Black Friday Releases the Foxes

What social media tells us about the biggest shopping day of the year

By Miller Zell

The Black Friday to Cyber Monday shopping maelstrom took on added frenzy this year because of the late timing of Thanksgiving, which reduced the number of holiday shopping days. Therefore, we wanted to hear directly from customers and store associates about their intensified experiences, both what they wanted and what they got.

So we opened our ears on social media and did a bit of social listening on Twitter, Instagram, etc. Then we did a topic analysis of 5,000 social media comments specific to retail workers and customer service, taking a measure of their sometimes divergent sentiments.

The good news for retailers? From Nov. 1 until Dec. 1, the most communicated feeling was anticipation. Further, our analysis of sentiment found substantially more joy on Black Friday than anger, sadness or disgust.

Nearly 30 percent of positive comments amounted to “be nice to retail associates.” As to the worker experience, just under 17 percent of the comments were negative. When it came to customer service, nearly twice as many comments were negative.

Stress was certainly part of the Black Friday equation, both for shoppers and associates. The pressure for associates to perform on Black Friday is high, and workers were concerned with rude, impatient customers.

Positive comments from associates centered on managers who supported their staff and offered stress relieving options. Such as these two Tweets:


"Working retail on #BlackFriday. My manager bought lunch for everyone. How awesome is that?"

"Manager throwin’ a party in the stockroom during our breaks on Black Friday, call that 'Club Cali' "

Negative customer service comments centered on waiting for resolution and abandonment. Not surprisingly, positive customer service comments focused on quick resolution from first associate to handoff.


"Just wanted to let you know that even with the madness of Black Friday your staff in the store were super helpful with my husband and I. Great customer service I just wanted to say thank you #feedback"


We wanted to know more about the specific shoppers who focus their energy on Black Friday, so our team culled information from Google  and Cardlytics on the types of holiday shoppers that retailers should be on the lookout for each holiday season.

The Black Friday-focused persona our team came up with was called “Foxes.” While they represent just 18 percent overall of shoppers among the four different personas, they offer up the largest transaction size. Their sly focus is on deal seeking on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That’s when they complete the, er, lion’s share of their shopping.

Foxes tend to be from Generation X or Millennials, particularly parents from these generations. While many customers now incorporate their cell phone into their shopping, Foxes use their phones the most (72 percent). They also use their cells in-store more often than other personas (52 percent).

This group loves to sniff out deals and will buy if the price is right. They also are predisposed to buy gifts for themselves. Moreover, they spend more time conducting research on specific products than other types of shoppers. They spent 63 percent of their time on research and 37 percent in actual shopping.

Good ways for retailers to connect with Foxes include pop-up sales, cross merchandising in non-traditional ways and promotional messaging to lure them into your store. Foxes want not only good deals, they also want a sense of exclusivity. They need to be engaged as smart and motivated shoppers, so messaging should include both a “you deserve this” and a “shhh... you’re in the know!”

Here’s more good news for retailers. While Cyber Monday is gaining traction, and 53 percent of all holiday shoppers do online research before purchasing, more than three-quarters of holiday shopping still occurs in brick-and-mortar stores.

And, by the way, plenty of associates celebrate the festive frenzy of Black Friday and take pride in their stores. As one noted:

"I am sooo proud to work for this company! Black Friday gave me the opportunity to deliver outstanding Customer Service!! We spent the day with the Best leaders & Associates in the nation!! Showcasing to our community that We Are the Best Retailer in the land!!!"

That sounds like a Happy Black Friday to us.

TAGS Environment Merchandising Retail Analytics Digital Customer Experience Retail Strategy

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