Affiliate and publisher thoughts on Black Friday 2019

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While Black Friday may pose margin and perception problems for advertisers, there is no doubt it better suited for many publisher models.

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Here we speak to a number of our leading affiliates who share their thoughts on how they maximise their activity across the Black Friday period and how the event is becoming more sophisticated as the years go by. 

Awareness of the event is now almost universal. Whereas a few years ago Black Friday was a reasonably nascent phenomenon in some mature ecommerce markets, familiarity with it, according to Jules Scomorovschi, co-founder & CEO of French publisher Afiliza, has resulted in “the number of merchants participating in the operation increasing to 100%”.  

Australians, according to Finder’s Global Senior Performance Manager Aston Darley, are “adopting the behaviours we see from consumers across the globe and in bigger markets. For online shopping, events like Black Friday really amplify awareness and are great for educating Aussies around how many options there are when shopping.” As French blogger Naïma Laïb simply puts it, “in the past two or three years sales have exploded in France”. 

While Singles’ Day dominates in China, and with other notable local events trumping Black Friday, there are still opportunities for brands who are looking at expanding their global footprint in the region.  

Rashik Sharar is Regional Partnership Executive at iPrice, a shopping aggregator based in Malaysia. With a presence across south-east Asia, Sharar picks out one notable example: “Black Friday mostly applies to the west, however, Vietnam usually does quite well compared to other countries”. 

For the US, Black Friday is a long-established offline phenomenon falling the day after Thanksgiving. The fourth Friday in the month, Awin noted that Black Friday 2018 was the first time it exceeded Cyber Monday in tracked online sales on the network. This gradual shift over time has now blurred the line between the two days that bookend Cyber Weekend. Black Friday the in-store event, Cyber Monday the ecommerce landgrab.  

Camilla Pacelli is Head of Partner Development, APAC, at sub-network Skimlinks. She notes that the maturity of the US market has resulted in a consistent approach. “It is a key cross-vertical ecommerce event now that starts on Thanksgiving and runs through Cyber Monday, whereas in Europe the picture is more fragmented”. 

However, any ‘official’ start to Black Friday is now a moot point given the eagerness for brands to steal a march on their competitors. Awin noted in 2018 that November 1st, as well as the Monday and Tuesday preceding Black Friday, experienced bigger year-on-year hikes than the big day itself, with Cyber Monday posting by far the smallest daily increase across the month.  

With Amazon and many other retailers running deals across the 30 days, the UK’s online retail association IMRG, coined the phrase ‘Blackvember’ to reflect the burgeoning promotional window.  

Moving beyond retail 

 As well as extending the length of time that brands are embracing Black Friday for, a more recent phenomenon has been for brands who sit outside of the traditional gifting and retail categories to embrace Black Friday. Head of Commercial at UK telco site Decision Technology, Mark Pocock, has noted the demand for their content growing, “the buzz seems to extend well beyond traditional retail and is expanding each year into more verticals. We see huge spikes in traffic as consumer demand grows”. 

Plebicom is a French facilitator of in-store offers. Benjamin Stutz who is Customer Director there noted a distinct shift between 2017 and 2018. While two years ago the primary interest came from technology advertisers, they noticed a significant expansion in France in the number of businesses who wanted to get involved across multiple sectors. He believes that 2019 will see continued growth but cautions that brands will be scrutinising the value of the customers they attract. 

Black Friday affiliate campaigns becoming more nuanced?

A reaction to how attractive those deals are, and the phenomenon of ‘going earlier’ with deals, is a noticeable feature for UK publishers. Client Services Manager at Groupon Reach Network, Greg Constable, points to a desire to work more creatively with a smaller selection of brands, “we’ve definitely streamlined things this year. We have drilled down their requirements so that our onsite and offsite coverage hits their KPIs.”  

Mel Smith, Head of Client Services at Quidco, suggests a backlash by British brands may see them try and focus their attention on a shorter promotional window, “feedback is that clients will have an increased focus on the weekend itself to try and stop the attempt to bring purchases forward to earlier in the week or month”. 

With December under-indexing for the past couple of years and November now the largest trading month of the year, this could signal an attempt to right the Christmas shopping ship and tackle the logistical problems it throws up. However, as has been shown, with significant brands firmly geared up to run promotions as soon as November kicks in, that genie seems impossible to get back in the bottle. 

Where brands can be more strategic is in refining a simple, uniform discounting approach. A heightened focus on targeting specific consumers is something Skimlinks’ Pacelli points to as a theme that is growing in importance. She points to different consumers they have identified and how they react to the different timings of Black Friday-related promotions including “self-gifters who use Black Friday as an event for home improvements – furniture commission increased 50% during Black Friday 2018 - and early birds who start shopping in early November”. Skimlinks uses these insights to plan campaigns with their publishers and brands. 

Affiliate partnerships have certainly become more sophisticated over the past handful of years. Lucas Gernier who is Director of New Business at French media publisher Groupe Cerise, lists their approach, “we have been working for several months to diversify our audiences, our sources of income and, above all, to provide a better understanding of how to offer additional service to our users. Content-to-Commerce is a new editorial trend and our staff will be reviewing products and offering their trusted opinions as they take on the role of the influencer”.  

The growing importance of mobile

Mobile is also an area that Skimlinks’ Pacelli identifies as one that brands should note for tapping into consumers on the move, stating, “the conversion gap between mobile and desktop will narrow further this year as more people are able to buy through mobile”.  

At Dealmoon, the largest Chinese shopping and lifestyle site in the US, users spend on average 700 minutes per month on the deal portal’s mobile app, reading the content created by their in-house editorial team. According to Frederique Bouchard, Affiliate Partnerships Manager, the team carry out “extensive research to be up to date on the latest fashion and beauty trends, designer capsule collections, the newest products and offers and they have a wish list of the products they want to buy, and wait to see what offers the brands have”. 

While the classic sales lever of codes and coupons may be front of mind for brands in how they work with their publisher base, Sales Director at Kelkoo, Cynthia Heywood-Beldon points to the importance of optimising product feeds for Google’s Comparison Shopping Services (CSS), a revenue stream that has grown exponentially within the affiliate channel. “Make sure feeds and accounts are in the best possible shape” she cautions, “both Google Shopping and market demands are always changing so if you’re standing still, you’re falling behind”. 

Overall, despite the fluctuations, uncertainties and cautionary words, there is fantastic optimism among affiliates, publishers and partners. With many Black Friday plans sewn up in the summer months they are raring to go. Victoria Raby, Commercial Director at Global Savings Group points to the £1.8m that is anticipated to be spent per minute online in the UK on the big day, “with Black Friday falling on payday this year we predict an even bigger performance as people will be more inclined to spend with a healthier bank balance… we’re ready!”. 

Awin will be covering Black Friday and Cyber Monday as they unfold. Hosted on our Black Friday hub, we’ll be starting off in Australia with Commission Factory on Thursday, followed by European coverage on Friday and then handing over to our US team. If you’d like the chance to be featured, make sure to share your insights with the hashtag #AwinBlackFriday.