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PEAK 2021: Black Friday predictions

Black Friday: tomorrow all will become clear(er) (Image: Shutterstock)

We  zoom in on some of the predictions on shifting consumer behaviours ahead of Black Friday weekend. From the rise in online spending, through to new expectations for the high street experience, these studies offer insight into the first post-pandemic Black Friday period.

Black Friday campaigns: IMRG

Etail trade association IMRG tracks around 300 businesses to find out what Black Friday discounts they are offering – and when. So far this month, it seems, more retailers have started specific, named Black Friday campaigns earlier than last year. Some 25 retailers were live with campaigns on November 3, the first day of the IMRG Monday/Wednesday twice weekly tracking. That’s up from 14 at the same time last year. 

A similar pattern continued, on November 8 and 10, with more campaigns being added each until November 10, when there were about 45 campaigns live, compared to about 38 live a year earlier. 

This week that pattern has slightly changed, with 76 Black Friday campaigns live on Monday (November 15). On Wednesday November 17, there were 76 campaigns live. That’s 11 fewer retailers with live campaigns than there were a year earlier. 

Andy Mulcahy, IMRG director of strategy and insight, says in the weekly IMRG webinar today that some campaigns that were previously live have now been switched off. Why? “It could that when you launch campaigns really early you have a strategic break, so that you can either turn it off completely or tone it down so much you might not notice it’s a Black Friday deal. It could be a stock thing if things are running a bit low, dial it down so you still have something next week.”

Shoppers to return to the high street 

High street footfall is set to increase over Black Friday weekend, according to a new study. 

More than half (69%) of the 2,800 participants from Applause’s global survey said they feel safe returning to in-store locations for their festive shopping. This shows a shift in consumer behaviour when compared to the 2020 research which found that only 46% of respondents felt comfortable returning to bricks-and-mortar shops. However, Applause says that out of those returning to the highstreet, 45% plan to spend less than they did in 2020. 

The digital experience should still be at the forefront of the experience, regardless of whether it is delivered online or offline, advises Applause. Omnichannel shopping continues to be a favorite for consumers looking to stay safe during the pandemic, with 58% using services like curbside pickup, BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) and BORIS (buy online, return in-store), and 66% saying they are more likely to shop with a brand if they offer omnichannel options.

Luke Damian, chief growth officer at Applause says: “COVID-19 has greatly impacted how consumers shop and what options they expect from their favourite retailers. To deliver great experiences to end users, regardless of where they take place, retailers will greatly benefit from conducting real-world testing to ensure they can provide shopping options that are intuitive, enjoyable and that work every single time without fail.”

Consumers want a seamless experience 

Research conducted by Applause illustrates a clear desire for an easy and convenient experience – even on Black Friday. 

Over half (52%) respondents said they would abandon their basket if they were to encounter a bug in the checkout process. And with 57.5% of consumers shopping on mobile devices this year, multichannel and ecommerce sellers should definitely bear this in mind, says Applause. 

Supply chain and inventory issues are also a cause for concern, finds Applause. In fact, 40% of respondents across the globe agreed that supply chain or inventory issues would be a key factor of consideration when planning their shopping schedules. 


Biggest Black Friday yet? 

Black Friday weekend sales are set to hit a record £9.148bn according to a report by VoucherCodes. 

The research suggests that shoppers will spend £3.385bn on Black Friday alone – or £3.38m per minute. This figure is a 21.7% increase on 2020’s Black Friday sales (£2.782bn). The reason for this splurge, says Vouchercodes, is the seismic shift in consumer behaviour as a result of the pandemic. For example, the increase in online shoppers and the reopening of non-essential retail shops. 

The ecommerce space is expected to dominate sales over the promotional weekend (26th-29th November) with  £5.738bn worth of goods set to be purchased by online shoppers. Instore sales, on the other hand, are expected to fall short of the £4.795bn made in 2019. However, bricks-and-mortar merchants can still look forward to a 7.3% increase on 2020, with instore sales anticipated to reach £3.411bn overall. 

Angus Drummond, senior director, commercial at VoucherCodes, says:  “This year it appears that shopper appetite for a good deal is stronger than ever, which comes as no surprise as the financial impacts of the pandemic begin to take their toll. We anticipate many people will shop with purpose this Black Friday, ready with lists of Christmas must-haves, looking to make important savings and beat the rush on getting those all important Christmas gifts.  As such, we recommend retailers focus on driving awareness of their best offers in the lead up to Black Friday, in order to reach shoppers early in their customer journey.”

Black Friday set to be ’one of the hardest ever’

Celine Maher, vice president, UK and Ireland at Zendesk, says: “Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year will be one of the hardest on retail ever. The usual spike in customer queries, plus distribution network issues and lean teams in the wake of the Great Resignation – it’s a perfect storm.

“Not just for in-store sales assistants rushed off their feet and IT teams for ecommerce sites struggling with the threat of bandwidth demands – the impact on customer service teams is overlooked. In fact, recent research showed 68% of CX agents reported feeling overwhelmed in the past year. This sales weekend, businesses need to work harder and smarter than ever to keep customers and employees happy and achieve success. Making smart use of your tools and teams to manage expectations and make it easy for customers will help your business get the most of this peak season, while holding on to customer loyalty for the long-term.  

“The good news is, there is still time to prepare. We all know that “Where is my order?” (often referred to as WISMO) is one of the most frequently asked questions, so why not get ahead of the wave? Especially as shipping delays are predicted across services this season, proactively keeping customers up-to-speed on their order will keep many WISMO enquiries at bay. Automating responses to such common questions of WISMO will also make your agents’ time more productive, reducing their frustration – so it’s advantageous to use integrations and automation tools to give them some time back to focus on more complex requests.”

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