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The year is 2009 and it is close to midnight. My brother and I are shuffle-stepping to keep warm in a Kohl’s parking lot. We are camped out with a swarm of other frugal shoppers, waiting for the doors to open with the same anticipation as if it were the earliest showing of blockbuster film at the movie theatre. We thrilled with the novelty and only slightly afraid to get trampled in a stampede like the Walmart employee the year prior. Yes, this was Black Friday… at least how it used to be. Black Friday has been waning with higher levels of e-commerce, and the coronavirus pandemic could deliver the final nail in the coffin unless business owners start getting creative.

As more folks start to favor shopping over the internet, more companies have followed the trend and offered sales online for a longer time span. Holiday décor hotspot Home Depot will be extending Black Friday specials for nearly two months. After surveying 1,500 consumers, 64% said they are less inclined to shop on Black Friday than they were in previous years. “Black Friday was always about being first,” said Kearney management consultant Michael Brown. “But Black Friday is not going to be the launch of the holiday season this year. … It will happen softly over the next month or so.” However, online sales are not the only path forward.

Retailers have an opportunity to tap into a consumer motivation that Amazon can’t touch— having fun! After being cooped up for months over quarantine, people have had their fill of online browsing, and are more likely to leave home for a special experience. Gensler research shows the factors that contribute to a great retail experience include novelty, beauty, and authenticity. Owners of a small shop in St. Charles decorated their lawn with multiple giant inflatable turkeys and has become quite the tourist attraction. A restaurant in Indiana hired costumed performers to deliver customer’s curbside orders in effort to lift spirits and attract business. “We’ve gotten a lot of good, positive feedback, and we’re certainly selling a whole lot of food,” said one entertainer. The economy has taken a considerable hit in 2020 and there has been a big push on social media to shop small and local. Whether you build a fun light display in the parking lot or host a scavenger hunt with prizes in store, the way to win Black Friday is to create a novel experience that cannot be replicated online.

Keep in mind that an attractive display or interactive experience will bring shoppers to your store, but your product’s packaging has to win them over to make a purchase. “Packaging is important because it tells consumers why your product and brand are different. It communicates a purpose: what your brand stands for and what it means for your customer,” says a recent article from Inc.com. Take industry-leader Apple for example—its packaging is known for being just as minimalistic and streamlined as the technology itself. Tiffany’s blue box is more recognizable than its jewelry. It can continue to influence a company’s sales as it grows larger, too. MillerCoors’ sales fell last year, but the Miller Lite Retro can increased sales by almost 5 percent, and all that changed was the can. In order to have a thriving holiday season, business owners must offer innovative packaging and a unique shopping experience to tie it all together. Give your customers a reason to come in and make them feel safe and important and you will recreate the nostalgia that people have been missing for a while now, Amazon will have to learn that this holiday is about way more than having the cheapest price.

-Crystal Skipworth