Goodbye Black Friday, Hello Gray November

September 27, 2016

By: Greg Zakowicz,

Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst

, Oracle Bronto

Goodbye Black Friday, Hello Gray November

Hard to believe it but Gray November is almost here. Wait, what? That’s right: the holiday promotions creep we’ve been witnessing over the past couple of years has shifted the start of the holiday shopping season. It no longer begins with Thanksgiving, Black Friday or even Cyber Week. The holiday shopping season now starts before the Halloween candy has been sorted and consumed. Welcome to Gray November.

The Rise of Gray November

Over the past several years, retailers have offered earlier discounts and promotions with the hopes of being the first to attract seasonal shoppers and snag early holiday sales. And in an attempt to keep pace, other retailers have followed suit. This endless stream of discounts has stolen the thunder, and the sales, from the signature holiday shopping days. Consumers no longer need to wait for great deals and can enjoy shopping earlier without the fear of overpaying.

According to ShopperTrak, the number of retailers who included promotions leading up to Thanksgiving week increased in each week in November last year when compared to the same period in 2014. And the discount percentage offered was consistent over the first three weeks of November 2015, rising only slightly heading into Thanksgiving week. This data reinforces the idea that retailers offered deeper discounts earlier, leaving themselves little room for further promotions come Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Smartphones are another contributing factor. Mobile sales, especially on smartphones, are rising year-over-year as it gets easier to buy on mobile devices and consumers become more comfortable doing so. Wherever, whenever, today’s on-demand consumers are only one finger tap away from shopping.

Embracing Gray November

While Gray November may have arrived without much warning, it doesn’t mean you can’t use it to your advantage. Gray November is a great way to take advantage of another recent trend, self-gifting. People are buying as much for themselves as they are for others, and this behavior has a significant seasonal impact. When people are buying for themselves, they are less inclined to wait for those signature shopping days. After all, when people want something, they usually want it sooner than later. And when they get a discount for it, checkmate!

This trend in self-gifting also affects how different incentives can work during the holiday season. Tiered discounts, receiving a higher discount as you spend more, encourage purchasers to buy for themselves and shop for others. Free gifts or gift cards also work well for the same reasons. When planning for your holiday promotions, be sure to factor in promotions that reward the purchaser, while helping you maintain margins or bringing the customer back after the season to redeem their gift card.

Recognizing this shift, consider adjusting your lifecycle messages to better speak to this consumer purchase behavior. For messages such as your welcome and post-purchase series, include seasonal recommendations such as stocking stuffers or callouts to gifts at certain price points. Making these suggestions in these highly-read messages mayb be enough to secure that repeat purchase during the remainder of the holiday season.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are no longer the official start to the holiday season. They’re merely a part of it. When preparing your seasonal strategy, plan for a longer shopping period, while accounting for the change in consumer behavior. Think mobile-first, consider incentives that speak to the customers’ desire to shop early (and also for themselves), and focus on building and reinforcing brand value to gain the kind of loyalty that negates reliance on a constant discount cycle.

For additional seasonal marketing tips, including ideas on how to adjust lifecycle messages for the holiday season, check out Bronto’s Holiday Marketing Academy and watch our Gray November webinar.

About Oracle Bronto

Oracle Bronto arms high-growth retailers with sophisticated marketing automation to maximize revenue opportunities. The Bronto Marketing Platform powers personalized multichannel content that generates the higher engagement needed for retail success. Keenly focused on the commerce marketer, Bronto continues its longstanding tradition as a leading email marketing provider to the global Internet Retailer Top 1000 and boasts a client roster of leading brands. For more information, visit Follow us on Twitter @Bronto.