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Black Friday boom or bluff? (And tips for traders)

As Black Friday approaches retailers and consumers are bracing themselves for another shopping frenzy, writes JJ DELGADO.

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 date

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.

The deals

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.

Media buzz

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.

Stock clearance

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.

Brand awareness

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.

Read on on for top tips for online retailers:

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Two-thirds of adults ready for cars that drive themselves

The latest Looking Further with Ford Trends Report reveals that behaviour is changing across key areas of our lives

Self-driving cars are a hot topic today, but if you had to choose, would you rather your children ride in an autonomous vehicle or drive with a stranger? You may be surprised to learn that 67 per cent of adults globally would opt for the self-driving car.

That insight is one of many revealed in the 2019 Looking Further with Ford Trend Report, released last week. The report takes a deep look into the drivers of behavioural change, specifically uncovering the dynamic relationships consumers have with the shifting landscape of technology.

Change is not always easy, particularly when it is driven by forces beyond our control. In a global survey of 14 countries, Ford’s research revealed that 87 per cent of adults believe technology is the biggest driver of change. And while 79 per cent of adults maintain that technology is a force for good, there are large segments of the population that have significant concerns. Some are afraid of artificial intelligence (AI). Others fear the impact of technology on our emotional wellbeing.

“Individually and collectively, these behavioural changes can take us from feeling helpless to feeling empowered, and unleash a world of wonder, hope and progress,” says Kuda Takura, smart mobility specialist at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa. “At Ford we are deeply focused on human-centric design and are committed to finding mobility solutions that help improve the lives of consumers and their communities. In the context of change, we have to protect what we consider most valuable – having a trusted relationship with our customers. So, we are always deliberate and thoughtful about how we navigate change.”

Key insights from Ford’s 7th annual Trends Report:

Almost half of people around the world believe that fear drives change
Seven in 10 say that they are energised by change
87 per cent agree that technology is the biggest driver of today’s change
Eight in 10 citizens believe that technology is a force for good
45 per cent of adults globally report that they envy people who can disconnect from their devices
Seven out of 10 consumers agree that we should have a mandatory time-out from our devices

Click here to read more about the seven trends for 2019.

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Encounters festival to screen year’s hottest documentaries

The 21st Encounters South African International Documentary Festival has secured the rights to screen 2019’s most acclaimed documentaries.

Fresh from the world’s leading festivals, the documentaries put viewers in places as diverse as the front row of high-fashion’s runways to eavesdropping on an international racist conspiracy with South African ties, from a tribute to Pan-Africanism via Fela Kuti to Afrika Bambaataa’s search for his roots in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

The opening night film, coming just weeks after its World Premiere in Competition at Hot Docs, Toronto’s holy grail of documentary film festivals, will be “Buddha In Africa”. Made by South African director Nicole Schafer, it receives its’ joint South African premiere at Encounters and the 40th Durban International Film Festival.

This delicately observed documentary is about a Malawian teenager in a Chinese Buddhist orphanage in Africa, who finds himself torn between his African roots and Chinese upbringing. The film focuses on Enock, a young teenager caught between his traditional culture, his dreams of becoming a martial arts hero like Jet Li and the strict discipline of Confucianism. Set against the backdrop of China’s growing influence on the African continent this essential film poses complex questions about race, imperialism, faith and culture and offers a subtle exploration of the impact of soft cultural power on the identity and interior life of a young boy and his community.

Director Schafer says: “It’s also about Africa’s relations with other foreign nations, including the former colonisers. It’s this idea that the key to the future of the continent’s development is always held by outsiders, and that in order to succeed, we have to adapt to foreign value systems and policies. I think Enock’s story challenges this idea in very refreshing ways.”

Click here to read about what’s to show at this year’s Encounters festival.

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