Black Friday is recognised around the world as a modern phenomenon, mainly associated with online shopping, however it all started in the USA as early as the late 19th Century when two speculators created a disruption in gold prices that caused a stock market crash. However, it wasn’t until the 1950s when people began to use the Friday after Thanksgiving to start their Christmas shopping. Then in 1966, the term Black Friday became more widely known, when the Philadelphia Police Department used it to define the chaos and traffic congestion caused by shoppers on this day.
Nowadays, Black Friday is a massive retail event often associated primarily with online shopping, although brick and mortar stores also experience a marked increase in customer traffic. Retailers use an extensive range of online and offline tools and resources to enhance sales and improve customer acquisition in what has become one of the greatest days for online deals. Amazon has been at the forefront of Black Friday’s online success and was responsible for bringing Black Friday to Europe. In 2017, Amazon took 54.9% of all Black Friday online transactions. (Source: Hitwise)
My personal experience of Black Friday at Amazon UK in 2015 was one of the highlights of my career and allowed me to be a key player as Head of Amazon Deals Programme for UK, on the day with the highest number of international sales in Amazon’s history. (Source: BBC News) The incredible success of this day was the result of 6 months of hard work, negotiating the best deals from brands and retailers, ensuring a high number of quality deals with great discounts, coordinating digital marketing strategies, creating high impact media coverage and ensuring that IT infrastructures were in place so that the platform was ready for the surge of e-commerce traffic.
So, the question remains… Does Black Friday really improve business or is it just an over-hyped publicity stunt?
Well, the answer to this depends on how you work it, or to put it simply… “You reap what you sow.” Black Friday may only be one day in the year but the negotiations and preparations that lead up to this day can determine whether it is a true success or not, both for the brand and the consumer. The success of Black Friday in recent years has led to an extension of this shopping bonanza with the addition of Cyber Monday, on the Monday after Black Friday, which focuses on online deals. In a bid to maximise the customer’s eagerness for bargains, many retailers around the globe begin the build-up to Black Friday up to a week before, with tempting offers to whet the customer’s appetite.
Black Friday has evolved with the retail industry, maximising online and offline consumer trends to reach a seamless shopping experience but basically it is an event created by retailers, for retailers. There are several fundamental factors that have made Black Friday the phenomenon that it is today:
The fact that Black Friday falls in November is no coincidence. November was traditionally a low month in sales, with shoppers saving their money for Christmas shopping. Many consumers now buy Christmas presents with discounts on Black Friday and this spreads the flow of shoppers, helping to make staffing and people management in stores easier. Also, with November being in Q4, it is a good time for balancing financial results and making up for any shortfalls experienced during the year.
Black Friday stands out from other sales periods because of the vast array of deals available in almost every retail environment. The effect is contagious and customers are hungry for bargains. Months of planning and negotiating go into finding the best deals and providing the greatest discounts. Customers have a huge amount of information at hand and online shoppers are very “tech-savvy”, instantly checking to see if deals are real or not. Price tracking sites such as camelcamelcamel.com show the pricing history of a product and quickly reveal if a product’s price has been inflated.
The mediatic impact of Black Friday is carried by powerful advertising that spread through social media like wildfire. The buzz generated by the media builds up anticipation to the point that customers often feel compelled to make purchases even without a real need. There is a social element to it that attracts customers, whether it be to physical stores or from the comfort of their own home, as well as the consequent social media feedback that it generates.
Black Friday is a great way to clear old stock and make way for new products. This is especially relevant in electronics and technology, where products age very quickly and the stock can become obsolete if it is not shifted before the launch of the next model. Video game consoles and mobile phones are prime examples of the customer’s need to get the latest model and the announcement of new launches generates high expectation, causing present models to be perfect candidates for tempting discounts.
Black Friday is a great opportunity to create brand awareness. Customers are in a shopping mood and are very receptive to new deals and high impact advertising. The audience is there, ready and waiting, to see what is on offer for them, with many people even taking time off to shop. Brands can seize on the mood of the customer to introduce new products or to offer great deals on established ones. Shoppers looking for Christmas presents don’t always have a clear idea of what they want and so they are more open to browse through deals in search of inspiration. The ease of online shopping and the fact that it has become such an easy process for customers, especially the younger generations, also incites impulse buys that are made by shoppers who get caught up in the shopping frenzy.
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