Last year’s Black Friday and festive period was unlike no other. Lockdowns meant physical stores were much quieter and ecommerce adoption soared as consumers found gifts online.
With fears over deliveries and uncertainties surrounding the pandemic, Google reported that almost half of the holiday shopping was completed by Cyber Monday last year – so is Black Friday as important to marketers this year and will campaigns start even earlier than before?
It seems that this year is following this trend already, as a Google survey in June asked whether consumers had already started their Christmas shopping and 31% of respondents in the US, and 23% in the UK*, said they had – and that was a few months ago!
With restrictions now lifted, everyone is hoping for a holiday period that involves lots of parties, get-togethers and general merriment this year. It is expected that this could also drive up spending as we want to treat our nearest and dearest even more after missing out over the past year.
But where will this spending occur? Have people moved online for the long term or have consumers missed the festive atmosphere of the brick-and-mortar shopping experience, with its twinkly lights and a cheeky stop for a hot chocolate or some mulled wine.
Black Friday differs greatly depending on your industry. Many retailers view the annual occasion as a key date in the calendar, with strategies optimized around paydays, Christmas shoppers and product drops around the Friday following Thanksgiving.
We caught up with several clients and marketing professionals to discuss how they are anticipating the affair. After 2020’s transition to a solely online experience throughout the pandemic, retailers are now approaching the festive season with reconsidered strategies.
Many fashion brands begin Black Friday as early as September, often seeing over 60% of turnover in Q4*. Oliver Bonas’ Connected Commerce Lead, Camilla Tress, revealed how the shift to online has benefited the brand.
“Black Friday has been successful for us in the past, particularly last year when all sales had shifted online. Peak season is vital for Oliver Bonas, as gifting is a major part of our offering, so it is an opportunity to both reward our loyal customers and to acquire new ones, who may only shop at this time of year.”
Given the amount of time stores have spent closed, customer relationships with physical and online stores have changed. Tress revealed how the retailer links their online marketing with in-store sales as much as possible.
“We have been working to build a Single Customer View through our CDXP to provide a seamless experience wherever our customer is. For a number of years, we have been offering email receipts so we can stitch together customer purchases in-store and online.”
The physical attraction of brick-and-mortar stores varies across markets. Often the experience of in-store shopping is a significant appeal for consumers, as Tress evidenced: “Physical presence is very important for us. Stores are an essential part of our brand experience. Prior to lockdown, 80% of our revenue came from stores, and it still accounts for 60 to 70%.”
Despite the deep-seeded culture of in-person shopping, the online market is growing faster than ever. The Guardian revealed UK internet retail sales grew by 46.1% last year, marking the highest rate recorded in the past decade.
Providing an ecommerce-only perspective, officefurnitureonline.co.uk’s Marketing Director, Emma Warrington discussed the retailer’s anticipations for this year. “We will likely have a 10-day run in. Black Friday success is largely because it’s the last pay day before Christmas.”
In 2020, global holiday digital sales topped $1.1 trillion, and online stores accounted for almost half of all non-food purchases in December*. Warrington advised of the relationship-building potential during the festive period: “We won’t go in as hard as perhaps some businesses do. I think Black Friday is better as a CRM tool than a demand driver. We’re in a competitive sector, and I’d be concerned that this strategy doesn’t deliver ROI.”
Customer behavior has also evolved alongside the online market. “Historically, the business would just put offers on and trade, but people are savvier now. We want to target customers whom we can bring in and build relationships with.”
Multiple signs indicate how the shopping season started earlier and lasted longer, forcing changes to the way online retailers approach the period. In 2020, 42% of people said they started their holiday shopping earlier than in prior years*. The return of physical stores combined with the internet’s ever-expanding network has seen an increasing demand for hybrid shopping.
Generic searches have grown three times faster* than brand searches in the gifting category. Merging record high online traffic with a returning appetite for physical stores, it’s evident why many brands are expecting a strong Black Friday.
Andy Letting, Disrupt The Market’s Digital Marketing Consultant delivered an interesting analytical insight on customer experience. “The audience size is bigger this year, with shoppers having more trust and experience with online stores. I’d like to think retailers will think longer about how they can gain repeat customers.”
Despite online shopping’s growth, Letting is confident in the longer-term appeal of physical stores for both business and consumer. “Stores are a showroom from a brand perspective and are very much about the experience, and that’s part of the attraction for consumers”.
Google’s recent survey illustrates that most shoppers still intend to do the majority of their shopping online, with 62% voting online over in-store*. Speaking from a physical store dominant standpoint, Card Factory’s Digital Performance Manager Daniel Price voiced the changes they have witnessed during the festive season.
“Normally we look to start one or two months beforehand with soft launches across retailers. We have definitely seen it getting earlier though, Black Friday is no longer just about the day, it’s an audience type.”
Price explained the changes to audience behavior and how larger corporations dictate trends: “There are those that are naturally pre-organized, and perform preemptive searches, and then there is Black Friday week. Amazon usually dictates when everything starts due to their size; others get dragged into activity on the back of this.”
The shopping comeback is in full flow. Oberlo revealed 2021 US retail sales topped $3.25 trillion in the first two quarters of 2021, and keen Black Friday buyers are ready to spend. What are your thoughts on what Black Friday holds this year? Drop us a tweet on @searchlabs or message us on LinkedIn.
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Additional data sources used in this article: