How The Digital Experience Is Evolving Black Friday

Black Friday, a term that’s synonymous with the first shopping day after Thanksgiving has become nothing short of an institution. And Black Friday continues to be an important sales driver for retailers. This year retailers began “leaking” digital ads for Black Friday specials as early as November 1st to get consumers excited, and they are doing so for a good reason. According to a recent USA Today article, most sales still happen in actual stores, but online sales are quickly surpassing in-store sales with more than $1 out of every $6 spent online this holiday season, amounting to $124.1 billion.[1]

So it’s interesting to see how Black Friday continues to evolve and embrace the digital experience – especially in the context of rapidly advancing technology that is revolutionizing the sector as a whole. After all, it is technology that has given rise to Black Friday’s online equivalent, Cyber Monday. But if we look to the future, the line between the two events will continue to blur, and the retail experience is likely to change beyond recognition for customer and retailers alike. Below are some examples of the ways this could unfold: 

Stress-free stores

There will always be physical stores on our streets for those willing to brave Black Friday in search of a bargain. But with the advent of smart cities and the rise of autonomous vehicles on the horizon, traffic jams and hunting for parking spaces could soon be a thing of the past. Yet the physical presence of stores and their Black Friday deals may make it difficult for shoppers to completely transition to online shopping, resulting in a compromise— skipping the hectic parking lot madness and traffic by taking an uber to malls and stores, to lessen the craze that Black Friday brings, while still getting the in-store deals. Most likely, the future Black Friday shopper is likely to leave their car, enter the retail fray, and as they are walking past a retail store, be ‘buzzed’ by their smartphone or wearable device with a notification of an enticing sales offer, luring them to enter.

Once inside the store, our future Black Friday shopper will be identified by the in-store Wi-Fi, which also receives their buying habits, courtesy of big data. Like a digital personal shopper, the store’s app can guide customers effortlessly to their items of choice and preference. Even the stress associated with paying is removed, as ‘on-the-go’ methods and digital currencies eliminate long lines and checkouts from the process. In fact, we are already seeing the elimation of lines and checkouts with Amazon’s recent introduction of Amazon Go stores in Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle that use a mobile app to check in shoppers as their purchases are automatically charged as they leave the store.

Virtually painless purchases

For the time-poor who nonetheless enjoy the thrill of strolling the aisles, future Black Friday will pose an alternative option. Customers will be able to wear a VR headset and be transported to a virtual retail emporium. From the comfort of their own home, they will then be able to examine goods, check reviews, ask questions of the staff and chat to fellow VR shoppers. Paradise, surely? Well – maybe not for all.

The new wave of retail events

Some say that predictions of the future can be frightening, exciting, or considered pure fantasy. But the same cannot be said for digital transformation as it’s happening now. Retail stores already have it in their power to draw customers in and keep them there for longer than originally intended. And successful retail businesses have learned how the latest Wi-Fi access points and software defined networking such as SD-WAN can provide easy access to online services, without jeopardizing their own PoS and back office systems.  Riverbed is also seeing many of our retail customers using SD-WAN to open up pop-up stores during the holiday season, or using end-user experience monitoring to ensure POS apps and digital services used by sales assistants or customers are working optimally.

It may be fair to say that autonomous vehicles have yet to become a common sight on our roads, but the number of smart cities grows by the day. For all the right reasons, the Internet of Things is spreading like wildfire across our world, reaching our homes, the places we travel to, as well as the people and systems we interact with. Physical or online retailers that ride the wave of agile, software-defined IT, combined with the visibility and control that comes with big data analysis and machine learning, are already leaving competitors wallowing in their wake as the digital experience continues to shape the future of Black Friday.



5 Techniques to Future-Proof Your Marketing Career

5 Techniques to Future-Proof Your Marketing Career

In the last few years alone, technology has transformed the world of marketing. The advent of AI, for instance, has dramatically impacted the economy, disrupting every industry’s function. In fact, half the Fortune 500 companies have disappeared from the list in the past15 years because they’re unable to keep up with changing technologies (Innosight Report 2016)!

Clearly, the digital world is evolving rapidly, and marketers have to be more proactive than ever to remain relevant. In this rapidly changing landscape, here are 5 skills marketers need to learn to future-proof their careers:

Get comfortable with data-analytics

The marketing industry is no longer guided by intuition. Data analytics has taken the guesswork out of the game, allowing brands to deliver more targeted messaging and measure their returns on investment (ROI). According to the 2016 study by Gartner, 69% of marketing leaders expected the majority of their decisions to be data-driven by 2018. With marketing analytics accounting for 9.2% of the marketing budget in 2017-18 (largest share for any category); it is clear that data analytics is driving the marketing industry, becoming a priority skill for marketers to acquire!

