Your customers aren’t waiting till Black Friday, neither should you

Your customers aren’t waiting till Black Friday, neither should you

You may already know this, but turns out your customers aren’t waiting till Black Friday to shop for the holidays.

In the past few years, many consumers have been starting their shopping well ahead of the unofficial Black Friday kick off to the shopping season. The retail weekend bracketed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) has evolved into an entire month, creating opportunities for marketers that pace themselves throughout — and prior to — the holiday season.

Shoppers have been getting an early start for years. According to an NPD Group survey (free, registration required) of 3,605 consumers in September, about one-fifth of consumers had started their holiday shopping in September or earlier; another quarter said they planned to start before Thanksgiving.

The percentage of shoppers that starts their shopping before Thanksgiving has remained fairly consistent over the past decade, while there’s been an increase in BFCM shoppers and a drop in late shoppers. Just over a fourth (28 percent) say they’ll shop until the last minute, which is a decline of 4 percentage points since last year.

A bump in Veteran’s Day shoppers this year. Adobe reported this week that online shopping this Veteran’s Day (Sunday) was up 29.1 percent over last year, generating a total of $1.82 billion in sales. On the Monday after Veteran’s Day, consumers spent a record $1.95 billion, up 32.6 percent over last year.

“While online shopping started out slow earlier this month, beginning this Veteran’s Day weekend we’ve seen it substantially pick up steam,” said Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights. “Several retailers offered sales for Veteran’s Day weekend that consumers capitalized on, a precursor for the record online shopping we expected during Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and throughout the rest of the season.”

Be ready to welcome and retain new customers. Even though shoppers might groan when they see holiday merchandise out before Halloween, many of them are already shopping at that point. If you create your holiday sales strategy around the Black Friday weekend, you might miss engaging early shoppers.

According to shopper data from ContentSquare, the majority of customers businesses gain from November through the end of the year will be new. From November 1 up to Black Friday last year, 61 percent of customers were new; during BFCM, 59 percent were new, according to the data.

The key is to have solid plans for retaining all these new customers.

Dave Charest, director of content marketing for email provider Constant Contact, says the same is true regardless of the size of the business. “More than half of our small business retail customers have said that new customers gained during the holidays become repeat, loyal customers, making the season critically important.”