Walmart Changing Image With 5 Days of Black Friday

walmart-holiday-mobile-app-on-iphone-200Will Walmart’s 5-day-long omnichannel shopping event be the end of Cyber Monday, Black Friday, and Thanksgiving Day store openings? Probably not, but Walmart is the first major retailer to tell the general shopping public that America’s biggest shopping period is not a fragmented 5 day event.

Of course, I say that with apologies to all those direct-to-customer merchants who have promotions on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, the Saturday after Thanksgiving Day, the Sunday before Cyber Monday, and Cyber Monday.

But that’s my point. Walmart, in its rhetoric, has turned the above five days (known as “Cyber Weekend”) into what it’s calling “The New Black Friday.” Five days of deals, its first interactive circular, store maps on the store app, wristbands in use for hourly in-store flash-type sales.

And this could do three things for the retail industry:

  1. Make “Cyber Weekend” a more universal term
  2. Make “Cyber Weekend” an omnichannel event
  3. Change Walmart’s reputation as Black Friday’s Wild Wild West

Let’s focus on the term “Cyber Weekend” first. For most B2C retailers, it’s the five biggest shopping days of the season. Will the term “Cyber Monday” and “Black Friday” still be used? Most likely, yes. I’ll admit: I’ve been covering the Cyber Weekend since 2006, and the days start to get blurred after a while. Friday starts feeling like Saturday, which feels like Sunday, and then you’re back working at your desk on Cyber Monday and it’s a wasted work day because the guy at the next desk is sucking all the bandwidth to get his online deals.

I don’t think the shopper cares if the subject line on his email reads “Black Friday,” “Cyber Monday” or “Thursday after Thanksgiving,” so long as the offer is relevant and relevant, and drives them to make a purchase (or, at the least, click through).

walmart-black-friday-300Walmart wants to be known as an omnichannel merchant, not just a big box retailer. With its mobile app, maps and circulars, it takes that step. But Walmart is making in-store customers take an extra, unnecessary step with its 1-hour guaranteed products. If a customer wants to buy an item at a guaranteed price during the designated time, and the item is not available to take home, the customer has to pay for said item, then go home and log into Walmart.com to choose a time to pick that item up in-store.

Why make the customer jump through hoops when the customer could instead buy online, pick-up in-store? Somehow, this has to become more seamless.

But at the same time, Walmart’s 1-hour guarantee is going to help the mass merchant shed its image as a dangerous place to be on Black Friday. Prior to the 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day events, for example, customers need to go to a designated line within the store to secure a wristband for certain products. Wristbands will be distributed while supplies last.

Walmart says customers can shop for other gifts throughout the store while they wait for the 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. events to start. Then customers with a wristband simply need to come back to the designated line within two hours after the event start time to pick up their product.

In theory, the use of wrist bands should help ease crowd control, and, in theory, we should see fewer reports of violence at Walmart stores in the news. Of course, the caveat: Wristbands will be distributed while supplies last. So unless there’s an endless supply of wristbands…

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