Black Friday isn’t just for B2C: How B2B brands can get involved
Black Friday conjures images of supermarket fights over cheap TVs and inboxes full of e-commerce ads. But B2B brands can also play, says Alexandra Sheppard of Roast (part of the Tipi Group).
Black Friday's not just about sales, and it's not just about business-to-consumer brands, says Roast's Alexandra Sheppard / Xiaolong Wong via Unsplash
Black Friday was given its name by American police in the 1960s, referring to the carnage that ensued when suburban shoppers descended on city centers to start their Holiday shopping on the day after Thanksgiving.
The term – and the frenzied shopping – spread from there. It was introduced to the UK by Amazon in 2010, gaining wider traction in 2013 when Walmart-owned supermarket Asda got in on the act. Since then, it’s been growing steadily. Sales on Black Friday were roughly £9bn in the UK last year, up from £7bn in 2016.
From these roots of frantic shopping IRL, the share of Black Friday shopping done online has steadily increased. In the UK, online Black Friday sales overtook offline during the pandemic and online kept a slim lead last year. Meanwhile, retailers have extended the event’s length: first Cyber Monday, then the whole ‘Black Week’.
Is Black Friday relevant for B2B brands?
Black Friday is usually thought of in purely B2C contexts, but there are also advantages to running activity as a B2B brand.
The core principle of Black Friday is that buyers are motivated to purchase by time-limited deals. This principle holds true for B2B purchases as well as B2C.
Most research surrounding Black Friday looks at B2C behavior, but there are also studies that suggest that the online shopping frenzy bleeds through into B2B buying. A survey of 100 German B2B online retailers found that 57% of the companies that have taken part in Black Friday in recent years were able to achieve a significant increase in sales.
Similarly, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription billing company has reported that sales peak on Cyber Monday for software sellers, and those who offer a discount on Black Friday sell significantly more than those who don’t.
What type of brands should run Black Friday promotions?
Three key differences between B2C and B2B buying are that B2B purchases are likely to be higher value, involve more stakeholders, and have longer research periods.
The B2B purchase journey, meanwhile, is often simplified into 4 stages: browsing, considering, short-listing, and decoding.
But for a complex B2B purchase the journey often looks more like this:
When the purchase journey is long and complex, it’s unlikely that a Black Friday sale will be relevant, particularly as the deal will probably have expired by the time the research and decision-making stages are complete.
However, not all business purchases are highly complex. For simpler, less expensive purchases, a Black Friday sale can be an excellent sales-driving tool. The suitability of a Black Friday sale for a B2B product or service can be visualized like this:
Simpler, more commoditized B2B purchases like office supplies, cleaning services, or even some software subscriptions are likely to be more relevant for a Black Friday sale, as the buying mechanics are more similar to a B2C purchase. More complex purchases like consultancy or banking services are less likely to be Black Friday-relevant.
The downside of advertising over Black Friday as a B2B brand
The obvious downside of running advertising over Black Friday as a B2B brand is that the cost of media increases. Ads on traditional platforms such as TV or out-of-home, and digital spaces like Meta or Amazon, can be considerably more expensive.
However, more B2B-focused media environments are likely to be protected from the worst of the price increases. LinkedIn, business publications, and even specific B2B keywords within Google Ads can be a good place to promote a Black Friday offer without being adversely impacted by inflated media costs.
Of course, owned media channels such as your own website or email list can also be used to promote an offer without any media spend.
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Beyond price reductions, what can B2B brands do for Black Friday?
Not all B2B brands or products will see a traditional Black Friday price reduction as appropriate or feasible. But this doesn’t mean that Black Friday should simply be ignored. There are numerous other ways of engaging in the shopping festival, such as:
Offering a free introduction call or consultation with a team member
Allowing free access to a whitepaper
Releasing exclusive tickets to an upcoming event or conference
Creating content to help guide your business customers through Black Friday
Last year, B2B software firm Sage opted not to offer anything tangible in the form of discounts or deals but positioned as a voice of advice to help its customers succeed with blog content.
How to make the most out of Black Friday as a B2B brand
B2B brands can make the most of Black Friday by following these key pieces of advice.
First, factor in inflated media costs. Consider price rises across ‘broad’ media and aim to focus on owned and B2B-specific media to minimize the effects of rising costs.
Second, be website-ready. Ensure your website is ready to handle any increase in traffic resulting from marketing activity.
And most importantly, find the right approach for your business. Offers and discounts might not align with your products and services, but there are other ways to make the most of Black Friday. To avoid missing out, start planning early.
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