Retailer thoughts on Black Friday 2019

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How do you tackle the biggest shopping event outside of Singles’ Day?

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In the run up to Black Friday and the wider four-day Cyber Weekend, advice flows on how to tap into the surge in ecommerce traffic and consumer interest.  

This year we decided to ask those at the coal face, our global affiliate partners, advertisers and publishers, big and small, for their views on the Black Friday shopping bonanza.   

Necessary evil?

One of the recurring themes that emerged when asking our advertisers for their views is Black Friday can be seen as a necessary evil.  

French homeware retailer Mondial Missus points to how sales coalesce around Black Friday, with consumers trained to wait, dampening sales in the run-up to the big day. According to Digital Project Manager, Juliette Cibard, “it kills off turnover from previous weeks with the big promotions happening at the very moment when peak business naturally takes off”.  

American direct-to-consumer brand Harper Wilde embraces Black Friday but do so with caution. Head of Growth Jeff Borsuk comments they will be participating but looking at a more nuanced approach, “we never use extreme discounting because our product is already priced reasonably and we’re sensitive to devaluing it too much. Last year we launched bundles and offered them throughout the weekend at steeper discounts.”   

Cutting through the noise

Asked how they were planning to introduce a twist on the traditional blunt instrument of Black Friday, Borsuk added they were looking to encourage their customers to recycle the bras the retailer is known for in return for a holiday discount. Harper Wilde appear to be placing their bets on a recycling angle that they hope will resonate with an audience growing weary of ‘peak stuff’.  

Nabeel Akhtar is the digital marketing manager for Hilton in EMEA and APAC. His view is there is an expectation for the hotel chain to offer consumers a deal but counters that it is imperative this is accompanied by excellent end-to-end service. This is a sentiment that will resound with brands previously stung when websites buckled under huge traffic spikes, or for those unable to cope with surges in the volume of new orders to deliver or the subsequent glut of returns.   

Akhtar also stresses the need for brands to actually offer prospective customers something unique, warning of the reputational risk of rehashing readily available deals and offers, concluding, “authenticity is incredibly important when it comes to winning over consumer trust and loyalty”.  

Beyond discounting

Another theme that runs through advertiser comments is the need to adopt a more sophisticated approach beyond straightforward discounting. As Black Friday has evolved, so brands want to be more targeted.   

Wingo, a brand of Swisscom, where Michael Jakob is the Senior Online Marketing Manager. Jakob has noticed a shift in the past couple of years: “we are using several tools to check how the behaviour of users is changing from year to year, assessing the situation anew each time”. He points to how the business takes an agile approach to deals, attempting to put the most appropriate ones in front of the right consumers, making decisions on the fly to switch offers.   

This view is shared by Affiliate and Partnerships Manager at HP, Austin Ratner. This year the business is looking to attract consumers at earlier stages of their purchase decisions, “alongside our ever-important Black Friday and Cyber Week circulars, we hope to move further up the funnel and cast a wider net for our sales this year. We believe our products and prices will resonate with consumers this holiday season and hope to be at the forefront of their consideration when making technology purchases”.  

Black Friday falls late in November

This could be boosted by 2019’s longer lead-in time to Black Friday, with the big day falling the latest it can in November. This occurrence is cited by a number of retailers as being both an unknown and an opportunity. Ratner continues, “this year’s holiday shopping period is six days shorter than last year (Black Friday started on November 23 in 2018 but will start on 29th this year). We expect retailers to go out with deals and discounted pricing earlier as a result”.  

Borsuk also points to this year’s timetable as having a consequence for their promotions, “November sales are hugely important and the timing this year puts all the eggs into the last three days of the month. Anyone concerned about beating 2018’s November will likely start communication early”.  

For French retailer CDiscount this has an impact on the types of product they will push. With one in six French consumers visiting their website and with more than 10m hits in 2018, Florian Clairet Affiliate Manager says "More than just a day, it is a full week of deals and promotions on Cdiscount" and concludes “as we will be one week closer to Christmas we plan to focus more on gifting than in previous years”.  

That said, and tapping into a wider trend of general awareness, the retailer expects non-gifting sectors to do well, predicting mobile deals and travel packages will prove popular. Picking up on previous research carried out by Awin that shows that many consumers are buying goods and services for themselves, it shows that Black Friday creates widespread online buzz, regardless of whether brands are running exclusive offers.  

Taking a hit on margin

Ultimately Black Friday, for all the nuance and desire to control margin erosion, remains an amazing opportunity to expose brands to a huge audience hungry to spend money.  

Lee Carter, Marketing Acquisition Manager for UK and US fashion brand PrettyLittleThing, echoes this sentiment, “Black Friday is a massive opportunity. We take a hit on our margin but the amount of revenue we can drive over the cyber period negates this”.  

And that is the challenge many brands continue to face. Being able to stitch all the pieces together so they are able to control messaging, offers, margin, customer service, delivery and returns remains a tricky enterprise. Black Friday also presents a golden opportunity to engage a new audience that could become repeat, long-term, valued custom. Bolting on the required CRM work in the busiest retail window of the year adds to the long list of potential pitfalls.  

Alberto Benarroch, VP of Partnerships & Marketplaces at Daily Steals, embraces the inevitability of Black Friday, “we don’t judge our success during this aggressive promotional period on profitability. We see it as a chance to introduce our brand to new customers and recover waning ones. We are OK with breaking even if we are able to impress new customers in the process.”