American Marketer


How retailers should hook millennial shoppers on Black Friday

November 21, 2018

Douglas Baldasare is founder/CEO of ChargeItSpot Douglas Baldasare is founder/CEO of ChargeItSpot


By Doug Baldasare

The Black Friday shopping period seems to get blurier every year.

A 2017 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found that consumers ages 13-35 are apt to spread their shopping out over the month of November. Some 75 percent of consumers in this age group said they planned to shop weeks after Black Friday versus 69 percent of shoppers over 35.

It is not hard to see why some younger consumers are avoiding Black Friday.

The day conjures images of rabid consumers fighting over deals or waking up in the wee hours to get a deal for a flat-screen television. In fact, 68 percent of consumers overall say they would rather shop online than visit a store on Black Friday.

But it does not have to be this way.

Bricks-and-mortar retailers are missing a big opportunity to lure young shoppers to their stores on Black Friday.

Here are four tactics that retailers should employ to get millennial shoppers in the door:

1. Offer in-store pickup. Millennial consumers are mobile-first consumers. Though they want deals like everyone else, they expect to be able to get those deals on their phone and use their local store as a pick-up location.

Introducing mobile ordering for-sale items is a paradigm shift for retailers since, historically, the idea behind deep discounts on certain items is to expose shoppers to higher margin items while they are in-store for the deal, i.e., put the milk at the back.

But the recent rash of retail closings show that this idea is outdated. Instead of hoping that young customers will browse through sales like their parents, retailers should offer mobile deals to get young consumers in the habit of buying from them - and not their competition.

2. Provide self-checkout or tablet-based checkouts. One of the biggest drawbacks of bricks-and-mortar shopping is waiting in lines.

Queues on Black Friday are especially long and add to the hassle of in-store shopping. For younger consumers, such lines can be a deal-breaker since most are accustomed to immediate access from online retailers.

While it is unrealistic to expect all retailers to copy Amazon Go’s sensor-and-application-based solution – though Sam’s Club has already done so – Apple Stores have offered tablet-based, on-the-floor checkouts for a decade or so and most grocery chains offer a self-checkout option.

A combination of self-checkout and tablet-based checkouts will ease lines on Black Friday and create happier shoppers.

3. Design an experience. Retailers see Black Friday as a means of boosting sales in the all-important fourth quarter, but they need to think longer term.

A young shopper who visits your store during the holidays could be a returning customer if they have a great experience. That can mean offering in-store cooking demonstrations, live music or VR demos — anything that creates a memorable experience. You can even go as far as Ikea did and host a sleepover for fans.

Black Friday is a fun and festive day for most. It is the start of the holiday season. For young people, especially, do not make it drudgery.

4. Ease consumers' shopping burdens. Shopping on Black Friday is an endurance sport. It is amazing how few retailers take this into account.

One notable exception is Walmart, which plans to offer free coffee and cookies on Thanksgiving Day, when its Black Friday sale begins. Free coffee is a good start, but what about phone charging stations, couches and complimentary Wi-Fi?

IN RECENT YEARS, Black Friday has been losing its mystique, due in large part to a lack of enthusiasm from younger shoppers. But all hope is not lost.

Rather, retailers must find ways of catering to a younger generation of shoppers and build a brand that will keep them engaged throughout the year.

Douglas Baldasare is founder/CEO of ChargeItSpot, Philadelphia. Reach him at