25 Jan Black Friday & “Sighber” Monday — the year we found apathy
Numbers are up, yep, another record year for Black Friday in the UK with just over £6B spent over Black Friday weekend with £1.2B spent on the Friday itself, representing a 12.2% increase YoY but 16% behind where the IMRG predicted it would be. This number masks some interesting behaviors and observations I made over the last number of weeks. Themes include:
#1 Undertones of apathy from consumers about the quality of deals being offered. Suggests the move to a truly “personalised” experience was offset for stock clearance exercises. This is partly because it is a tough time for retailers in most categories, specialist and generalist alike. Consider technology and consumer electronics, growth has stagnated in the category for all periods, except this 4 week burst beginning with the build up to Black Friday. Margins are getting tighter or non existent, and this makes sense, because you spend the rest of the year maintaining margin, knowing you’re going to have to give it all up again for Sigh-ber Monday.
#2 Creativity has been reduced to discount messaging. Nothing novel and nothing new. No one has the ability to do something beyond a deeper discount message. Nothing in this captures one’s attention. Gift finders/ micros sites/gamification all gone and investment has been limited to enable you to try compete in the noise. Even the email marketing was weak — 2 mails I received yesterday:
I wonder with the increased move to messaging apps, who will be the first to roll out something like a concierge service or online personal shopper dedicated to you for the Christmas basket shopping next year? Over to you and your people Paul Sweeney — I’m sure you could help with this idea !
#3 Black Friday has extended. Amazons 25 days of deals typified the literal lengths the major players are going to, to try and beat the competition. For me, the selection and navigation through Amazon’s deals, was awkward and boring. Considering the breadth of products (at its height on Black Friday it had 10,000 new items per hour allegedly) the experience was poor. eBay on the same note have been using their deals programme to similar effect, the biggest disappointment last week was the inclusion of this deal . Apathy much? To break this down for the UK, I will defer to an excerpt from this article.
“The IMRG and SimilarWeb analysis found that retailers launched their campaigns across the week. The number of top 100 retailers — as defined through the IMRG comScore Retailer Ranking — offering Black Friday campaigns were as follows:
Monday 21 Nov: 26 (15 launched that day), 25 offering non-Black Friday sale
Tuesday 22 Nov: 29 (3 launched that day), 27 offering non-Black Friday sale
Wednesday 23 Nov: 37 (8 launched that day), 24 offering non-Black Friday sale
Thursday 24 Nov: 44 (7 launched that day), 20 offering non-Black Friday sale
Friday 25 Nov: 66 (22 launched that day), 10 offering non-Black Friday sale”
#4 Cross border growth is going to become a key feature in a more balanced approach to gifting, actually making margin and should be a pillar of growth for all your future marketing activities. Irish stats are not yet out, but I can say from experiencing it over the last 3 weeks, the level of inbound parcels from he UK was up ALOT. For the last 2 weeks, my Parcel Motel has been continually late. However, they are offsetting this through a huge concerted effort around customer service and making sure I know where I stand. Not ideal, but a big improvement and 3 weeks ago, there were overflow trucks brought to my local town to handle the extra volume. Expect this to grow. I know of a number of US and EU retailers I’ve spoken with who are looking to the opposing territory to drive new revenues and to explore the options in lands a plenty.
#5 Mobile continues to drive most of growth areas in terms of traffic. Conversions were up during the period, but it would be interesting to see if this behaviour holds up. Something about not queueing or location based shopping says to me that this is not the real norm. In the UK mobile was the dominant transaction platform accounting for over 60% of transaction over the Black Friday//Cyber Monday in the UK. Searches, increasing and desktop is in retreat. This surely has got to affect your marketing strategy next year. Proof if ever that we are losing our trust issues around mobile payments. Interesting insights here from Channel Advisor.
In summary, this year Black Friday felt lazy and it’s because retailers fundamentally do not like it. It is giving away margin, because it is now expected. Many shyed away from it this year. In order to do that, you risk vanity or sanity, which isn’t a bad mantra at all. But you’re planning and execution starts now — engage customers, explore their habits and survey their needs.
Partly to blame is the monster of digital marketing. We are in the midst of a major shift in the way we think we understand statistics and behaviours. And while we are figuring this out, our old faithful methods of adwords, email marketing and retention continue to hold steadfast, because we know how to execute on the information we now have. In the era of advanced Big Data, we don’t have the tools, or people to really deliver scalable results … Yet. The rise of the passive buyer is nigh.