Black Friday: Which retailers will succeed?

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With Black Friday labelled ‘make-or-break’ for retailers this year, which retailers can we expect to succeed this Friday? Business Leader spoke to some industry experts on the matter.

Madhav Durbha, Group VP, LLamasoft, a Coupa company

In a year of countless disruptions and a radical shift to online shopping, Black Friday represents a rare opportunity for retailers to cash in. However, there will be additional challenges this year.

With the UK and other countries still in lockdown, bargains are moving online. Those that succeed come the 27th November will likely be the retailers that have prepared contingency plans for this eventuality. Those that haven’t will be at the mercy of a year which is punctuated with disruption after disruption.

In addition to contingency planning, demand-forecasting technology will be key this Black Friday. Powered by technology such as AI and machine learning, this will allow retailers to better anticipate hikes in demand, allowing them to prepare accordingly. LLamasoft research recently found that 73% of overachieving retailers are already using the technology. These will be the businesses that triumph on Black Friday.

Nate Burke, CEO, Diginius

The financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic has hit both businesses and consumers hard. But while companies seek to claw back some lost revenue, they must be mindful of the difficulties their customers are facing, too.

Redundancies and unemployment rates have soared, meaning consumers are likely to be more motivated by price and value than any other factors. Black Friday sales, pre-Christmas offers and Boxing Day deals will perhaps be the most appealing times to shop for these customers.

Of course, these days and periods are popular shopping holidays, anyway. But this year, as more and more businesses seek to attract and retain customers online, there is a greater need for planned marketing activity in order to establish a presence and raise brand awareness.

Many businesses have already begun advertising their Black Friday sales, allowing them to benefit from increased traffic and purchases from budget-conscious customers for an extended period. This would have been particularly successful as most consumers were set to begin their Christmas shopping in October and November, whereas only 10% in December.

This may have also enabled businesses to capture panicked customers who flocked online when lockdown restrictions were reintroduced, in order to buy gifts promptly in case of any delays.

And, faced with more free time at home again, customers can shop around to find the best deals for their Christmas gifts, too. The most popular channels for online research are brand websites (45%), Google (47%) and Amazon (62%), indicating which channels businesses should be focusing their marketing activity on.

But ultimately, with 70% of users also admitting that they will check the price of products on Amazon before placing an order, there is clear evidence that price will be the deciding factor. So, businesses should either be utilising the marketplace or, offering a greater incentive to shoppers buying through the brand’s owned channels.

Rebuild sentiment to spread spirit

Trust is another must-have item on this year’s Christmas wish lists for a number of reasons. The uncertainty and disruption caused by the pandemic has resulted in declining consumer sentiments, particularly with regards to trust and brand confidence.

But as businesses also navigate the uncertain landscape, it can only be expected that the challenges will be even greater during the peak period. Therefore, businesses need to effectively manage their activity in order to rebuild trust and instil confidence in their customers. This will not only help them to make up for lost revenue, but also place them in a favourable position for the future.

For those now dealing with multiple sales channels, whether that’s online and offline or via different marketplaces, for example, efficient management practices are key for ensuring a seamless customer experience and in turn, regaining trust and confidence.

For instance, ecommerce platforms such as VTEX align and integrate all of a brand’s sales channels. With all information kept in a centralised management system, businesses can be more responsive, retrieve data faster and in turn, provide better customer support that is not only quick to respond, but also able to effectively resolve issues, should they appear.

Similarly, as shoppers will be buying online and having gifts shipped to friends and family members who they may not be able to spend time with this holiday season, businesses need to ensure they offer a reliable delivery service, too.

One way in which they can do this is through regular updates on shipping progress and informing customers of delays should any arise. However, if done manually, errors could occur and cause even more disruption and damage to consumer sentiment.

But with the centralisation of information via a digital platform, not only will order updates be accurate, but the communication of these to customers can also be automated, which reduces the risk of human error.

As a result, administrative burdens can be lessened, allowing employees to focus on other business-critical activities and resources to be reallocated to efforts aimed at attracting and retaining customers and establishing an online presence.

Product trends and predictions

This year’s events are also influencing trends in the types of gifts users are scouring the internet for. For instance, Google trend research has shown that ideas for homemade gifts have experienced a 10% increase in search volume than this period last year. This might be an indication that people will be spending their additional free time creating gifts with greater sentimental significance than financial value this Christmas.

Similarly, searches for hampers have increased by 175% and letterbox gifts by 450%, suggesting items that can be gifted ‘remotely’ or from a distance are the theme for this year’s wish lists.

And unsurprisingly, searches for traditional gift items such as perfumes, aftershaves and jewellery remain consistent. So, although the way in which gifts are bought, delivered or received might be different, there is clear evidence to prove customers are still interested in shopping for items they would usually be purchasing at this time of year.

Therefore, with Black Friday deals and a trusted customer experience that is supported by digital management practices, there remains an opportunity for brands to maximise their sales this festive season.

Christmas isn’t cancelled, after all!


This Black Friday, brands can cut through the crowded ecommerce environment by reaching their audiences in unexpected places. That’s according to new insights from eBay Ads UK, which reveal the unusual shopping behaviours that create opportunities for brands to engage with their audiences in places where there’s likely to be less competition.

Launched today, eBay’s ‘Also Bought Report’ highlights some of the weird and wonderful keyword combinations that shoppers have searched for during a single session – and coins a number of new audience segments, including:

• Face mask fashionistas – 28,087 searches were made for “face mask” and “jewellery”
• New parents in denial – 18,858 searches were made for “cot” and “headphones”
• Disco drivers – 21,869 searches were made for “tyres” and “speakers”
• Biker babes – 54,764 searches were made for “dress” and “cycling”
• Decadent desk workers – 9,662 searches were made for “luxury” and “office chair”

Based on analysis of the shopping behaviour of the 32 million monthly users on ebay.co.uk between March and August this year, the report makes the case for brands to be more creative about how and where they reach their audiences, by using real-time data to understand what else they might be interested in.

Harmony Murphy, Head of Advertising UK at eBay, comments: “With this year’s Black Friday forced to be an almost exclusively online event, competition for consumer attention will be fiercer than ever. Our insights show how unpredictable behaviour can be – and while this can be challenging for brands to navigate, it also presents an opportunity to reach audiences in unexpected places where competitors are less likely to be lurking. This will allow for more meaningful connections and, most likely, a more efficient use of marketing budgets.”

Pauline Robson, Head of Real World Insight at Mediacom, added: “People are multifaceted and this data reveals the extent to which people’s passions can intersect in sometimes surprising ways. This can create interesting opportunities to engage with consumers in ways that are not immediately obvious. These fascinating product combinations show that, now more than ever, real time behavioural data is crucial to ensuring that brands stay on top of customers’ changing behaviours and needs.”

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