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Why Black Friday still matters and how to keep up with the changing rules of engagement

By Nathan Bartlett, Group Creative Team Leader

Trinity McQueen


The Drum Network article

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

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February 21, 2022 | 4 min read

Is Black Friday still worth it for retailers? Trinity McQueen's head of retail Nathan Bartlett at Trinity McQueen investigates, following the agency's latest report that shines a light on how shopper attitudes towards the mega deal day are changing.

Trinity McQueen share findings from their report looking into changing perceptions of Black Friday.

Trinity McQueen share findings from their report looking into changing perceptions of Black Friday.

The UK just recorded its best-ever Black Friday sales in 2021, with shoppers spending a reported £9.2 billion, but there has been a change of heart from shoppers.

Between 2019 and 2021, 15% fewer people said they bought something in the Black Friday sales, 7% fewer people said they “loved” Black Friday and 8% more people claimed they “loathed” Black Friday.

That’s according to 1,000 UK shoppers who we recently surveyed about their feelings towards Black Friday in 2021. The conclusion was clear. Despite the growing sales figures, consumer engagement with Black Friday is lower now than it was before the pandemic.

So, what’s causing this shift, and what does it mean for retailers?

On the surface, shoppers are becoming fatigued with Black Friday for two core reasons.

First up is the growing issue of trust. 62% said they don’t trust that Black Friday sale prices are any different to the rest of the year. And for good reason, too. Back in 2019, a study by Which? showed that just 1 in 20 Black Friday discounts were genuinely the lowest price the product had been all year. If shoppers aren’t sure they’re getting a good deal, then that’s an obvious barrier to overcome.

The second factor, driven by this lack of trust, is an increasing apathy towards Black Friday as its novelty wears off over time. 49% of shoppers feel duped by the way Black Friday deals are presented, with the same percentage of shoppers believing the deals in 2021 were not as good as previous years.

In other words, Black Friday is a victim of its own success. As each year passes, shoppers’ expectations increase. If those expectations aren’t met, then apathy sets in.

But does that mean that Black Friday is no longer worth it?

In short, no. While the number of engaged shoppers is in decline, they are still spending more on Black Friday than ever before.

The key conundrum for retailers then is how they meet the expectations of those people in the middle - the shoppers who are mostly indifferent to Black Friday but could still make a purchase with a little persuasion.

For that reason, retailers will have to work hard to reassure shoppers on the credibility of their deals, and think even harder when it comes to their advertising strategy and engaging with an increasingly apathetic audience.

One way of doing that may be to encourage shoppers to “treat themselves” rather than “gift others”. Seventy-two percent said they bought things for themselves on Black Friday in 2021, compared to just 61% in 2019. Tapping into that mindset could be key.

The question then is what do people want to buy themselves? While toys and technology are usually considered the ‘big sellers’ on Black Friday, this has shifted towards Homewares, Clothing and Health & Beauty purchases in recent years - largely as a result of people spending more time at home during the pandemic. Retailers might have more luck focusing on these categories in 2022.

It’s unclear what the future holds for Black Friday, but one thing is for certain: the rules of engagement have changed. And retailers may have to change too.

Interested in seeing just how big this change is? The full report is free to download and will help marketers ensure Black Friday is a success in 2022.


Content by The Drum Network member:

Trinity McQueen

Our belief is that people are poor witnesses of their own behaviour. This informs everything we do, making our findings more insightful and powerful. The way we...

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