The Fresh Prince of Bel Air is not the only phenomenon Philadelphia has given the world – the city is also responsible, at least in part, for Black Friday
Before taking over the world (and, thanks to Amazon, seemingly about to stretch into a season), Black Friday was the rueful term used by Philadelphia police to describe the day after Thanksgiving Thursday and the resultant trouble caused by vastly increased pedestrian and vehicular traffic).
Now, however, the term ‘Black Friday’ is synonymous with manic purchasing in both the US and UK, marked out by physical struggles, battles of wits and physicality (in the US) and extraordinarily long queues (in the UK). The sound of tutting grows deafening throughout the day as queue fatigue and videos of American electronics warfare begin to overcome, but there is no doubt that, however oversold some of the deals may be, the Black Friday phenomenon has certainly been good for retailers, with data from 2015 showing a heavy contribution from Black Friday to the 5% YOY increase in sales volumes (defying a 3% forecast).
With figures across the 2015 shopping weekend, which consists of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, showing a total spend of more than three billion pounds (despite Asda abandoning its Black Friday offers and some retailers extending the offer period), it is no wonder that the period has extended again this year and also why retailers are hopeful of another strong end to a calendar year.
Over the years, named retail days have begun to increase – with Cyber Monday cropping up in 2005 and continuing to grow in prominence, joining Super Saturday (the last Saturday before Christmas) – but these tend to be the naming of existing trends, which retailers have already reinforced with discounts long before they are named. What we are seeing presently, in a financial climate that seems to promise little for retailers both on and offline, is a conscious decision by retailers to increase a demand that has no historical antecedent.
This can, of course, go one of two ways. Simply put – it either works, or it doesn’t. Logically, demand is intrinsically linked to supply and, therefore, Amazon’s decision to use it’s existing lightening deals (brief and extensive discounts) to attempt to extend the Black Friday period should succeed due to the imposed limit to the supply of the discounted items (at least limited in time), which should avoid buyer fatigue or the ‘I’ll buy it later’ problem which is a consequence of many long lived sales (for example, the eternal and now widely mocked DfS sale).
The alternative is that it begins a kind of arms race, with retailers seeking to compete across longer and longer periods for essentially the same spend, eating into other shopping periods with extended runs of discounting. Regardless of the possibilities, however, at the time of writing (15/11/2016), brands have already begun bidding on terms such as ‘black Friday deals’ – and with 1.2 million searches for this term in the UK alone (through Google) in November 2015, it is easy to see why.
In a conversation with TechRadar, for example, a spokesperson for Zavi (who boasted a 561% increase in Black Friday sales in 2015) said:
It certainly feels like retailers will start to extend the black friday sales period so that customers start purchasing at least the week before, instead of just waiting for the Black Friday sales. However, it’s always going to be hard to now gain customers[sic] full attention in the period prior to Black Friday because the day has such a strong reputation.
Whether or not you run an extended period of discounts, there are a few areas which require attention for every brand wanting to take part in Black Friday (or Cyber Monday, or indeed any retail holiday):
Target content at Black Friday specific keywords: Ideally, this would have begun a while ago – but it’s never too late to start targeting those Black Friday queries with blog posts, gift guides, videos and other Black Friday related content to target the bargain hunters that need that extra little nudge toward purchasing.
Create dedicated landing pages and category pages: Your consumers need to know what they’re getting and, as with any other form of landing page optimisation, a Black Friday landing page should accurately reflect the content, link or ad that brought them there. Use banners and distinct design to set your Black Friday landing pages apart from the rest of the site. It also pays to have all of your offers easily accessible through specific category pages, reducing browsing time and increasing purchase time.
Build trust with reviews: Black Friday may be the very first time your brand interacts with a consumer, so let them know how well regarded you are by your current consumer base by displaying your reviews – think of it like a warm handshake to seal the deal.
Encourage sharing: Offer incentives for sharing – discount codes can be a powerful incentive for sharing and the further news of your offers travel, the more buyers you’ll have, so make the most of the Black Friday traffic by getting them to bring a friend.