Bring storytelling into brand building

Building brand visibility through storytelling is what every marketer needs to focus on. As the consumer grows more intelligent, smart and effective stories are what will sell the most -catering to different audiences, mindsets and emotions. A key example of effective storytelling is Google Search!

Connect with audiences organically

The adoption of interactive technologies and ever-changing media consumption habits have significantly altered how consumers perceive branded communication messages. Effective content marketing can not only help brands in building trust, generating leads, and cultivating customer loyalty, but it also meets customer where required, organically. Because of its potential to effectively meet the customer’s need for information, content rests at the heart of successful digital marketing campaigns.

AR/VR/AI- immersive experiences are the way to go!

Consumers on digital are highly prone to blocking branded digital content, giving rise to new and engaging forms of content marketing, such as Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR). Such formats are quick, interactive and impressionable, and are ushering in a new era for consumer experiences. Combined with a comprehensive marketing strategy, they can reshape the future of a brand across platforms and devices.

Focus on turning your customers into your brand ambassadors

Engaged with correctly, consumers can become effective mouthpieces for a brand’s messaging. To be able to leverage their potential, marketers need to understand their needs, wants and desires thoroughly, and create unique experiences that cater to these motivations. Such meaningful experiences build loyalty among consumers for the brand, potentially turning them into advocates for the brand’s message – an immense opportunity!

Channel Your Creativity


Retail Role Reversal: Grown-Up Retailers Act Like Start-Ups, And Vice Versa

“We’re moving fast, we’re innovating, we’re having fun.” The words of a start-up retail entrepreneur, right? Well, no, it’s actually an exec from Walmart – Marc Lore (President and CEO of Walmart eCommerce, U.S.).

“All (our stores) are doing way beyond expectations…we can have a really large brick-and-mortar experience.” That’s got to be a legacy retailer, correct? Wrong again. It’s Philip Krim, co-founder and CEO of online mattress retailer, Casper.

Casper store, SoHo, NYCJON BIRD

We’re experiencing a “Freaky Friday” moment in retail – where grown-up retailers are behaving like start-ups, and start-ups are acting more like grown-ups. Perhaps it’s a sign that we are reaching a new level of market maturity after a disruptive couple of decades, post that first fateful headline in the New York Times in 1994 – “Attention Shoppers: Internet Is Open.”

Legacy retailers such as Walmart and Target are swapping big box thinking for a start-up-in-a-garage mindset, with striking results.

Walmart’s latest earning release saw comps up 4.5%, and online sales increase 40%, on the back of a buoyant economy, and innovations like grocery pick-up expansion(now 1,800 stores), new “Pickup Towers” (700 by end 2018), new website, new interactive digital installations in store and new brand acquisitions. As CEO Doug McMillon said: “We are pleased with how customers are responding to the way we’re leveraging stores and e-commerce to make shopping faster and more convenient.”

Target SoHo, New York CityJON BIRD

Competitor Target is also investing heavily in its future, with hundreds of “reimagined” stores, new small-formats, a new drive-through service, the acquisition of grocery-delivery start-up Shipt to facilitate same-day delivery, and the launch of a dozen or more new private label brands in the past year. All that has contributed to good momentum in the second quarter, with “unprecedented” traffic growth of 6.4%, comp sales growth of 6.5% and digital sales surging 41%. According to CEO Brian Cornell, “(we are) putting digital first and evolving our stores, digital channels and supply chain to work together as a smart network to deliver on everything guests love about Target”.

Meanwhile, the start-ups are going old-school as their brands develop and business models mature. JLL Retail Research released a point-of-view last week observing that “E-commerce Retailers Plan 850 Physical Stores in the Next 5 Years.” Among them, Casper is set to open 200 stores in the next three years, lingerie retailer AdoreMe will launch up to 300, and cult sneaker brand Allbirds will continue its physical expansion beyond its recently opened 4,800 sq. foot SoHo flagship*.

Allbirds flagship store, SoHo, NYCJON BIRD

Online pioneer Warby Parker now does more than half its sales in physical stores. And as noted in Retail Dive, most of these new stores are not showrooms – the vast majority are highly productive spaces.

We’re even seeing hybrids of old and new. Both Macy’s and Lowe’s are incorporating b8ta tech discovery centers in store. Macy’s invested in the start-up, as they did in concept store “Story”.

So, on the one hand we have Walmart’s Marc Lore saying that “established companies need to act more like startups”. And on the other hand, The Atlantic reports on the “throwback revolution” of start-ups recognizing the “value of storefronts”. Ultimately this will play out to a new retail reality where there is a singular kind of retailer – one with an “obsessive compulsive focus on the customer” (thanks Jeff Bezos), and one that grants access to its products and services wherever, whenever and however the shopper wants them.

*We need to put the store openings in context, however. According to Coresight Research, there have been 4,799 stores closing in the U.S. year-to-date, and 2,644 openings. So even with e-commerce retailers opening new physical locations, retail real estate is shrinking overall.