Ten years ago, Black Friday was barely a thing in the UK in the retail industry. Amazon dipped its toe, carrying over its marketing strategy from America. But for most, it was, at best, an unknown. At worst, something to laugh about on social media, as the US went mad for a day. Now, in the UK, it can be anything up to a month-long extravaganza. Retailers and e-tailers are in a mad race to the bottom, seeing who can bag customers first. Not only with Black Friday sales, but pre-Black Friday sales.
From a marketing perspective, it is easy to see why this happens, and where the retailers are coming from. But from a business point of view, Black Friday is beginning to make less and less sense. Because too many retailers are doing Black Friday wrong.
What’s Gone Wrong With Black Friday?
Black Friday began as a means for retailers to clear out old stock before Christmas, and to diffuse the period of peak traffic. Removing some of the strain from that manic two weeks in December by tempting shoppers to make ‘bargain’ purchases early. And in the US, it worked for a while. But we’ve reached the stage where it’s not just old stock that is being black-ticketed. Retailers may be getting customers through the door – or digital checkout – but they’re not making any money from their sales.
Some end up operating at a loss. And sure, the customer who managed to grab that 65” television feels like they’ve made a steal. But will they come back for more? Was the shopping experience memorable for anything other than the crush of bodies and the feeling of triumph? Will the customer even remember which store they made their purchase at, or simply that it was a ‘Black Friday deal’? No loyalty has been created. No lifetime customer secured. And there’s every chance that your advertising fees will seriously eat into your bottom line.
For businesses that really want to get an edge over their competitors, a weekend or even month-long silo is never going to deliver the results that could be achieved through the maximisation of year-round sales That’s not to say there’s no benefit. Looking at Black Friday as a way to convert the customers who may not have purchased but signed up to newsletters, or have a low propensity to purchase, is a good way to activate or reactivate these audiences, but it’s not the end-game.
Why a Longer Term More Tactical Approach Will Help Build Your Retail Business Better Than Black Friday
There is little doubt that customers are intrigued by Black Friday. But as the cost of living crisis continues to pinch Black Friday is failing to have the same pull. Finder research has shown that overall, Black Friday and Cyber Monday spending in the UK is declining. Decreasing from £6 billion in 2020 and £4.8 billion in 2021, to a predicted £3.95 billion this year. Whereas customer service and customer experience continue to increase in importance. In fact, 58% of customers are willing to pay more for a better service level. So, what’s the answer?
How To Move Away From The Black Friday Hype
There is a fear among retailers that if they don’t run a Black Friday promotion, their November footfall will suffer. But let’s just return to the obvious here: although Black Friday [usually] increases footfall, it also hacks into a business’s bottom line. Substantially. So, it’s an enormous trade off. And as every other store is running promotions, even if you get that footfall, you won’t necessarily get the sales. Your business becomes just another store. But what happens when you flip it?
When you run a targeted sale when no one else is doing so, your brand stands out from the crowd. If you do this at fixed periods throughout the year, you create a returning audience. And because you can do this at traditionally quiet times, you can help to regulate the typical peaks and troughs of retail. Ensuring that your business has a continuous cashflow from a loyal and returning customer base.
When you add in an amplified customer experience – something that simply can’t be delivered in the melee of Black Friday– you underscore the value your business can bring to your customers. Further enhancing loyalty.
Black Friday is a phenomenon that we’re not likely to see the back of any time soon. It has become ingrained in the retail calendar. But that doesn’t mean that it’s beneficial. It doesn’t mean that you have to join in. And it doesn’t mean that your customers will think any less of you for side-stepping the hype in favour of compelling service.
Mark Joseph is the founder of Vouch Global. After a successful 15-year career within other media agencies, including Steak and PHD, working with some of the world’s largest brands, startups and SME’s, Mark launched Vouch Global in 2018. A creative performance agency dedicated to helping clients gain real influence through insight and strategy-driven content creation.
Mark is a Media Week & Daily Mail 30 Under 30. He has also sat on the Internet Advertising Bureau council, advising both brands and agencies on new regulation within the U.K advertising industry.