Can Giving Tuesday stop the sales rot of Black Friday?

27/11/2018

Black Friday has come a long way from its US roots – its impact on the global holiday season will continue to affect us all.

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For over 60 years Black Friday remained close to its US roots. Since the 1950’s, the tradition of exploring too-good-to-be-missed shopping deals has been an integral part of American culture. With Thanksgiving the day before, it has lead US shoppers into the holiday season for decades.

But in 2010 the event spread abroad. Ecommerce giant Amazon used Black Friday to convert its shoppers into Prime customers, by launching exclusive Black Friday Prime deals in the UK. In many respects, Amazon led the way in popularising Black Friday and making it a global festival of consumerism.

But the bigger Black Friday grows, the less it has to do with the original one-day cash-and-carry riot. There are four emerging trends that will only grow stronger as Black Friday evolves in a digital world.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are merging

Outside the US, “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” aren’t single deal days, but are effectively a week of deals, both online and in store. This happens days before Black Friday and ends on the following Monday.

Leveraging “Black Friday” across a week, gives shoppers the opportunity to compare deals and spend more. From a retailer perspective, it is about adapting to new ways of shopping and finding ways to deliver the best consumer experience. Black Friday is less about a single day of retail rioting in-store, but having an ecommerce-lead experience from the comfort of your home. It fundamentally shifts brands into an e-commerce business environment. This means brands can cater to millions of consumers at once, as opposed to smaller numbers in-store. This has huge implications for supply chains and cash flow forecasting, as much as it creates opportunities for more revenue.

 
Black Friday is becoming a mobile phenomenon

SalesForce and Adobe are both expecting double-digit growth in online revenue compared to last year. This is while footfall is expected to be flat or decreasing. These numbers support the ongoing trend that people are moving away from brick-and-mortar outlets, and consumers are turning to digital shopping. 2018 was also a great year for mobile, where 1/3 of revenue was recorded, the best year for mobile shopping to date.

Mobile is often overlooked in providing the best experiences for customers. Retailers understand the importance of a good instore experience, but as mobile shopping becomes the dominant platform, having a good e-commerce experience on mobile will set retailers apart. A great example is Nike, who recently launched their “store of the future”, where Mobile interaction is emphasised throughout.


Lowering prices is not the only way to boost Black Friday sales

There is no doubt that Black Friday is fundamentally changing the shape of the Festive season for global retailers. It is not a stand-alone event, but has a huge impact on Q4 sales. It encourages consumers to bring their Christmas shopping forward and to spend more, but can have negative side-effects: Black Friday will put a greater stress on stock volumes and cash flow forecasting. Even Boxing Day sales can appear unattractive if the offers aren’t discounted even further. This encourages a dangerous race to the bottom, where only the retailers with the biggest margins can win.

Retailers need to gain a better understanding of their sales curve and be brave enough to test different avenues via their online channels. Lowering prices is no longer the only way for brands to leverage Black Friday: The game store Itch, tea label Pukka Herbs, clothing chain FatFace and Pret a Manger rejected the culture of consumerism linked to Black Friday this year and donated their cut of sales to charity.

Giving Tuesday is more than just a nice concept

Most recently, Black Friday has given birth to a new concept, “Giving Tuesday”. The initiative has emerged as a “backlash” to Black Friday, offering a retail-detox, occurring just after Cyber Monday. We are seeing an increasing number of brands participating in “Giving Tuesday” and encouraging their customers to give as well.

This is because more and more studies show that Black Friday brings Christmas sales forward, creating an artificial peak in sales. Added to this, brands, influencers and charities are denouncing the levels of excess encouraged by Black Friday. This presents a potential bubble just waiting to burst. But it doesn’t have to be this way…

My hope is for “Giving Tuesday” to become as big an event as Black Friday, especially as it is easier than ever for Brands and consumers to donate. Not everyone is FatFace or Pret, but “Giving Tuesday” is an opportunity for any brand to affirm what they stand for. To this end, social media will play a key role in advocating that brands can be a force for good, especially among younger shoppers. 

To people outside the US, Black Friday has no traditional meaning associated to Thanksgiving or the start of the US holiday season. Retailers can export Black Friday and other events, but feeling connected beyond the discounts is not going to happen. This year Black Friday has shown itself to be an e-commerce beast. But to many experts, Black Friday is a backlash waiting to happen. “Giving Tuesday” can become our saving grace, and giving back can become a real competitive advantage.

 Aurelia Noel is Global Digital Partner at Carat.

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