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Black Friday: Social Shopping 1.0

  |  November 23, 2011   |  Comments

Retailers must evolve online and cultivate a culture of social shopping that goes beyond in-store deals.

I love Black Friday.

There, I said it. And I know I'm not alone. By nature, as an anti-social individual who will spear you with a cart while listening to "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" on my iPod as I shop, I am clearly in the minority. In fact, short of bridal parties in Vegas, there is likely no bigger celebration of sisterhood than Black Friday. Every year the teams of women wearing matching Black Friday t-shirts and saving spots in line for each other while doing their deal hunting grows; missioning the likes of which tribes have taught their young for centuries.

Black Friday Is the Original Social Shopping Experience

Retailers keep store hours based on consumer demand. Black Friday shoppers use basic survival instincts of herd mentality to secure the best deals, while fostering a sense of togetherness and community for the last decade plus. And now, Cyber Monday and mobile technologies further change the patterns of these shoppers.

This year, Black Friday comes early. Many more retailers including Macy's and Old Navy have moved their store openings to midnight. Walmart will join the group of retailers that can't wait and will open on Thursday. The shift to turn Thanksgiving into a commercial holiday (a redundant statement if ever one could be made in this country) has been met with ample backlash. Nearly 200,000 individuals have signed an online protest to pressure retailers into keeping the gluttony at the dinner table and not the checkout lane. And while it is certainly the right of the public to protest, and even boycott, it is probably done without an awareness of what Black Friday is for most people.

This move to more hours is reactive to consumer demand, yet is also preemptive to the challenges of control lost by in-store retail. Retailers are fighting a sluggish economy, new forms of distribution via the Internet, which makes it easier to get products from previously unknown sources, and the realities that in-store retail is growing annually at less than half the rate of online.

Unfortunately, for most retailers, the shift in store hours is not enough. Today's digital-savvy shopper is aware that discounts can be had online, and rarely is the in-store deal alone enough. As a single shopper, I expect better mobile and social experiences. I see Black Friday as the single biggest day in the history of Foursquare. The viability and value to the masses will be set this Friday. For retailers, the ability to connect with individuals in the store with fresh, relevant deals is a differentiator worth watching.

Retailers must also cultivate a culture of social shopping that goes beyond a group with circulars in hand. Group-buying signals, such as in-store community trending of "What's Hot" and flash discounts available via mobile devices will further transform and condition the buyers.

It's unlikely that any petition of boycott will have enough impact to stem the tide of Black Friday's move to Thursday. What may ultimately return Black Friday to Friday is the way retailers evolve online and bring social shopping 2.0 to bear. If retailers continue to rely on print circulars and downloadable store maps, they fail to recognize the ongoing evolution of the customer. Annually, groups of women in matching hot pink "I survived Black Friday" t-shirts go out to celebrate and shop. Retailers need to cater to this group and use the tools of today to move this old-school social shopping experience forward to social shopping 2.0.


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Chris Copeland

Chris Copeland is chief executive officer of GroupM Next, the forward-looking media innovation unit of GroupM. Chris is responsible for curating and communicating insight-focused media solutions across established and emerging platforms. Leveraging his multi-year experience with emerging media companies, Chris is tasked with stewarding GroupM Next in partnership with agency leadership from GroupM's four media marketing and marketing service agencies (Maxus, MEC, MediaCom, and Mindshare). The focus is participating with those companies leading changes that most impact consumer media consumption, brand favorability, and purchase behavior.

Guiding the Predictive Insights, Technology, Research, and Communications teams at GroupM Next, Chris is responsible for overseeing the amplification of insights into opportunities that directly benefit the business of GroupM agencies and their clients. GroupM is the world's largest media investment management group and the media holding arm of WPP. Together, GroupM agencies represent almost $30 billion in overall North American billings (RECMA).

Chris helped guide the development of GroupM Next, which was established to deliver the best thinking and new insights from within the GroupM community. The unit also focuses on technology innovation connecting all media channels, but especially, online, social, mobile, and addressable.

Chris was selected to lead GroupM Next after nine years of leading the search marketing practice within GroupM. Among his accomplishments are the development and integration of the global search marketing offering for GroupM agencies, GroupM Search, which managed $1.3 billion in search billings globally and grew to more than 1,000 search marketing strategists serving 40 countries. In 2009, Chris created the research division of GroupM Search and developed research studies that deepened the understanding of consumer behavior across search and social media for leading brands and garnered global traction - most notably: The Influenced: Social Media, Search, and the Interplay of Consideration and Consumption; The Virtuous Circle: The Role of Social Media in the Purchase Pathway;and From Intent to In-Store: Search's Role in the New Retail Shopper Profile.

Chris entered the digital industry in 1996 when he joined search marketing agency WGI (later acquired by Tempus Group). He has been with the WPP and GroupM family of companies since 2000 when, recognizing search as an emerging media channel with incredible potential for brands, WPP acquired Tempus Group and CIA, and ultimately rebranded the search marketing agency as Outrider. As senior partner and managing director of Outrider, Chris delivered on GroupM's vision for the channel, leading the organization to 500 percent growth with global presence over five years, and establishing award-winning search marketing strategies that have become industry-wide best practices. In 2002, Chris successfully implemented the integration of search into the cross-channel media planning process at MEC, creating the first search marketing practice to sit within a media communications and planning company. In 2007, he guided the business expansion of search marketing practices into all GroupM agencies. In 2009, Chris was named CEO of GroupM Search, where he was responsible for driving global search strategy for the organization, while fostering the innovative application of search as an integrated channel. In his role, Chris also provided digital strategy counsel for clients, including AT&T, Dell, Audi, Volkswagen, and more.

Chris is an active member on advisory boards at the 4A's, Google, Yahoo, MSN, and I-COM. He is a frequent speaker in global forums discussing the digital marketplace and how the space is evolving, and serves as a regular resource to national and industry press. Chris contributes editorial commentary regularly to Advertising Age, ClickZ, MediaPost, and MediaBizBloggers.com. In fall 2013, Chris was honored as an inductee into the ClickZ Digital Hall of Fame.

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