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Why May is the New Black Friday

May has become one of the biggest shopping months.

This piece originally appeared as a TotalRetail post.

When we think about big revenue-generating opportunities on the calendar, we typically focus on November and December, particularly Black Friday. But sales on Black Friday last year — both in-store and online — dropped below pre-pandemic levels. Heading in the opposite direction is May, which is quickly becoming one of the most important revenue-generating moments of the year, rivaling November, December as well as the back-to-school months of July and August.

SheerID verifies the number of shoppers who attempt to qualify for community-specific deals, including discounts offered to groups like the military, teachers and healthcare workers. These groups represent more than 70 percent of U.S. adults 18-plus. What we recently learned is that in May 2021, more of these shoppers tried to redeem a discount than in any other month of the year, outside of November. And, based on recent discussions we’ve had with our retailer clients, May is shaping up to be one of the biggest shopping months of 2022.

The question is, why? And how can retailers take advantage of this trend?

Driving Revenue Through ‘Hero’ Campaigns

In March 2020, a wave of brands began offering discounts to workers on the frontlines of the pandemic as a way to thank them for their service. And while brands have continued to offer these community-specific discounts, May has become a particularly big focus.

For instance, retailers such as J.Crew and ASICS run campaigns for teachers in May to coincide with Teacher Appreciation Week, while mattress company Purple runs military discounts to coincide with Military Appreciation Month. What these brands have discovered is that community-specific offers are not only a good branding vehicle, but also generate significant demand from consumers. For instance, Purple has found that the conversion rates for these campaigns are roughly six times higher than those for regular site traffic.

It’s true that shoppers appreciate discounts offered exclusively to their community throughout the year. However, when you tie an offer to a holiday that celebrates their work, the consumer feels particularly appreciative towards your brand, and is therefore more likely to make a purchase and also become a repeat customer. It’s for these reasons that May has unofficially become “Heroes month,” one that’s rooted in honoring communities that give back to society.

Why Heroes Are an Emerging Demographic for Retailers

Though brands have offered discounts to people who serve our country for years, as noted above, acknowledging them as “heroes” is a relatively new phenomenon. Moreover, brands are discovering that these community-specific offers engender loyalty to the brand.

For example, based on a survey conducted by Military Times, we know that nearly two-thirds of those serving in the military would shop more frequently with a brand that gave them a personalized military offer. Moreover, 84 percent of respondents stated that the military is more important to their identity than their religion or where they’re from. For teachers, the numbers are even more striking. In a survey of teachers by Agile Education Marketing, 96 percent stated that being a teacher was the most central part of their identity, even more so than being a parent. These findings are a reminder that people are more than a combination of their demographics, web activity, and what they like on Facebook.

Creating Revenue-Generating Moments Throughout the Year

While May offers a number of holidays through which to appeal to specific communities, these opportunities, in fact, exist throughout the year. For instance, a small but growing number of retailers have started courting first responders by offering discounts to them on National First Responder’s Day in late October. Not surprisingly, these brands are ones that naturally appeal to first responders, such as those offering fitness-based products and services. Understanding this dynamic, think of those groups that naturally tie to your brand and then identify those moments throughout the year on which you can reward them for being a part of the community.

Remember that the benefits of these group-specific campaigns go beyond new customer acquisition. When your customers feel seen and appreciated for the work they do, they reward you with their business, again and again. It’s a powerful way to engage your audience.