Ensure your servers are ready: The increased traffic may be desirable, but if it results in your site crashing, you could end up with nothing at all. So load-test your servers up to and exceeding the top level of traffic you are expecting to ensure that you’re safeguarding your Black Friday revenue against technical issues.
Countdown: One of the prime drivers of sales traffic (of any kind) is the limited lifespan of offers, so make the most of it with a countdown, create a bit of pressure and drive customers toward the checkout.
Differentiate: Unsurprisingly, yours will not be the only brand in your niche competing for Black Friday shoppers. It is therefore a must that you highlight your USP – put it front and centre on your landing pages, whether it’s free delivery or additional warranties, let your visitors know the reasons they should choose you over your competition.
Personalise: We talk a lot about personalisation at Click Consult (including dedicating a recent Drum Supplement to the concept), but there is ample evidence that this emergent trend in marketing is not only here to stay, but likely to become one of the most important in the digital age. Whether it’s via email or on-site, offer consumers about whom you have information offers tailored to their preferences.
Have a back up campaign: As with the suggestion to ensure the functionality of your servers at high load, this may also seem almost like a best case (even wishful thinking) tip, but it is essentially advice against putting all of your eggs into one basket. If you have top sellers, monitor stock levels and ensure you have a back up campaign ready to be deployed in your Adwords account in the event of a stock shortage.
Target the appropriate stage in the buyer’s journey: You will obviously have PPC campaigns targeted at each specific stage of the buyer’s journey, but for Black Friday it is well worth studying previous years’ data to gain an appreciation of how those other intention level campaigns perform over the weekend encompassing Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it may well be worth pausing lower intention level campaigns and focusing your budget entirely on purchase level queries (which are likely to have a higher CPC at this time and require more budget anyway).
Set up alerts: Whether to avoid maxing out your budget, placing lower in the ad order than you expected, or for not meeting spend – as an annual event, there are few opportunities to capitalise on the revenue increases Black Friday can deliver. You want to ensure, therefore, that your brand makes the most of it – and that means keeping a close eye on each aspect that could be influenced by such an unpredictable weekend.
Try retargeting last year’s bargain hunters: Create segments to target with remarketing campaigns, while they may not be looking for the same product they purchased last year, they have marked themselves out as being keen on a bargain, so whether you have related products they may like or simply want to employ a generic Black Friday promotion, why not try to turn last year’s buyers into repeat custom?
Maximise negative keyword use: With Black Friday also comes an increase in bounce rate and cart abandons. While you may not be able to do much (beyond standard retargeting/email marketing methods which aren’t quite suitable for short lived promotional prices) to combat the former, you can reduce bounce rate by maximising your use of negative key words in order to ensure that you are only targeting the most relevant search terms.
Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the weekend between could account for in excess of 30% of some brands’ annual revenue this year, so while Asda may well have decided against competing in a crowded retail market, unless you want to follow suit there has to be a big push to ensure your brand stands out from the crowd.
The wins are certainly there to be had, but the biggest successes will always go to those that have put in the most preparatory work. While it’s always better for brands to start work early on these things, some hard work and determination could still see you have everything in place for rush.
There are also opportunities to be had for the days in between – while the two biggest increases in sales may fall on the Friday and Monday, there is a lot to be said for making your presence felt in the days leading up to each.
Be smart about your content, your ads – even your social media presence. Do what you can to build tension, excitement and anticipation of the offers you will be making public. Work further up the sales funnel to give any necessary nudges those consumers who may yet be undecided might need to buy in to the hype surrounding the day.
This can come in the form of hints about desirable products that may be on sale or the aforementioned early content marketing. While consumers may go crazy for Black Friday deals, you still have to make sure they go crazy on your site.
Oh, and one more tip!
If you haven’t already, next year: start earlier!
Click Consult is an award winning search marketing agency with 15 years of experience across all digital disciplines. To find out how Click Consult can help your brand, contact us today, or for more actionable insights, check out our resources page and blog.