Black Friday, especially for the UK market, can conjure up unsavoury images of apocalyptic proportions where shoppers mercilessly stampede over each other for a £50 TV in Tesco. You’ll have seen the footage of people knocking over displays and fighting in the aisles over rock bottom prices for limited edition £100 washing machines. It is easy to think that this kind of behaviour isn’t right for your brand and would be better suited to Del Boy in Only Fools & Horses BUT the size and scale of Black Friday has now become a major player in both the marketing and retail calendar. Early predictions are outrageous with UK spend predicted at £4.75 billion on Black Friday by Salmon (and 47% of it online) and a total of £9.2 billion across the 4 day weekend say TextMarker. Whatever way you slice it, it is big business and as Forbes notes, “Black Friday is expected to be the No. 1 shopping day of the year. No single day of shopping — not Cyber Monday, not Thanksgiving — eclipses its activity.” Black Friday now effectively supercharges our slide into Christmas because it indicates to shoppers quite clearly, that this time is the best time to pick up festive deals. So how is it possible to apply this to your brand or business, especially in a non-tech environment.
First up Black Friday History
Black Friday originates from the USA and we’ve kind of adopted it over the last few years since Amazon and Walmart forced it upon us as Insider reveals – lols. Being the bargain hunting Brits we are we have embraced it and now it is a fully fledged part of our shopping lives. Traditionally though, Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving – so hence the date changes each year. For 2018, it is pretty early and we are looking at 23rd November this year. The retail term “Black Friday” via the aptly named BlackFriday website, was first used in the 1960s to mark the start of the Christmas shopping season. Back in the day when store accounts were kept by hand, accounts were said to be in the “Black” when in profit and “Red” when showing loss. The Christmas season was a time for “Black” accounting.
The bash-the-doors-down-and-kick-your-way-to-the-£1-toaster days have given way to a more measured approach. Shoppers are taking to online to shop and comparing prices before they pick up their credit card which is easier these days as every website, blog and newspaper will be bombarding you with information.
Black Friday Stretch – from pre-Black Friday to Cyber Monday
To say it is all about one day, would be to simplify things. Black Friday has now morphed into almost a week long event which can be overwhelming as a retailer and as a consumer. Kicking off with preview sales from Thursday and stretching all the way through the weekend into Cyber Monday, there are plenty of ways to get involved and it is essential to get a clear marketing message which shoppers will understand..
Forbes notes that “Amazon summarized retailers’ mindset this holiday season with its campaign “Countdown to Black Friday,” which started November 1. This strategy, adopted by many, is less about the Christmas creep, and more about capturing holiday loyalty early.” Yikes, so literally we are pre-promoting heavy discounting three weeks before they go live. This goes against the grain of traditional retail instincts, where you wouldn’t wish to jeopardise current sales by discussing future discounts. However with Black Friday – where you can hand pick products for extreme promotion or simply select a certain hour for your promotion’ – it serves to hook your customers imagination early, ensuring they are refreshing the screen at midnight come Black Friday.
How to market Black Friday – Create An Offer
Ok so onto picking your marketing message and offering. Black Friday is one of the most overwhelming seasonal experiences, mainly because creativity can be so key to winning the game. Offers can include:
Blanket discount – luxury department stores have embraced this one because it is easy….in some ways. The message is super clear but it can be hard as a shopper as you will come across exclusions. However, for example if a brand that rarely discounts like Charlotte Tilbury is included, it is a great time to snap up a few of your favourite products.
Specific products – reducing one item by a huge margin can create quite a stir – especially with the press who love hunting out the best deals. This is a great option if you are overstocked in one item BUT you might not sell anything else all weekend.
Gift with purchase – it is easy to give away a bad gift with purchase and much harder to find an actual gift that gives genuine added value. The key here is to work far enough in advance to plan for it and order in sufficient stocks to cope with demand. Factor in additional shipping costs and whether you expect the gift with purchase to be returned afterwards and it can be a winner.
Multiple items can be grouped together to offer discounts which can encourage a bigger spend. The difficulty in a Black Friday environment can be standing out from the competition, so in that sense, a Buy One Get One Free might get less headlines than a simple ‘Get This Amazing Luxury Leopard Coat for 70% Off for One Day Only’.
Gamification of Black Friday
If you are a much bigger business with a good solid tech team or are just game for extra complications for Black Friday, you might like the idea of staggering your discounts or offers. For example – you could set up a significant discount from a different product every day from Friday to Monday at the same time to create momentum. This requires extra admin and marketing so you need to plan in advance.
How to market Black Friday – Marketing
Ok so now onto how to get those messages out to your audience, these considerations include:
Marketing – Black Friday, much like a time of Sale is heavily message led so be as clear as possible on your offer and let’s roll! Preparation is key so start with your existing customers and make sure your creative is all signed off at least a month in advance, you’ve scheduled all your newsletters to go out which should also feed into your social media. If you’re a physical store then you can get temporary signage, leaflets for Black Friday to ensure customers understand your Black Friday offers and to entice passing customers into the store.
Entice new customers – PR, social media and advertising.
PR – For PR you’ll need as much of a lead time as you can get, but traditionally you will probably not be working with long lead media here as offers are confirmed later on. Supplements, newspapers, TV, radio and online are you key drivers here.
If you work three to six months in advance, you will be able to get any creative you need organised and sort out any products you need to order.
Press releases can be sent out under embargo with your offer with high res images so that they can be promoted.
This period of the year is more reactive than ever – so if a story breaks you can newsjack, a particular product sells out or the website crashes, you can release further details to the press as you go along.
Influencers, bloggers and affiliates
You might wish to amplify your message further by offering extra special affiliate commissions to bloggers who share your Black Friday offers or to go even further, you may want to look at a blogger to work with on a special Black Friday Campaign. For this kind of activity I recommend working with an influencer you’ve worked with before because this isn’t the time to take a risk. The content will be crucial and you’ll want to make sure that your brand already resonates with their audience. Make sure a contract is in place and both parties have signed off on messages and creative well ahead of Black Friday – I would get everything scheduled two weeks in advance and kick off with a teasers from 12 November onwards.
Social Media – Social media can punch well above its weight with Black Friday through clever use of hashtags. Twitter is great for this because you can link directly to your product and get people swiftly to the checkout so tech companies will be all over this one. Instagram is the biggest player for fashion and lifestyle now that their product shopping tool is available on the grid, and don’t forget about Instagram stories where products with links to shop can rack up stacks of views with the right hashtags.
Advertising – I am no advertising expert, but in the race to those consumers, I recommend amplifying your hard work with advertising. By utilising paid campaigns through PPC and social media (particularly Instagram and Facebook for fashion, beauty and lifestyle markets) you can ramp up your offering and drive conversions. Working with experts, you can ensure you’re in front of engaged shoppers.
That’s all folks – that’s my top tips. Just remember, if in doubt, follow the KISS method – Keep It Simple Stupid and you can’t go wrong!