Fake deals and price wars: The evolution of Black Friday

Fake deals and price wars: The evolution of Black Friday

Black Friday has become the latest trend to make its way over from America, but is it here to stay?

Black Friday, in its retail context, originated in the United States as the informal name for the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States; it had previously, and aptly, first been used as a term to describe a financial crisis. In Britain, the term originated within the emergency services, referring to the last Friday before Christmas. So, the notion of it being seen as a sales bonanza would have been just as fanciful in the UK as it once was in the US.

The growing influence of Amazon in the noughties culminated in Black Friday, as it’s known now, being introduced to the UK in 2010. Asda - famously owned by American retailing giant and staunch Black Friday promoter, Walmart – truly bought the concept here in 2013 as customers physically fought for televisions, gadgets and electrical appliances. Surprisingly, such incidents caused Black Friday to really take off in this country and has led to the event we now know.

Black Friday is another sale where products, and sometimes services, compete on price. Marketing the event has primarily revolved around making things cheaper, more accessible and creating a sense of urgency. This is nothing new, and it is working. Almost £1.5 billion was spent on UK online retail sites on Black Friday last year. Many now see the period as a Black November, starting sales earlier and earlier rather than restricting it to the one day.

Some industry experts have suggested that the approach has led to too much noise, leaving the day buried in the run up to Christmas, feeling like one long discount festival that is draining the energy out of consumers. In the latest CIM Marketing podcast, our marketing director, Gemma Butler, says that 'the minute the pumpkins are off the shelf, in comes the Christmas puddings and mince pies.' So, is the danger that Black Friday could distract from Christmas, or perhaps the other way around? Is it changing the so called 'golden quarter' for retailers in to something that no longer inspires customers. Does Black Friday, as a term, hold weight in creating demand and driving people through to purchase?

Well, there is increasing research to suggest that it might not have the impact retailers assume. A recent analysis from Econsultancy revealed that almost half of their split test emails generated more opens when the subject line didn’t include the term ‘Black Friday’. Though far from conclusive, it is time that marketers use the event to focus on more than just price, especially with findings suggesting that only one out of twenty discounts are genuine. 

That’s perhaps why some clothing brands, for environmental reasons, have opted out of the event entirely, with Nicolas Rohr, one of the co-founders of Eco-friendly clothing company Faguo, even going as far as forming a ‘Make Friday Green Again’ alliance to avoid the consumption taking place during the day. Small and medium sized businesses will also have to think about how they can compete in a price war with large corporations, as well as considering whether they can meet demand. In an increasingly competitive world, on the high street and online, a little creativity goes a long way, and marketers will have to use the full mix to get ahead.

Certainly, organisations will have to think carefully about not just how they can make their own splash on Black Friday, but also about how that event fits into their short and long-term brand strategy. Businesses cannot look to just the one day during their golden quarter; there is a reason that Marks and Spencer have always opted out of Black Friday after all, it’s simply not an on-message event for the quality-focused brand.

Despite all the doom and gloom though, our own research gives a little insight in to shopper behaviour. Despite 1/3 of those surveyed revealing that they believed that Black Friday deals were misleading, an overwhelming 86% of those who made purchases last year will spend the same, or more, this year. This perhaps indicates that customers are getting savvy, seeking out the genuine offers and getting their Christmas shopping done early.

All this means is that Black Friday isn’t going anywhere just yet, but it is evolving as discounting becomes the norm and price wars rage on. Brands will have to evolve their proposition and marketers will undoubtedly have to get creative with what they are offering savvy consumers.

Hear our marketing experts discuss Black Friday, Christmas sales and just how many mince pies have been purchased already, in our latest CIM Marketing podcast.  

Adam Pyle Marketing Coordinator CIM
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