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Once an exclusive single-day sales event, Black Friday has evolved into a month-long phenomenon. In the last few years, bombarding people with Black Friday-themed ads immediately after Halloween has become the norm for many retailers.

Recently, the shopping event is being blamed for killing Thanksgiving. One study found that Thursday at 6pm is the hour du jour for Black Friday 2014 as retailers plan to open up shop on the evening of the national holiday. This practice is dubbed as "Gray Thursday."

The dilution of Black Friday is not just evident by the extended length of the event. As we recently found out when we engaged Springboard America, a Vision Critical insight community, American shoppers also recognize the watering down of this annual event from the actual deals being offered. Changing public perception of Black Friday has wide implications for retail marketers, and companies need to engage with their customers in order to thrive in this high-stakes business period.

We engaged 1,024 adult Americans and found out that over two thirds of American shoppers (68%) agree Black Friday deals are not as good as they used to be. Another two thirds (67%) agree there are plenty of sales events throughout the year that are better than Black Friday. Most concerning of all: almost half (47%) profess to avoiding the event altogether, preferring to shop either before or after Black Friday.

tweet-this_0Two thirds of American shoppers agree that Black Friday deals are not as good as they used to be. (CLICK TO TWEET)

It's not all doom and gloom for the retail industry though. Half of Americans (50%) still plan to shop on Black Friday (the actual day) and on Cyber Monday (53%). Also, half are likely to participate in the month-long Black Friday sales event. Not surprisingly, Gray Thursday is least popular and even polarizing among Americans - with 35% likely to participate and 39% not likely to participate.

tweet-this_0Almost half of Americans profess to avoiding Black Friday sales. (CLICK TO TWEET)

So, what can retailers do to win the crucial Black Friday season? Shoppers have many ideas on how retailers can improve the sales event itself as well as the perception of the event. Some of the suggestions are more obvious (like offering better deals and lower prices, and offering coupons), while others (better crowd control, having more items in stock, having more staff available, and producing better ads) are more surprising.

Black Friday is not quite dead yet - and in fact, it is still one of the most profitable times of the year for retailers. But retailers should understand that public perception towards Black Friday is changing and your strategy and tactics need to evolve with this perception. More than ever, using customer intelligence to drive advertising and other marketing decisions will be crucial this time of the year.

tweet-this_0Perception about Black Friday is changing. Retailers need to engage shoppers to drive winning marketing strategies. (CLICK TO TWEET)

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