Kevin Paul Scott: Black Friday and shoppers -- How can you best explain your values to customers?

How can you explain your values to your customers? Whether they are selling tablets or toilet paper, the companies that communicate their values well are the ones that win. 

Typically, we don’t talk about feelings in the business world. We like to talk about more concrete things like the bottom line, profits, and procedures.

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But this week, when shoppers rush out on Thanksgiving or Black Friday, they will feel something. Holiday music will be blaring, shelves will be packed, and each store will work to get you to spend your hard-earned money with them. The retailers who are most effective at connecting with customers have a leg up on the competition.

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There is a correlation between positive feelings and profit, but there are many ways to elicit a feeling. The way that a person feels about what they are buying matters to the bottom line. In fact, most millennials choose to do business with companies the way previous generations chose charities. Think about the implications of this fact. Young people want the products they buy to say something about who they are and what they believe.

REI will close on Black Friday for the fourth year in a row, encouraging people to #OptOutside. Does that help them make more money? Not on Friday, but this builds a connection with customers of like mind. Even those who go shopping on Black Friday will remember, and probably respect, REI’s decision.

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While most other retail stores try to get a head-start on Black Friday, the popular retailer Nordstrom was closed on Thanksgiving Day. In previous years, Nordstrom has gone a step further, actively promoting the fact that they would be closed, and telling people that they value their employees getting to spend the holiday with their families, Nordstrom is communicating their values to their customers. Think about it. Nordstrom actually puts up signs specifically to remind you that they will not be open.

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The concept extends beyond the craziness of this week. It’s why TOMS shoes are so popular, because they explain their values through their product. Every time you buy a pair of TOMS shoes, another pair of shoes is sent to someone in need. The mission is simple but impactful. Buying a pair of TOMS isn’t just shoe shopping. It’s placing shoes on the bare feet of someone in need.

This one-for-one model is clear and compelling to customers, but not all companies can and should pursue this practice. In other words, not everyone will have a compelling cause.

The question every business should ask is not whether to open on Thanksgiving Day, or Black Friday, or any other day for that matter. The real question is: How can you explain your values to your customers? Whether they are selling tablets or toilet paper, the companies that communicate their values well are the ones that win.

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