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Six cyber week techniques which can prepare marketers for the Christmas sales

This content is produced by a member of The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

Does anybody remember Paul Whitehouse's Fast Show sketch which involved the catchprase 'Even better than that'?

For those born after 1999, let's set the scene:

“Now, did you remember to get the eggs, the butter and potatoes?” asks the hopeful wife from behind her mixing bowl on the kitchen table. “Even better than that!” replies her excited, but gormless husband, “I got two DAB digital radios, a map of Cairo and an ice pick!”

In many ways, this classic Fast Show sketch sums up the madness that is Black Friday.

We live in an age where most households have reached saturation point; we’ve simply reached our limit of acquiring stuff, which from a sustainability point of view, ought to be a good thing. But there’s something about Black Friday – or should I say Cyber Week – that turns us all into crazed bargain hunters, because the stuff is cheap. Last year I was guilty of buying two Amazon Echos and three Echo Dots – mainly because they were half price.

Black Friday has changed Christmas shopping in so many ways. Originating in the US, the term ‘Black Friday’ was originally coined in Philadelphia back in 1961, so called because the huge turnover was big enough to put the retailers back in the black. According to Adobe Digital Insights, US shoppers spent $36.5bn online during Thanksgiving weekend last year.

Black Friday goes from online to majority mobile

In e-commerce land, we Brits win the prize for spending more per head, per annum online than any other country on earth (the US is a close second). So guess who brought Black Friday to our shores in 2010? Yes – Amazon.

For the first few years it was predominantly a high street affair, with shoppers literally fighting each other in Asda to wrestle a bargain LED TV. Alas, we won’t see scenes like that again, as Black Friday has not just become an online phenomenon, but the majority of consumer traffic now occurs on smartphones. The expansion of Black Friday has also adapted, with one hectic and competitive day turning into 10 days of festive preparation among the spontaneous deal.

These are tough times. And even though consumers have less to spend in real terms than they did ten years ago, Barclaycard estimates that this year’s online sales are 8% up, with Argos reporting two million website visitors in four hours, and John Lewis celebrating its biggest ever single hour of website trading on Black Friday.

By contrast, shopper numbers in the high street and retail parks nationwide were down 8%. When Currys/PC World flung open its doors at 7am, there was just one solitary shopper waiting to pick up an online purchase. Brexit-fuelled inflation has made it harder for retailers to deliver big price cuts and make money. Hence some big names – including Next, Asda, Primark and Ikea – simply refused to take part.

How the winners prepare for cyber week and the festive season

But for most, it’s too big an opportunity to miss, and at iCrossing we’re blessed with some big retail clients who plan cyber week with us many months before. These are some winning online tactics we employed, specially adapted for boxing day sales bonanza:

  • Provide a buying guide before Christmas to cover new and core products appearing in the sale. Include tips on bagging a boxing day bargain to help consumers can plan what they want to buy in advance.
  • Start your Boxing Day offers early – on Christmas day – and be consistent with discounts that last across the period. Include a countdown clock to add urgency, and ensure it’s all mobile responsive.
  • Strategic search engine optimization (SEO) is vital. Make sure you update sale products with Boxing Day meta descriptions well in advance to allow time for the pages to be crawled and the search results to be updated.
  • You’ll achieve higher click through rates (CTRs) and sales through structured data – richer snippets including image, price, availability, duration of the offer, reviews and ratings.
  • When it comes to pay-per-click (PPC), implement a mobile-first, 100% coverage campaign on promotional products, building out Christmas and boxing day terms, and switch off the standard ‘always on’ ads.
  • Amazon will enjoy a huge share of e-commerce. Brands need to have a clear strategy on Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) with an optimised ‘deal of the day’.

Amazon themselves expect to be the biggest winner during cyber week and Christmas. Their humongous distribution centre in Peterborough, the size of seven football pitches, geared up for Black Friday with military precision ready to ship 85 products every second. And not content with six more distribution centres around the UK, Amazon even opened a pop up store in Soho Square for the week.

The forecast total spend by British shoppers in the week of Black Friday is a staggering £10.1bn.

As for the Phillipsons – well, the sun was out so we went out for a long Black Friday bike ride, and resisted the temptation to buy a discounted surround sound system, a smoothie maker…or an ice pick.

We’ve reached peak stuff.

Guy Phillipson is chairman at iCrossing UK and former chief executive at Internet Advertising Bureau UK.