Claire Odom, Client Strategy Director
As another Black Friday approaches, once again, it’s embroiled in uncertainty as consumers return to physical stores, the cost-of-living crisis bites, and there’s a winter World Cup and strikes. All these factors make forecasting challenging.
There’s also the question of whether to participate or not. While many will, others are shunning it and avoiding deep discounting. Instead, they are choosing to adopt a corporate social responsibility approach by supporting relevant charities that fit with their brand values or embracing a Green Friday stance.
For those planning to run promotions, here are 5 action areas to consider based on in-market trends and conversations with our e-commerce retail clients:
1. Make sure you’re jumping the gun
Just like Christmas, Black Friday is getting earlier and there’s a growing trend here. Far from being confined to a few days, it’s now spilling out over a week and beyond. While we anticipate around 50% of retailers will start their Black Friday activity on Monday 21st November, IMRG indicates that some plan to start two or even three weeks out, and we expect some to bring forward their activity in early November, transforming a once weekend focused event into a month-long one.
If you think this is overkill, UK consumers appear to welcome Black Friday messages well in advance of the day. Research highlights the majority are happy to hear about deals two weeks prior, with 27% happy to receive communications up to four weeks out. We’re already seeing an uptick in searches around Black Friday in the UK.
Facing a cost-of-living crisis, cash-strapped consumers may be on the hunt for bargains as early as possible. Going early will allow you to attract savvy shoppers and distribute your revenue over a more extended period. It can also help you avoid being drowned out by all the activity nearer the day itself and provide an opportunity to warm up your audiences to maximise your impact.
This year we anticipate early – and deep – discounting will be the name of the game.
2. Take a leaf from Amazon
Amazon is launching its Prime Day for the second time this year – and the first time in October. So, why now, so close to Black Friday and the Christmas period?
Obviously, it gives them another bite at the sales cherry during this period, but it allows warehouse capacity challenges to be managed by helping flatten out demand over a longer period rather than managing a huge sales spike over Black Friday itself.
Think about how you can spread demand for your business. From offering earlier promotions to giving exclusive access to your sales to loyal customers, look at ways to capitalise on buying behaviours shifting earlier.
3. Treat Black Friday and Cyber Monday differently
As Black Friday naturally rolls into Cyber Monday, they are often lumped together as one continuous event. Instead, look to refine your strategy around them. Break them out and provide a point of differentiation to help you prolong consumer interest.
While sales are lower on Cyber Monday than the Black Friday peak, they still provide a welcome uplift. So, rather than simply offering deeper discounts, identify ways to vary your promotions. For example, give a free gift with a purchase, bundle up an offer, or focus your discounting on a different range. All this helps maximise your sales over this critical period and maintains buying momentum.
4. Extend your offers
The announced national Royal Mail strike dates across October and November will impact the crucial trading period. While attempting to bring mailing dates forward should be a consideration, the reality is landing dates will be disrupted. Instead, think about when to end your promotions. Look to extend offer dates to avoid consumer upset and reconsider any timed promotions or activities that will prove to be out of your control this year. You may also want to extend your offers to less active groups beyond Cyber Monday to encourage buying up until the start of the Christmas sale period.
5. Always be mindful of your customers
While the focus is naturally on shifting products and driving sales, you must also ensure your activities don’t impact customer satisfaction.
Carefully consider the progression of your promotional programmes. Avoid offering a promotion one day, which is replaced by an even better one a few days later. While resulting in obvious buyer dissatisfaction, it will lead to order cancellations and reordering, having implications for your returns and your warehouse and customer service teams.
Set delivery expectations with customers as much as possible in advance and be realistic. Let them know not to expect next-day delivery or your usual delivery promise, as the supply chain pressures and strikes will put pay to these. Instead, provide reassurances, especially for purchases occurring nearer to Christmas itself, that they will receive their purchases in good time. It’s a classic case of under-promise and over-deliver. If things do go wrong, let the customer know. Proactive communications will go a long way to avoiding reactive customer complaints.