Are Weary Consumers Losing Interest in Black Friday?

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The holiday season has become the most competitive time of year for retailers. There’s always a bigger and better deal, sale or “door-buster” around the corner, and the tactics to gain share of consumers’ wallets is growing increasingly more aggressive. Many retailers have already begun the heavy promotions of their deals (often portraying them as “leaks”) and major players like Amazon, Walmart and Best Buy have already begun pre-sales.

Black Friday has shifted our traditions from casual holiday shopping to an all-out frenzy. Stores are opening earlier and earlier – many on Thanksgiving Day – with their doors literally busting with hasty (and sometimes not-too friendly) shoppers. With growing competition and pressure for retailers to compete and “win” Black Friday, new data shows that consumers are feeling stressed and pressured to participate by the constant bombardment of ads asking them to “Buy Now or Else!”

Networked Insights recently took a look at conversations around the season leading up to Black Friday, and found that while retailers are stepping up their efforts to increase deals and speed up buying urgency, consumers are not responding with as much enthusiasm as anticipated.

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In the last 2 weeks, conversation volume around Black Friday dropped 15% from 2015, with positive and negative emotions remaining steady.

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The story around Cyber Monday is even more surprising. While many shoppers have opted to buy online this holiday shopping season, Networked Insights data shows that conversations around Cyber Monday have dropped over 26% this year over last year, with an 8% uptick in negativity from general consumers.

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So what’s driving this significant drop in enthusiasm for Black Friday and Cyber Monday? While certainly some of the air has been sucked out by the election and post-election hangover,  several common themes have emerged from the qualitative data that help to explain the shift.

Annoyance, Confusion and Retail Fatigue
To the surprise of no one, the overabundance of ads and obvious frustrations of the season has many consumers expressing the desire to tune it all out. Annoyance is a common emotion, tied both to confusion on timing and deals, as well as ad fatigue, not unlike what many consumers reported during election season.

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Negativity Towards Thanksgiving Openings
There continues to be backlash against companies who open on Thanksgiving, with many of the negative comments calling out specific retailers, focused on the impact it has on employees and their families.

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Employee Angst

Not only are consumers appalled at the audacity of some brands to open doors on Thanksgiving Day, employees for these companies are in outrage and feel they’re prevented from spending their holidays with family.  With a flustered flock of consumers and helpless groups of employees, we’re left with an over abundance of negative feelings.

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Opting Out, #Optoutside
Last year REI began their #optoutside campaign, closing all of its stores around the country on Black Friday and inviting its 12,000 employees to spend the day enjoying the great outdoors. The campaign was incredibly well-received in social conversations, with over 94% of comments posted during the 2 weeks leading up to the event being positive. The retailer claims over 1.4 million people joined the movement.

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Conversation volume and positive emotions remain strong in 2016 for the #optoutside campaign, with a potential bump from a recent partnership with Subaru. There’s a strong chance the movement will continue to make an impact on consumers who are increasingly interested in tuning out the noisiest time of the shopping season.

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Will the decrease in overall interest, the increase in negativity around Cyber Monday, and the continuing positive emotions towards opting out make this year a disappointing one for retailers? We’ll continue to monitor conversations during the busy holiday shopping season and will report back soon with winners and loser on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Whether you’re opting in or opting out this Black Friday, we hope you end up doing what you love with the people you love.


 

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