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Is the sun setting on Black Friday?

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A feature of our retail calendar since around 2010, Black Friday never really got off the ground in Great Britain to the same extent as in its US homeland.  Now it seems that shoppers could be losing interest in the November sales extravaganza.

We spoke to over 1,200 Brits about Black Friday and found that just over a quarter (27%) are planning to shop in this year’s sales.  That compares with 45% who have shopped on Black Friday in the past.  In fact, one-third of people now think that retailers participating in the sales event are just jumping on the bandwagon.  In the context of a faltering retail market, Black Friday 2018 may not deliver the pre-Christmas boost in sales that retailers are hoping for unless they can win over increasingly sceptical shoppers.

The importance of tailored marketing 

Big names like Selfridges and B&Q are playing down their participation in Black Friday 2018, but others including Amazon, Asos, Boots and Argos began advertising their deals before we’d even reached November’s halfway point.  Many are extending their promotional period far beyond the Black Friday weekend.

For those retailers taking the plunge this year, the data suggests that a more targeted advertising and marketing effort could help to boost sales.  Shopper interest and behaviour is not uniform across the board.

Millennials (those born between 1981-1997) are most likely to seek out discounts this Black Friday, with over 40% planning to shop.  Younger people also tend to feel more strongly that the sales offer good value for money – around two-thirds of 16-34 year olds, versus only one-fifth of over 55s.

When it comes to targeting the wallets of a younger demographic, it’s important to know that they are most likely to seek out deals for specific items they want instead of browsing.  Retailers would benefit from understanding which items are most desirable for younger shoppers and focusing their offers on these products.  They should ensure that ‘must-have’ items are easy to find in store or online to prevent shoppers on a mission from heading to their nearest rival.

When we turn to older groups, they are the least likely to be planning a Black Friday binge but typically purchases they do make come from browsing.  Ensuring an all-round fabulous experience should aid the conversion of browsing by these shoppers into buying and avoiding the Black Friday melée might help.

Should UK retailers ditch Black Friday?

It remains to be seen what impact Black Friday will have on retailers’ fortunes this year but with shopper interest on the wane, it does pose the question whether the UK high street would benefit from scrapping the phenomenon altogether.  There are strong suggestions that retailers are now caught in a Black Friday trap: as consumers expect to see discounts while stores lose money on providing them.

Yet, while some major retailers have taken the decision to forego the sales event this year, they are by no means holding back from discounting altogether.  Earlier this same month, Marks & Spencer, for example, launched a special sale for its Sparks loyalty card holders.  It’s a canny move which allows it to reward regular shoppers, while targeting discounts and gathering valuable data on shopper behaviour.

Whether or not retailers feel the bind of taking part in Black Friday, they should be bolder about engaging with it on their own terms.  With so much noise and so many column inches dedicated to the discounting bonanza it’s easy to get lost among the competition, so being more selective with offers and targeted marketing could be the key to retailers getting the most from the sales.  Using their own social media channels to share and amplify personal and positive stories from consumers about meaningful purchases made possible through the event could also encourage others to engage.

Consumers need to feel they’re getting a real deal, not being swept up in a retail vortex.  A targeted approach to Black Friday and a positive communication plan should help kick-start this important sales period.  Otherwise, simply extending the length of the promotion might mean a race to the bottom for retailers.




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