Why Retailers’ Thanksgiving Day Plan Should Be Digital, NOT Physical

Editor’s Note: I thought I had published this before Thanksgiving, but something went awry (whether it was human error, technological error, or a combination of both, I can’t say for certain – my apologies for its tardiness.  I hope this article still proves useful and insightful to all who read it, despite its later than intended date – thanks for your understanding).

There has been much debate over whether retailers should open on Thanksgiving Day.  Employees, at first, didn’t want to work on this day, which started to cause a backlash amongst the population.  This resulted in retailers providing extra pay (from overtime to time-and-a-half to even more), a free traditional holiday meal, and even discounts off of purchases in an attempt to smooth things over so that people would not boycott their stores.  Retailers’ main reason for opening on Thanksgiving is because they want to get customers into their stores right away and get them to spend their limited discretionary income in a cautious economic environment with them.

The thing is, in this day and age, retailers don’t have to incur the costs of paying their employees extra, providing holiday meals, and offering discounts, not to mention incurring utility costs for opening the stores.  Retailers should be focusing on their websites and mobile apps to help drive sales on Thanksgiving.

According to a USA Today article, a recent email survey by RetailMeNot.com reported that 64% of people plan on shopping from home on Thanksgiving, while 37% of people will use mobile apps to scan or purchase items on Thanksgiving.  Let’s assume that half of the mobile apps group, about 18.5%, will be those who use mobile apps to purchase items and not to scan items in-store.

Retailers don’t have to force employees to come to work, causing them to lose time with their loved ones and paying them greater amounts for missing that precious time.  They don’t have to incur additional costs of full electricity or heating.  Yet, they can still gain the sales and brand loyalty that they want from customers by utilizing technology and digital marketing tactics.

The future will only get more digital over time. In fact, I could see the following scenario being a more likely event on Thanksgiving than people heading out after Thanksgiving dinner.

While the guys are in one room watching the end of the second football game (on CBS or Fox) and the beginning of the third one (on NFL Network), the women are in another room, sitting on the sofa and in chairs around a coffee table. They put down their drinks and begin talking. One of them mentions about shopping for her husband and pulls out her tablet from her purse, describing what she found online as she heads to the website on her tablet. The other ladies immediately start pulling out their tablets, following suit to see what their family member or friend had found out about a particular sale that was occurring right then and there. Then, another of the ladies mentions another sale, and the ladies begin checking out that site and the deals it’s offering on Thanksgiving.

I see this type of scenario being much more likely of occurring on Thanksgiving than people rushing out to stores to pick up deals for the following reasons:

1. Most people get tired from eating turkey due to the tryptophan; as a result, they won’t be as eager to go out.

2. Many families will enjoy alcohol on Thanksgiving. Most will not want to risk going out on the road after having one or more drinks.

3. Especially in northern cities or where there is bad weather, people will be much more likely to stay in and shop via mobile sites and apps than racing to get “DoorBusters” (that they’ll have to wait in line for, hoping they can get them). How ironic that a major snowstorm is expected to hit parts of the Northeast (including my area in Cleveland), while New York City, Boston, and the East Coast could get around 3 inches of rain, certainly enough to cause flooding issues and travel delays.

4. I see the above scenario being similar to Tupperware parties from earlier decades. Women, especially, will be eager to talk with each other and determine what they are going to purchase for their loved ones. A recent eMarketer article reported that an Adroit Digital poll said that 7/10 moms are responsible for 75+% of the gift purchasing. Talking with each other will help them learn more about the sales on various websites, with the ability to even purchase right then and there.

5. People are busier than ever in our increasing technologically advanced age. People are working more hours, have less down time, and have less time to spend with their families. This is all the more reason why retailers would be wise to start focusing more on a digital marketing plan utilizing their mobile sites and apps for future Thanksgivings than focusing on opening stores for a relatively small portion of the U.S. population and being lucky to break even or gain a tiny profit. They also risk alienating some people from shopping at their stores for the entire season because they disapprove of retailers that open on Thanksgiving.

The world will only become more digital over time, with more advanced mobile sites and apps that will save more time and make purchasing even easier from the comforts of our homes. Retailers can accomplish the goals and profits they want to achieve and be likelier to do so by employing more of a digital plan than a physical plan on Thanksgiving.

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