Black Friday: Blot on the retail calendar, or awash with opportunities?

(c)iStock/BikeWorldTravel

Two years ago, the media dined out on stories of in-store fights over cheap televisions. As a result, last year we saw more web-based campaigns – an attempt to avoid in-store pressure and panic. But that brought strains of its own, as retailers’ websites buckled under the weight of demand.

We've also seen Amazon launch Black Friday offers early and other retailers following suit by extending offerings to week-long periods to get around the mayhem.

Despite retailers' best efforts to evolve and take pressure away from a one-day event, the fact remains: last year it still produced better-than-expected sales figures and this year it’s predicted shoppers will spend £4bn in total and £2.3m a minute at peak times.

It’s safe to say Black Friday is here to stay now that customers expect it.

But, with more and more disgruntled customers and retailers, how will the day evolve in the future to ease pressure on stores and keep shoppers happy?

And what’s our advice on how to best leverage Black Friday in the coming years?

Use innovative solutions

Using different marketing channels and innovating with technology to control the customer journey is a great way to ease the pressure across the shopping event.

The key to finding solutions to the panic of Black Friday is to use insight on how people behave

In 2015, House of Fraser launched ‘shoppable windows’, which allowed customers to scan product information and access augmented reality features using the House of Fraser mobile app.

The campaign helped to drive digital traffic over the Black Friday weekend and is a fantastic example of aligning in-store and digital and avoiding those detrimental website crashes.  

Move away from Christmas or create your own event

We've already seen retailers taking a more measured approach to Black Friday so as not to cannibalise Christmas and January sales. It's an approach that's likely to continue.

Retailers should begin to make Black Friday its own event, moving it away from any association with Christmas. By merging the two, retailers are losing out on two separate shopping events.

By marketing Black Friday as a last-minute time for customers to buy for themselves rather than for others, retailers can help to disassociate the two events.

Getting digital banners right is  vital as part of the marketing strategy for this. Banners are the first point of sale for online shoppers and need to showcase exactly what retailers want to sell.  

If retailers want to nudge customers away from using Black Friday to buy Christmas gifts then they should spotlight the products customers would buy for themselves and highlight discounts.

Meanwhile, some retailers are already making breakaway moves to de-saturate Black Friday with completely separate, own events.

Amazon Prime Day in July invites Prime customers to save on thousands of products, boosting summer spending. And Fenwick’s Telegraph Evening has been an event since long before Black Friday was even an idea.

Experiment with marketing to ease the pain

The key to finding solutions to the panic of Black Friday is to use insight on how people behave, and advanced insight technology will give retailers the tools they need to define what success looks like in the future.

Biometric insight tools can track emotions, neurological activity and recognise faces.

These will help identify pressure points within the customer journey, how stressful particular parts of the store are as well as identify where shoppers are most receptive.

If this data is then correlated with other shopping periods – Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Boxing Day and even peak shopping days throughout December – then the behaviour of shoppers become more obvious and the customer experience can be adapted for the next year.

The adaption could include everything from temperature, to smell, to layout – all helping define the Black Friday experience of tomorrow.

It will be interesting to see what measures retailers will put in place to reap the rewards of Black Friday – or if some still consider it to be a black mark in their retail calendar. 

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