The role of social media on Black Friday

Anant Sharma, CEO from brand interactions agency, Matter of Form explains how Black Friday underlined the roles of digital and social media in whipping consumers into a frenzy.

Read on to learn the role of social media on Black Friday.

Social media evoking consumer emotion

Resulting from growing digital marketing budgets and increasing technological innovation, it is no surprise that social media’s influence has grown. In fact, social media interest more than doubled in 2014 compared to 2013, with 2,013,943 conversations recorded compared to 996,306. Twitter in particular, as an emotional marketplace for trending thoughts, took advantage of an in-built consumer desire to share details about great bargains.

But retailers ready to dive in and pump out marketing messages should do so with trepidation. Recognising that it is challenging to control online conversations is essential – an analysis from 2013 showed that 43% of the conversations were positive compared to 35% negative.

Balancing the blend of online and offline

Along with the greater conversations and therefore interest in Black Friday, retailers have also become a lot more astute to the requirements in delivering a faultless online experience.

So, as apps and websites provide a perfect vehicle to lead people to the offers in the quickest time, they also need to drive consumers in-store – with the in-store experience needing to be amplified online. This careful balance is essential as many traditional high-street retailers would struggle to compete as online-only providers against stiff competition. Clearly, success hinges on an ability to provide a holistic proposition, taking into account how consumers view a brand at any touchpoint.

A focus on user experience

What was particularly of interest was the way in which online retailers decided to manage the online experience. Firstly, they were confronted with the decision on whether to highlight Black Friday or Cyber Monday. More interestingly, however, was their varied decisions on how best to present the deals. For ease of use it seems, many decided to layer a sales framework on top of their current websites. This could therefore handle deals reasonably easily, but at the same time, deliver a poor user experience.

Recognising the long term brand impact

But aside from the user experience, brands needed to cope with additional more pressing matters. The spike in interest, as well as causing in-store chaos, was also seen online where the sites of many major retailers including Tesco, PC World, Argos, GAME and Boots all went down. For these retailers who spend millions of pounds on designing in-store and online experiences, the detriment to the brand value could well be more significant in the long term than the benefits from the day’s sales.

A look ahead to 2015

Retailers need to fundamentally assess the value of their brands and the impact of Black Friday on long term reputation. But more than that, if they do decide to get involved, they need to understand how to communicate offers at every consumer touchpoint whilst ensuring that they take advantage of being in front of the consumer in delivering a core brand message. It is not easy of course, but those can easily capitalise and keep a cool head on a day when consumers lose theirs.

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