Another Black Friday has come and gone; though early predictions indicate sales increased this year (particularly online), it will be days before the true impact of this weekend’s shopping is determined. In the wake of our country’s ongoing economic crisis, with home values down and unemployment up, retailers are finding new ways to augment the bottom line, connecting with consumers and using social media to delight customers.

Here are some ways the retail experience is changing this year.

Pop-up Stores. eBay opened a 5000 square foot store in Manhattan to boost online sales. Mainstream retailers like Toys R Us and JCPenney are opening extra temporary stores for the holiday season. Pop-up stores, which may be seen by some as a capitulation since mall owners can demand longer lease terms in better times, are a sign of creative marketing and flexibility.

Specialization. New companies, both online and traditional, are finding customers by presenting unique products. Often both hand-made and high-end, these new products are produced, marketed, and sold with special care that gives a customer a memorable experience and builds brand loyalty. Many of the most successful new specialized products are created to be environmentally and socially conscious, so consumers can feel good about their purchases on many levels.

Technology. Companies are leveraging social media with increasing effectiveness and creativity. Stores use their Facebook fan pages to announce special sales; chains announce specials via Twitter. Corporations use Twitter to monitor and respond to customer service issues in instanteous and satisfying ways. Retailers are no longer waiting for customers to come to them; instead they are engaging and interacting with people in their own online environments.

Undoubtedly, the leaders in the retail market — in any market will— be those companies who are anticipating the trends of the future and implementing them proactively.

This was originally posted at Mountain State University LeaderTalk and is re-posted with permission.