Retailer thoughts from around the world on Black Friday and Cyber Weekend

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

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In the run up to Black Friday and the wider Cyber Weekend, advice flows on how to tap into the surge in e-commerce traffic and consumer interest. As such, this year we decided to ask those on the front lines of the action - our global affiliate partners, our advertisers on Awin and ShareASale - on their views on the looming Q4 shopping bonanza. 

One of the recurring themes that emerged is Black Friday and Cyber Weekend can be seen as a necessary evil.

French homeware retailer Mondial Missus points to how sales coalesce around Q4, with consumers trained to wait, dampening sales leading up to the big day. According to Mondial Missus 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.”

US direct-to-consumer brand Harper Wilde embraces Black Friday and Cyber Weekend, but does so with caution. Harper Wilde 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.” 

Asked how they were planning to introduce a twist on the traditional promotional gimmicks of Black Friday and Cyber Weekend, 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 appears 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 influx 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.”

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

Wingo is a Swiss retailer that Michael Jakob is the senior online marketing manager for. Jakob has noticed a shift in the past couple of years,“We are using several tools to check how the behavior 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 HP's Affiliate and Partnerships Manager 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,” Ratner says. 

This could be boosted by 2019’s longer lead-in time to Black Friday and Cyber Weekend, 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" he says. 

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, CDiscount's affiliate manager, says, “As we will be one week closer to Christmas we plan to focus more on gifting than in previous years."

That said, 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 many consumers are buying goods and services for themselves, it demonstrates Q4 creates widespread online buzz, regardless of whether brands are running exclusive offers.

Ultimately Black Friday and Cyber Monday, 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 the fast-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. Q4 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 and Cyber Weekend. “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," he says. "We are OK with breaking even if we are able to impress new customers in the process.”