How Can Brands Use Black Friday as Part of Their Marketing Strategy?

Black Friday is a crucial day in the retail calendar, and this year, sales are predicted to hit a record £9.1 billion. What was once a single shopping day is now a full weekend: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday all play a part in jump-starting the holiday shopping season. So how can brands capitalise on this holiday? Marketing experts share their views and best practices below.

Justine O’Neill, Senior Director, Analytic Partners

As brands prepare for the biggest Black Friday since 2019, there are endless marketing tactics to consider to ensure they get the biggest bang for their advertising buck this shopping holiday.

In the weeks running up to Black Friday, marketing efforts should be focused on pushing brand-messaging across multiple channels. Combine this with effective performance marketing, such as shopping, search and display ads, and you’ll be sure to be top-of-mind when the time to shop finally arrives. Don’t forget that all advertising has an omnichannel impact, meaning that online advertising affects offline sales and offline advertising affects online sales, which will be important to keep in mind.

The pandemic has taught us that building lasting and positive relationships with customers is one of the cornerstones of business success. So while many brands will focus their marketing efforts solely on the short term wins this shopping holiday, such as sale conversions, it is also important to have a long-term strategy in place that will ensure your customers remain customers long-term.

Giving customers the option to opt-in their data during the point of sale, e.g. for newsletters or loyalty programmes, is a great way to build long-term relationships being able to re-target these customers in the future through tailored advertising.

Richard Downey, Managing Partner, Connections US

Black Friday will be really interesting this year. Will people still be keen to wrestle a stranger on the floor of Currys or Best Buy for a discounted 55-inch TV? Or will people realise that not only is that behaviour a COVID risk, it’s also a bit unnecessary! As has been the case for years, the holiday shopping season will continue to thrive online. And more online deliveries mean more opportunities for marketers to target customers at home, as they receive their much-anticipated deliveries. Whether through complementary, non-competitive printed ad collateral placed in ecommerce packages, or via digital opportunities to target shoppers, brands working with other brands as media owners is one of the fastest growing media channels this year. This in-home media tactic is responsive and has a 100% guaranteed open rate. Too late for this year, but for Black Friday 2022 activations such as these should be a part of every marketer’s strategy.

Rachel Clarke, Founding Partner, Strat House

“If you take your cue from the optimism shown in the 2021 Xmas ads, then this year’s holiday season will be massive, which has an impact on Black Friday as people buy for Christmas as well as themselves now. But most of the ads will have been planned and created far earlier in the year (John Lewis starts in the January of each year) so don’t always reflect the current situation.

If you take a look at the emails coming in (or is it just me) then there is a lot of pushing for “Early Black Friday” deals. There’s a virtual circle of push and pull promotion – early emails go out, search for the term started growing at the end of October, then a slew of articles all providing information about when Black Friday is and where you can find the best early deals.

The messages coming across here are not as confident. Some of this is aligned to the ongoing supply chain issues and concern that a late November order date may not be early enough to get goods to people in time for Xmas.  Others reasons may be nervousness regarding what disposable income is available, so a drive to get their bid for purchases in before the competition. With news from the EU about the growing number of cases, it is clear covid has not gone away and caution on purchasing can be taking hold again.  This is combined with rising prices across many areas (eg average xmas food shop increasing by >6%)

Another reason for an extension to the promotion is to get people in stores – there is still a desire for a shopping experience even as online sales grow. I think scenes from previous years of crowds descending on the stores for the start of the sale may be less this year (even though it was more a US deal than a UK one)”

Darren Savage, Chief Strategy Officer, Tribal Worldwide

Black Friday 2020 was bigger than ever as locked down shoppers unleashed their pent-up demand in an online shopping frenzy.

However, with a global supply chain crisis looming, 2021 could be a very different picture. In the UK we’ve seen major ports shut down due to a bottleneck of yet-to-be-unloaded container ships, and shortages of raw materials and goods and the drivers to deliver them are putting retailers under extreme pressure.

Pre-covid, a growing number of brands and retailers were embracing the anti-Black Friday movement – from Winter sports brand REI and their #OptOutside campaign to encourage staff and customers to extend the Thanksgiving holiday and enjoy the great outdoors to Patagonia, who encourage customers to  buy less and demand more from the products they buy.

These are smart consumer messages that tie-in with their overall brand and will appeal to their core demographics.

But even brands which aren’t as obviously right-on as Patagonia are having to think about how encouraging mass consumerism with cut price promotions will resonate with a growing population increasingly educated on climate change and labour issues.

And retailers still trying to claw back losses suffered during the pandemic should be thinking long and hard about the wisdom of rushing to the bottom on price.

Black Friday used to create a moment-in-time sense of urgency around a bargain – and perhaps a great opportunity to get good deals on early Christmas presents – but it’s morphing into a drawn-out promotion took away some of the element of fun and challenge.

Black Friday also used to be a trigger to get people into shops, and smart retailers should now be looking at how they can reintroduce that element of experience to tap into pent-up desire; moving away from the bargain basement dog whistles and more towards delighting and luring back customers.

But whatever a retailers’ take on Black Friday, it is now arguably a date too late for 2020.

With the supply chain issues, driver shortages, spiralling shipping costs and an inflation boom on the horizon – it may now be too late to bag what you really want for Christmas.

Retailers should be making the most of what they have now as there will be no guarantees on Santa’s list this year.

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