Whilst Black Friday and Christmas may seem a long time away, for retail and consumer credit companies that see the biggest demand for their products and services during this period, prepping has already started. In fact, some start even earlier, commencing strategic planning in June or July1. Last year, along with IMRG, we created a research report examining the outcomes of Black Friday and the Holiday Sales for retailers in 2021 and how businesses can maximise their 2022 sales based on those findings.
Black Friday week and the whole of November last year saw a marked drop in year-on-year growth of online sales and web traffic, with the lowest percentage of sales on record for any month in the index. Things did pick up heading into December and the Christmas season, perhaps indicating a shift away from November being a key month in the retail calendar for consumers and less importance being placed on Black Friday. With the cost-of-living crisis starting to bite, the question on everyone’s mind is what will this year’s numbers look like?
However, whether or not numbers continue to fail to match expected pre-pandemic levels in terms of year-on-year growth, there were some key takeaways from the 2021 research that should inform this year’s strategic planning in order to compete in the market.
1. Diversify your channels
Whilst the pandemic drove people online in droves and forced businesses to respond accordingly and accelerate their online retail plans, 2021 saw more people back in shops drawn by the novelty of shopping in-person post lockdown. Consumers like to have the option to check the quality of something in person or talk to an employee whilst also being able to access things like home delivery or cheaper pricing online. By offering both methods through a seamless experience, you can effectively engage with your customers’ needs.
2. Corporate care
Increasingly people are becoming more concerned with the morality of where and how they shop. They look for sustainable brands that prioritise the environment and give back to social causes. Our Mindful Shopper Report (INSERT LINK) revealed that 91% of consumers now actively seek out ethical products. This new prioritisation of ethical shopping has also meant growing backlash around the hyper-consumerism and greed exemplified by Black Friday flash sales and highlighted in the media by videos and photos showing shoppers frantically stripping shelves bare. Whilst many still appreciate a good deal, more important is whether packaging is recyclable, supply chains are visible, and company practices are ethical. By aligning your brand with sustainability or empowering the community through partnering with a charity you will drive positive brand associations. This will also ensure more loyalty and repeat purchases from your customers, who are more likely to identify with your brand’s identity. It should be remembered, however, that there is a strong possibility that, as the cost-of-living crisis grows, price-point will become increasingly the most important factor to purchasing decisions. Fewer people will be able to have the luxury of choosing where they spend their money, needing to be purely cost-driven in order to get by.
Discount fatigue was a huge issue last year, with many retailers running almost continuous sales. In 2019 we saw the majority of Black Friday sales campaigns starting the week before Black Friday itself, and in 2020 and 2021, campaigns started earlier and earlier, with some creeping into October. Consumers, therefore, have become used to constantly having access to items at a discount as, if there is not a sale currently on, they can wait a week, and there will be another one. This has made shopping in the sales lose most of its appeal as the rush of buying a bargain has lost its rarity. Whilst retailers have to compete to offer the best prices or risk losing customers. Brand loyalty and customer experience has significant sway over where people choose to make purchases. This means that brands that offer more creative offers that prioritise individual customer experience have an edge. This might mean holding a pop-up, providing unique personalised in-person experiences, hosting a community event, or providing benefits such as free repairs, exclusive access to special products, tutorials on using products, or a charitable donation in their name – whatever it is, make your business stand out! The additional perk of doing this is that you are more likely to secure repeat customers along with the most highly prised marketing campaign of all: word-of-mouth.