Capitalising on the Black Friday phenomenon

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Black Friday is becoming bigger in the UK than ever before.

Christmas shopping craziness used to start in December. Halloween used to be a few trick and treaters here and there. Black Friday and Cyber Monday were things Americans did.

That was then. Over the past six years the retail calendar has changed considerably.

Christmas now starts in September. Halloween is a retail bonanza of decorations, treats and dress-ups. Black Friday and Cyber Monday aren’t two days of American sales promotions. They’re full weeks of deals, with retailers promising us huge savings in return for our hard-earned cash.

It’s anticipated by imrg.org that retail sales over 20-27 November 2017 will hit £7.42bn, up 15% from 2016. With numbers that big, can UK brands afford not to be involved?

The short answer is no, especially with more and more brands taking part. Those not participating in the new retail calendar will miss out on valuable revenue.

Marketing of old used the concept of sales to clear-out old stock and make way for the new. This was the original concept behind Black Friday - shifting stock that hadn’t sold after Thanksgiving in the US. But how many brands are using Black Friday in this way? Pretty much none. The Black Friday phenomenon has turned into a footfall-driving exercise that delivers a sales spike.

Putting people first in your retail calendar

In this new sale-focused environment, there are five strategies brands can activate. Whichever they choose, they need to do it in a way that matters most to their bottom line – their existing and target customers:

Previewers – those teasing you advance that Black Friday is coming, like John Lewis.

A consumer’s anticipation builds over the preview period, as they gear up for the all-important purchase day.

Brands adopting this strategy ensure they’re part of a consumer’s Black Friday consideration journey. However, they need to ensure they can deliver the surge in sales. Rafts of disappointed customers can easily create negative PR. Similarly, they should plan for a lull in sales before the launch.

All-week-longers – brands such as Morrisons and Ryanair are going all-out with a range of deals across a week-long period. This approach will inevitably increase website traffic, giving people new reasons to keep coming back.

For the customer, it reduces the inevitable FOMO. And, as we all know, life is busy - people need to plan their shopping around their lifestyles, not the other way around. This strategy can help brands resonate with busy people. Just remember to communicate the sale end date to ensure urgency.

VIPers - make a consumer feel special by giving them exclusive access to VIP deals before anyone else. The Watch Hut, Very and Superdrug have taken this approach to their eCRM.

This strategy is perfect for brands that want to build loyalty. With GDPR looming, it’s a topic hot on most brands’ agendas, as marketers increasingly seek customer data to better target consumers. In return, customers now expect their loyalty to be rewarded.

Down-lowers – many brands are choosing not to promote their participation, but instead start rumours through press – such as Topshop and Asos.

Activating anticipation keeps customers on edge, raising dopamine levels so sale steals feel more like achievements. There will also be an element of surprise and delight for those customers who stumble across the offer.

No-thankyous – those who choose not to partake at all. Apple and Asda have been reported as giving it a miss this year. Some brands may consider this a risky strategy and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. But, taking it back to the customer, some may be sick of sales. By taking a silent approach to Black Friday brands could position themselves in a positive light.

This strategy may work if your brand is premium enough and you only do one or two mega sales a year, such as Next.

Whichever route a brand takes, it’s paramount that people (your consumers) are kept at the forefront of your strategy. Black Friday isn’t for everyone. Some brands simply can’t deal with an influx of sales penetrated into such a small window. Some customers don’t want to shop online and can’t cope with the busy crowds on the high street, with everyone fighting to get that last TV.

It’s also important to remember that consumers are getting savvier by the day. Recent reports by BBC, Which? and Martin Lewis, have highlighted that some Black Friday deals aren’t as great as they first appear. So, consumers are bound to take a more considered approach to their Black Friday shopping as this press coverage increases - shopping around and comparing prices before committing to purchase.

As marketers, we don’t know enough about Black Friday yet to weigh-up the negatives versus the benefits. But, with so many brands immersed in it, most can’t take the risk of not being a consideration. Brands that can anticipate and activate the trends relevant to their target consumers will be the ones that succeed in future.

Because, at the end of the day, we all love a good deal.

Kat Martin is client director at Intermarketing Agency

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