Black Friday:
Are you Ready for the Rush?

Gareth Ilbery, 
Head of eCommerce, 

Does November 29th 2019 mean anything to you? If you work in eCommerce, hopefully, the answer is yes.

Push Group look at the origins of Black Friday in the UK and suggest ways for marketers to make the most of the calendar event.

Q4 is the busiest season for eCommerce clients, perhaps even more than Christmas Day itself. One particular date in Q4 should jump out of your calendar like hot toast from a Breville (other high-quality kitchen appliances are available.)

The final weekday of November is the ominously monikered Black Friday. When you’ve watched as much news coverage of the ensuing carnage as I have, shoppers whacking other shoppers over the head with flatscreen TVs and booting one another in the shins over the final kettle on the shelf, the name suddenly seems appropriately dark.

Working in eCommerce will preclude you from much of the physical chaos experienced by shop floor staff on Black Friday, but you still need to be ready for one of your busiest weeks of the year. If you’re not totally prepared, your competitors will surpass you.

What is Black Friday?

Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November in the US. The next day has been the unofficial start of the holiday season since at least the late 19th century, primarily because it is the last day after a major holiday before Christmas.

Black Friday has become such a major day of shopping in the US because many companies grant their employees the day off as part of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Retailers quickly cottoned on to the opportunity created by this practice, offering fantastic sales on limited supplies of highly coveted items, prime real estate for shoppers looking to tick stuff off their Christmas shopping lists.

In the UK, Black Friday was originally a term used by the NHS and police to refer to the final weekday before Christmas, when Brits would go out drinking en masse. Emergency services see significant increases in calls during this period because of alcohol-related injuries and crime as a result.

In the early 2010s, however, the UK began to adopt Black Friday as a marketing campaign akin to that of their US counterparts. One significant step in its introduction into UK culture came in 2013, when Asda, a subsidiary of Walmart, announced their ‘Walmart’s Black Friday by Asda’ campaign, promoting the concept that was so fervently thriving the other side of the pond. The campaign was met with criticism and scepticism, but it set a precedent. The following year, more UK-based retailers began their own Black Friday campaigns, leading to numerous police incidents surrounding crowd control, threatening customers and all-out shopper-on-shopper assaults.

Black Friday’s popularity continues to grow exponentially in the UK. In 2016, total online spending on Black Friday was £1.23bn. In 2017, sales grew faster in November than in December for the first time in British retail history.

It’s not just a 24-hour period

As with all major cultural and economic innovations, Black Friday has evolved rapidly during its short tenure in the UK. It is no longer a single day; rather, it is representative of a week, even a month, of retailers offering exclusive and enticing deals to customers. Most commonly, businesses will offer deep discounts on products on the preceding Thursday (Thanksgiving in the US), sometimes even the Wednesday, in order to jumpstart consumers’ holiday shopping.

The Black Friday effect has inevitably snowballed. If you’re not on board with Black Friday, you will fall behind your competitors — especially if you work in eCommerce. Brick-and-mortar traffic has fallen during the Black Friday period in the last few years, but online sales have soared. Online retailers have realised that shoppers are no longer prepared to wait on their laurels. They want those fantastic deals now.

Preparation can’t start too early!

52% of multichannel retailers started planning for Black Friday back in July. If you haven’t started yet, it’s not too late — but you need to step up to the plate, son.

According to McKinsey & Company, 70% of shoppers actively intend to participate in Black Friday in some form or another. You literally cannot afford to forsake implementing plans, strategies and campaigns to address this massive source of potential revenue. It’s also imperative that you run tests on your site to ensure it can cope with the massive volumes of traffic it may well experience come the day itself.

Some retailers don’t fully realise the speed at which their popular products will fly off the shelves on Black Friday. You need to be fully stocked and then some. Every step of the processes that get those products in front of customers needs to be audited, tested, optimised, then tested again. The earlier you identify errors along the way, the more effectively you can address and rectify them.

Be mindful of the fact that last-minute promotions might seem a savvy way of spontaneously drawing in consumers’ attentions — and sometimes they are — but this generally won’t fly come November 29th. Deals such as this are costly and will not lead to as good a return as will a well-thought-through and highly structured advance campaign.

Finally, remember: Black Friday is now a global phenomenon. It’s crucial to account for international traffic. The impact on search volumes caused by queries from abroad can be huge. If you offer overseas shipping or have clients beyond the shores of Blighty, be aware that these volumes can increase at a seemingly inordinate rate. Businesses lacking this foresight can be rendered ill-stocked of their popular products.

You don’t have to do it alone

The impact that a successful Black Friday season can have on your business cannot be underestimated. For this reason, the prospect of it can be daunting to say the least — but there’s no reason you can’t enlist assistance from the experts!

Push are a Google Premier Partner digital marketing agency, a leading voice in both Europe and on the global stage when it comes to eCommerce. We can help you prepare for Black Friday, too. We will audit your accounts and set up your scripts and automations early, meaning we can spend the week itself optimising, not faffing around last-minute, panicking about the basics and running about the office like headless poultry.

If you’ve not started preparing then reach out to Push and we’ll take care of your Black Friday woes. Get in touch with us today and find out how we can put you in the best possible position to maximise sales and see revenue soar.

(And if you’re planning a trip to your local shopping centre come November 29th, you might want to don some shinpads…)

 

As seen in The Drum