Most retailers were forced to match prices online, which resulted in a drop in the average purchase price, both online and in stores. The Internet has heightened the sense of competitiveness in business and never was that more clear than this weekend. Retailers must figure out a way to show consumers the value of their products without having to reduce pricing and undercut the market. 

With other shopping days like Super Saturday, Cyber Monday, and now even Thanksgiving, Black Friday runs the risk of getting lost in the shuffle. What's more is that it's clear that online shopping is becoming the norm. In fact, Cyber Monday was the biggest online shopping day of all time, with an increase in online sales of 30.3% from last year. That being said, what sense does it make to stand in the freezing cold when you could be at home shopping on your computer? Are we seeing the beginning of the end for this 24-hour long shopping extravaganza?  

No way! Black Friday has been so ingrained into our lives that it is almost like a rite of passage. People want to wait outside of a store so that they can say they actually did it, not so they can get an extra $20 knocked off their Xbox.  

   

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About the Author
Kevin Weaver is a marketing professional in Wichita, KS with two years of experience. Past and present work includes email marketing compaigns, client e-store development, social media, and destination marketing.
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