Each year, InternetRetailing has an in-depth focus on the peak trading period. In part, that’s because it is most important time of the financial year for many UK retailers. It’s also because shopping takes place at a higher rate in the run up to Christmas, meaning that any changes in customer behaviour are seen sooner and more clearly.
How shoppers plan to buy this Black Friday: studies
Three-quarters (74%) of shoppers say they are likely to shop online on or around Black Friday, according to commerce media company Criteo. That’s up from 63% who said they would do so last year. Some 40% of respondents said they would be likely to buy in-store. Just under a third (32%) say they always shop online on or around Black Friday. Of those who plan to buy, 88% are already planning their purchases, while 12% say they will decide on the day.
Some 82% of respondents said they would be open to buying from an online shop they don’t usually shop in. Ask what would help them to try another store, 65% cited “great deals” – up from 53% last year – while 10% would look for sustainable products and brand values.
Asked what would encourage customers to return to a brand or retailer they discovered on Black Friday, 17% said brand values and 18% said sustainable products would bring them back. A great customer experience (50%), purchasing experience (48%) and fast shipping (43%) are even more important.
Sam Benkel, managing director, retail media, Criteo, says: “UK consumers are understandably eager to find out exactly what Black Friday has in store this year, but it does appear ‘Cyber Month’ will continue to steal its thunder. It’s encouraging for brands and retailers that consumers will shop the sales as they come, across a longer period of time. Accordingly, some are now offering price guarantees to help shoppers buy with confidence when they are ready. We might not see the sensational growth figures associated with Black Friday itself, but the overall opportunity remains an essential part of the retail calendar.”
Meanwhile, Accenture has questioned 4,200 people on their Christmas shopping plans and found two in five (39%) are planning to take advantage of discount events such as Black Friday more than they did last year, while 70% are planning spending cutbacks this Christmas due to cost of living. Eight in 10 (80%) of those surveyed had said that they had already made cutbacks on their spending since April 2022, with nearly a third stating that these had been significant (29%).
Potential cutbacks include presents (49%), eating out (46%), general socialising, and food and drink at home (both 35%), while nearly a third (28%) of consumers will start their festive shopping earlier to spread the cost and save money via discounts.
A parallel survey of 150 UK retail executives found that retailers are also wary of declining consumer confidence, with 84% identifying this as a factor in their strategy for the festive season – along with rising inflation (94%) and supply chain disruptions (91%). Delivery fulfilment also remains challenging for UK retailers, with more than four in 10 reporting (43%) an uplift in slow and late deliveries over the past six months.
Kelly Askew, retail strategy lead, Europe, at Accenture, says: “Over the past couple of years, Black Friday has been a chance for retailers to maximise profits in the run up to Christmas. Due to the rising cost of living, many consumers will be doing their festive shopping earlier, meaning that this year’s Black Friday could be a more muted affair. Improving internal efficiencies and removing excess cost where they can in the run up to Christmas will help ensure that businesses have a better chance of protecting their margins. With postal strikes scheduled for Black Friday and throughout the festive season, delivery fulfilment will remain a key challenge for retailers, as it has been over the last two years.”
‘Hard to predict’ Black Friday
Nonetheless, says Barclaycard’s Marc Pettican, it’s hard to predict how shoppers will buy this Black Friday, in the light of both the cost-of-living crisis and competition from the World Cup.
Pettican, who is head of Barclaycard Payments, says: “Barclaycard Payments data showed transactions were up 26.6% year-on-year in 2021 – as shoppers enjoyed being able to purchase Black Friday deals in-store, after Covid-19 led to an online-only event in 2020. We expected a bumper last year, but the macro-economic backdrop means this Black Friday’s performance is harder to predict. While Covid-19 restrictions are firmly behind us, the rising cost of living could mean consumers are more cautious with their sales shopping than usual. On the other hand, some may be more eager to take advantage of the sales and grab a festive bargain while they can.
“It will be interesting to see how the day pans out, especially as Friday 25 will also see England’s football team taking on the United States. The match doesn’t start until 7pm, however, so ardent football fans will still have plenty of time to make the most of the Black Friday sales before the game kicks off.”
Asos launches mobile pop-up ahead of Black Friday
Asos has started its Black Friday campaign with an experiential mobile pop-up visiting cities around the UK. Shoppers can try their luck at an Asos claw grabber arcade game, which is free to the public and offers prizes including Asos gift cards and merchandise. The mobile pop-up – which will be at Boxpark, Shoreditch on Tuesday between 10am and 6pm before moving to Trinity Square, Nottingham, on Wednesday and Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester on Thursday – promotes Asos’ Black Friday deals. Every one who visits will get an Asos tote bag, while those who have the Asos app installed will also get a free coffee.
Not taking part also an option
Claire Heathcote, co-founder and director at luxury cashmere brand, Loop Cashmere, says not taking part in Black Friday is also an option for brands, especially in the luxury sector. “Retail is unapologetically fast-paced and as an ecommerce store it’s important to stay ahead of any curves, including the ever popular Black Friday. For luxury brands balancing the discount frenzy with a more high end offering can have its challenges but there are approaches you can take to satisfying sales figures without tarnishing your brand ethos.”
Some luxury brands choose not to participate in Black Friday at all, says says, with some closing physical stores and design their social media campaigns around their stance. “Choosing to essentially boycott Black Friday is a bold move but it will set you apart and garner respect from loyal clients who regularly pay full price. This is more of a marketing exercise than a push on sales but if your bottom line can take it, it could be a very savvy approach in the long run and put you in the same bracket as some of the most elite brands.” Reframing the event is also an option. “The name Black Friday in itself stirs up images of consumers fighting in the aisles and it’s this association that high end retailers want to avoid,” says Heathcote. “Some of the biggest luxury retailers offer Black Friday discounts under the guise of ‘Christmas Comes Early.’ This allows you to capitalise on the promotional element of the event but distance yourself from the less favourable connotations.”
She adds: “If you do choose to market your Black Friday sales as exactly that, then maintaining your brand tone of voice and identity in any marketing materials is crucial. Your existing customer base expects a premium product and a premium service and any deviation from this can be off putting. Don’t cheapen your brand temporarily for some extra conversions, because in the long run you could lose your core customer base.”
It’s also important to choose the offers that are made carefully, she says. “In its infancy Black Friday generally meant large discounts on lots of valuable items. The breadth of what businesses offer has now widened massively and so luxury ecommerce brands can cherry pick what they are willing to do. Many upmarket brands choose blanket discounts but may exclude certain products to maintain exclusivity across specific ranges. Others choose a post purchase competition where customers can win back what they’ve bought. This means items are still sold at full price but companies aren’t missing out on Black Friday marketing opportunities. Another option is to offer bundles at a discounted rate which leverages upselling and offers customers genuine value on popular products. Align your offers with your brand to preserve core values.”
Sustainability remains important to customers, even at Black Friday, adds Heathcote. “Look at offsetting your emissions by contributing to environmental causes every time you make a sale over the promotional period, or even more long term if you are able. Several premium retailers have a ‘recommerce’ route where customers can return old items in exchange for discounts and these items are then responsibly reused or recycled. Demonstrating a genuine desire to do good will signpost your brand as a high quality in all areas.”