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Connecting with your consumers can mean more than just sales

Erin Haselkorn

The holiday season is fast approaching. After Halloween, the holiday shopping season will be upon us as retailers continue to roll out holiday deals earlier and earlier. I have already been to several shops that are decorated for the Holidays.

As part of this annual tradition, retailers will send out lots of email campaigns and release warm-and-fuzzy advertising campaigns that are designed to build a connection with a brand. I mean, who doesn’t love those amazing polar bears that come out around this time every year?

All of these techniques are designed to keep brands top of mind and get us to do one thing: buy. During the holidays, retailers keep extra hours and process millions of orders online. Black Friday and Cyber Monday represent some of the biggest days of the year for many retailers. Because of this, some have even started to kick-off shopping on Thanksgiving Day with special discounts. 

But there is one retailer who made an announcement this week that rejects some of these trends. Outdoor gear and sporting goods retailer REI said earlier this week that it was cancelling Black Friday. They won’t offer promotions, they won’t have sales—they won’t even be open. Instead, they are giving all of their employees a paid day off to get outside.

At first you look at this plan and think, what is REI doing? As a retailer, can they seriously afford not to process orders on a day as important as Black Friday?!?

That was my gut reaction, but then I started to think about this a little more. As a confession, I am a customer of REI. I think they make great products. I will probably do some of my holiday shopping there.

As I thought about their announcement, I appreciated their recognition that the holiday shopping season has gotten out of control. To be honest, it actually connected with me on a personal level. On Black Friday, I actually don’t plan to spend the majority of the day shopping (I say majority because I still may find myself in a store if a deal is good enough), but rather with my family. I may go on a nature walk with my nieces or take a walk on the beach. Now doesn’t that sound more appealing than being in a crowded store waiting in line?

The #OptOutside media campaign that REI is taking on has generated some great media buzz, but also shows that the retailer understands their customer base. The REI consumer I know isn’t always looking for the best deal, which is why the retailer doesn’t offer that many discounts. They are looking for a quality product that enables them to push the limits and be outside.

When we hear brands talk about wanting to connect with their consumer, this is exactly what they should be doing. Not necessarily what is easy, but what will actually be best for the consumer base and the company brand image.

Now REI’s campaign could flop; we will have to wait and see what happens to their holiday sales. However, I think it is a great example of a brand understanding their customer base and taking a risk that will hopefully bring individuals a deeper loyalty and connection to the brand. After all, isn’t brand loyalty something we are all looking for?   

Are you focused on building customer loyalty this holiday season? Check out our on-demand webinar, Loyalty matters, to learn the prevalence of loyalty programs and data collection, strategic initiatives for successful loyalty programs, and three ways to improve your loyalty insight.

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