Remember shoppers are just about the experience – not just the hottest deal or the socially worthy photo or the…
Remember shoppers are just about the experience – not just the hottest deal or the socially worthy photo or the pajama-wearing convenience, but sights, sounds, smells and fun of all – seem to be the strategy for shopping malls and big box stores on the threshold of The holiday to shopping on Black Friday 2018.
This focus on the experience plays out with shopping events, extended hours and food and drink freebies at retailers hoping to differ from the crowd.  A few examples:
Chicago Premium Outlets in Aurora, perennially packed from Thanksgiving evening through late night at Black Friday, intensify their game with its first Thanksgiving concert, with the 90’s cover band Run Forrest Run from 8 to 10 pm  Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, also a Black Friday hub, opens an hour earlier than previous years, welcome shoppers at 17:00 Thanksgiving evening for a 29-hour shopping marathon finishing at 10:00 closes on Black Friday.
Walmart this year draws its shelves to a Thanksgiving opening at 6 o’clock in the morning. with free cakes, coffee and cocoa during an event called “Light Up Black Friday.”
– Jim Anderson / AP Photo November 2016
Walmart stores open at 6 pm Thanksgiving with free cookies, coffee and cocoa for those in line to be among the first inside, calls the event “Light Up Black Friday.”
And several major chains like Home Depot, JC Penney and Old Navy warned customers of their offerings earlier than before and started selling earlier this week-all to pull people away from their computer screens and into the decorations and show and attract discounts on their physical stores.
“It’s about experience,” said Andy Dunn, Marketing Director and Business Development for Chicago Premium Outlets. “We acknowledge that we must always offer a little more and keep in line with customers, who are much more educated and much smarter about how and where they spend their money.”
Shoppers this year could have reached some Black Friday advertisements on holiday offers that start as early as October 8th if they searched for sites like blackfriday.com, digitaltrends.com or theblackfriday.com. Some of these agreements came into force on November 1, when amazon.com started offering bargains, or November 2 for Gander Outdoors and November 5 for Home Depot and Lowe.
With some of these savings available throughout the digital world, stores and shopping malls know that shoppers have control over when, where and how they buy their holiday gifts. So they respond by highlighting the specific details that computerized purchases can not offer.
“Buyers come to the mall for the sensory experience to visit our dealers,” says Heather Lloyd, Marketing Manager and Business Development for Woodfield Mall, “to see a diamond sparkling or feeling a cozy sweater.”
Adjustment with the family income’s changed swing is another part of the game to attract shoppers, as parties and business shakes begin to blend.
“Families come out after they have a great meal, and it has just become part of their Thanksgiving tradition to eat, watch football and come out to Chicago Premium Outlets,” said Dunn.
Easy access factors as well. The lively outlet center near I-88 and Farnsworth Road exchanges works with Aurora Police to create a safety and traffic management plan with detour roads, suggested exit points for customers from all directions and remote parking with free commuter trains. This year’s plan was released more than a week before the big day, allowing both distant destinations and relatives visiting nearby residents time to customize roadmaps accordingly.
“We want to make sure people can focus on the things that are important to them that night, family and fun,” said Dunn. “All we can do to make it easy, we are happy to do.”
Despite all of their concerts, cakes, extended hours and deeply discounted deals are brick-and-mortar dealers realize that they will not get customers to make 100 percent of their purchases in person. And they are starting to be good at it.
“We can provide a great experience and complement what other people do online,” said Dunn. “These things do not exclude each other.”