Asda shunning Black Friday demonstrates the importance of omnichannel in today’s retail landscape
November is an exciting month for UK retail. The penultimate month of the year sees the first showings of the Christmas TV ads, the start of festive offers and of course, the in-store rioting and heavy discounted LCD TV-fest that is Black Friday.
What started out as a retail event in the US has in recent years started to rear its head in the UK and was the subject of some pretty shocking scenes at retailers last year, with shoppers scrambling, fighting and arguing over the cheap(er) products available on the last Friday of November.
The adoption of Black Friday amongst UK retailers was a hope that it could create the same demand that exists in the US. Black Friday and now Cyber Monday are huge shopping days in the US and are part of the culture. Retailers began using the day as a way to drive footfall into stores in the hopes of big sales.
Turnover for retailers during Black Friday was huge, gulfing more traditional discounting days in the UK, such as Boxing Day. Last year was a pivotal point for Black Friday, however, as the media reported on the anti-social behaviour associated with the day.
Having introduced the concept to the UK, it might seem ironic that the first large retailer to turn its back on Black Friday in the UK was US-owned Asda. The supermarket recently released a statement mentioning that its customers don’t want to be held hostage to a day or two of sales and with a changing retail landscape, retailers must listen carefully to what shoppers want.
The statement tells me that Asda understands that one-off single channel discounting days are no longer what shoppers want. Retailers should instead be working on their omnichannel strategy, which is essential to providing a seamless, consistent brand experience for customers.
It’s not just in-store that was affected by Black Friday. Last year, some of the largest retailer websites went down under the huge traffic that was being driven by the sales. In an attempt to take the frenzy out of the day, Argos launched the first of three discount weekends last week, but the promotion was hit by website delays. A poor experience no matter what the day is the difference between a happy customer and a frustrated one, which will prevent sales and drive down loyalty.
At the heart of this is an effort to treat consumers as humans and part of that is understanding of a culture. Black Friday and now Cyber Monday is ingrained into US culture. Its migration to the UK started as a way to mimic US sales without the right consideration as to whether it would resonate with the local culture.
Ultimately, if this year’s Black Friday is a success it may be mean that retailers, including Asda, won’t want to skip it in 2017. If this is the case then brands need to make the discount day work in their omnichannel strategy.
For example, giving shoppers the ability to receive the same discounting online and in-store, introducing click and collect for the sale items to prevent the in-store fighting and personalising offers based on past purchase and customer insight, rather than generic bulk discounting.
Either way, as more brands start using data to understand their customers and develop the right digital experiences, they will be able to develop the right strategies that will drive sales, service, and loyalty.
Bruce Griffin is founder and chief executive officer of Rockpool Digital.