November 28

How To Not Lose Your Fans’ Trust During Holiday Sales

Digital Marketing, eCommerce, Finance

Holiday sales kick off officially with Black Friday (and Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday...). But the reality is, most businesses are always trying to offer some kind of sale or enticing way to hook new customers. 

And while this year we saw more online spending than ever before (nearly $10 billion, an increase of 7.5 percent), we also saw a notable uptick in negative sentiment from consumers who feel like Black Friday may be more of a fleece than a bargain. A few popular videos going around even showed customers walking through stores and removing "Black Friday" deal pricing labels to show the old "sale" pricing label behind it — with an identical price. 

Content creators are in an interesting spot when it comes to things like holiday sales. Let's look at a few key ways to maintain the trust of your fans and community while still benefiting from a critical end-of-year sales bump.

How Holiday Sales Started

First of all, we're using the term "holiday sales" mostly as a reference to the end-of-year shopping sprees most common in the Western world. And while to most people they're associated with gift-giving holidays like Christmas and Chanukah, end-of-year sales happen all over the world for myriad reasons. 

Just a fun little history, though: "Black Friday" has multiple connotations, with the first recorded use of the term applied to a financial crisis in September of 1869. Most people think it applies to the idea that stores often operated "in the red" (a bookkeeping term derived from the red ink used to denote a business was losing money) until holiday sales at the end of the year — kickstarted the day after Thanksgiving — brought them "in the black" (a reference to the color of ink used in a bookkeeping ledger to indicate a profit). 

It's a fun story, but also one that would kind of signify some pretty shaky businesses if they operated at a loss for 11 out of 12 months of the year. The phrase "Black Friday" actually originated in the 1950s in Philadelphia. It was a negative term the police used to describe the day after Thanksgiving, when hordes of tourists and football fans would flood the city in anticipation of the Army vs. Navy football game that happens on Saturday after Thanksgiving. That day always saw an increase in stress and work for the police, as well as an increase in sales (and theft) at stores. In the 1960s, Philadelphia's merchants tried to rebrand the concept to "Big Friday" to be more positive, but it didn't really stick. Then, in the 1980s, the rest of the nation caught on to the concept and pushed the narrative of big sales that take businesses from the "red" to the "black." 

Meanwhile, "Cyber Monday" started in 2005 after being coined by the National Retail Federation. And the concept of "Small Business Saturday" is even newer. Credit company American Express actually launched the campaign in November 2010 as a way to promote smaller, local merchants who often didn't see the same Black Friday benefits as big box retailers. While it was largely an awareness campaign for local business, American Express also actively helped these stores promote themselves. Lastly, there's Giving Tuesday, which was started in 2012 and is supposed to represent a day when people donate their time, money, or resources to charities they care about. 

Of course, pretty much the entire final two months of the year are now wrapped up in holiday sales. None of these days (or ideas) really last only one day anymore, and many sales extend through the New Year.

The Increasing Suspicion Around Holiday Sales

With Black Friday now lasting weeks, followed by additional seemingly endless deals up through the end of the year, a lot of consumers are starting to wonder if these are even really "deals," or just marketing psychology tactics. The sentiment can best be summed up by a popular meme that shows a price as $499 on Wednesday, $499 on Thursday, and then $499 on "Black Friday" — with a $699 above it marked out, suggesting the deals are more tactics than savings. 

However, data suggests there are significant savings to be had, with this year showing record savings of up to 35 percent off standard prices. But that's on a macro level. When you look at particular industries, the best time to save actually depends on what you're trying to buy, typically falling throughout the entirety of the year. There are also plenty of stores that just look to get rid of old inventory, which is why you'll find many sales on already discounted, older, or "budget" products. 

Combined with viral examples of companies being misleading about their sales and an increased likelihood of Black Friday scams, it's easy to see why people get overwhelmed with — and skeptical about — holiday sales in general. So how do content creators, who are already at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to retail revenue, maintain the trust of their fans and communities while still participating? 

How Content Creators Can Participate In Holiday Sales

There are plenty of ways to participate in open wallet season as a content creator. But of course, the more "traditional" avenues you have for revenue, the easier this becomes. For instance, anybody who offers traditional things like physical merch, online courses, or downloadable content through their own online store can play this one pretty much by the book. Discounts, bundle deals, bringing back "retired" items etc. 

Now is also an excellent time for content creators to pair up with companies looking to run user-generated content ads or influencer campaigns. But it's important to remember that all of the rules about agreeing to do an influencer campaign or UGC that applied before the holidays still apply now. Only work with brands you genuinely enjoy, and be sure to create content in a way that feels consistent with what you normally post. If you're a game streamer who is suddenly hawking steam cleaners for no discernible reason, you might alienate your audience (unless you do it in a very clever way). 

If your content creation revenue is more directly tied to things like earning gifts on TikTok lives or getting YouTube or Twitch subscribers, consider tying extra value to their contributions. These revenue streams can be a little difficult because you're not able to set the price — you can't personally give people 20 percent off their sub or TikTok gifting. But you can create goals, like saying for every 100 subscriptions you'll volunteer half a day at charity, or you'll send your top gifters a piece of merch. Community goals can also work great for things like driving streams or views on your content. Just have fun with it and make sure people feel like they get why it's special. 

How Not To Lose Your Fans' Trust

The big thing here is to not act like a typical retailer, at least when it comes to how you communicate with your fans. If you're going to create a limited discount, then really do it. Don't keep extending the discount or creating artificial scarcity. Scarcity is fine — but stick to it. You don't have the same leeway with an individual that a massive company might have, and you probably can't afford to alienate people with half-true sales. 

That's also why doing things like limited-run merch items (via dropshipping), seasonal designs, or special engagements like custom videos or songs can also go much further than running traditional sales. The more personal your offering feels, the more likely people are to put up with all your marketing during these months. Oh, and choosing to run sales just after or just before all the "big" holiday sales is also a solid tactic. 

Above all, communicate with your community. That includes if you decide not to do any sales but still want to encourage people to buy from you for the gift-giving season. You don't have to slash your prices just to make the sale. But while people have purchasing on the mind, remind them why they love you in the first place. Continue to create normal content (as in, don't got into full-sell mode all the time). Give before you ask. And most importantly, don't try to "trick" people with clever wording, sneaky deals, or artificial scarcity. 


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