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From Maddening Queues to Midnight Clicks – Why Online Sales and Marketing Are the Future of Black Friday


gift brown shopping market

Black Friday’s over, and – wait a second, is it though? On Friday the 23rd of November, the UK felt the full weight of the sale mammoth. The question is, when that weight begins over a week in advance, do we still have a Black Friday?


But let’s step back for a moment. The dust has barely settled (as it were, with Cyber Monday following suit of its Big Black Friday Brother and stretching into Cyber Week, the dust is only being picked back up again), but some gargantuan sales figures are already emerging. The British retail sector saw a not too shy £7 billion cash injection this year. And the undisputed champions of Black Friday successes are clear: online retailers. But just how much growth have online sales seen this year and what does this shift in consumer buying trends mean for Black Friday?


There’s little doubt that online shopping is seeing an unprecedented surge, and with Adobe Analytics estimating that around £4.8 billion was spent online at the end of Black Friday last week – a bold increase of 23.6% year over year – it’s not set to slow down anytime soon. In comparison, retail management platform Vend’s latest data shows in-store retail spending dropped by 7% this year, whilst overall spending continued to rise by 28%.


Added to this, in a survey of over 500 UK Black Friday shoppers, over half of them purchased an item on sale within the days before Black Friday last week. How many of these shoppers planned to brave the in-store masses? 4% of them. Make no mistake: people are spending more money than ever on Black Friday sales, they’re just doing it online.


All Aboard the Online Train

And it makes sense: when customers can trade the stampeding crowds with midnight clicks in the comfort of their own home or office, why wouldn’t they? What we have now, instead, isn’t a one-day retail holiday, but a mammoth sales week and what should be one of your biggest online marketing moments of the year.


As Adobe Analytics reports, ‘For the first time ever, online prices around Thanksgiving were as low as on Black Friday, with consumers taking advantage of those deals in record numbers.’


Aside from avoiding the crowds, the marked shift in consumers’ spending habits is pretty simple: instead of a thumping high street rush squeezed into a lunch break or over the weekend – peppered with disappearing stock and limited high-street opening hours – consumers can choose to buy their favourite goods online when and where they want to. And now, with Black Friday evolving into a week-long affair – and more brands than ever investing in e-commerce platforms – online shopping provides a flexible and accessible shopping experience to match.  


The formula seems clear, then: as a business, your Black Friday sale ought to stretch out at least a couple of days beforehand – and it better be happening online. And with just 21% of shoppers purchasing from brands they normally shop with, your opportunity to reach new customers is massive. The trick is to be smart about it.


 We can look to this Black Friday’s indisputable winner here: the e-commerce giant, Amazon, who experienced a record-breaking Black Friday in the UK. Of course, 99% of businesses cannot compete with the tech juggernaut – the point is, you can surely learn from them.


Warm up early and get digital

When it comes to digital strategy surrounding Black Friday, it’s easy to throw discounts at the day and hope for the best. But if you really want to win, preparing properly is essential. Amazon’s approach? The company announced an expansion of free holiday shipping to non-Prime members in early November. We’re talking the start of the month.


When you incorporate a larger selling strategy on the foundation of a solid digital marketing strategy and stretch your Black Friday sales out accordingly, you meet the large percentage of customers ready and waiting. When you focus on both quality, SEO-crafted content and online advertising to introduce your brand at the initial stirrings of Black Friday, you create the opportunity for more than just once-off sales, but the chance to forge myriad new customer long-term relationships. As James, our Account Director over here at Positive, says,


“Over the last few years, we have seen the emergence of Black Friday as a true shopping event in the UK; brands have embraced the phenomenon as the ‘official’ start of Christmas trading and for some of our clients, it represents as much as 8% of their trading in a single weekend.  Brands have also capitalised on signposting their sales across the week and reminding and pushing Cyber Monday which has become the highest sales day by value for many businesses.”


As for your business website, your online infrastructure should be ready. Not online clothing store J Crew-ready – who saw their website crash due to increased traffic for the majority of Black Friday – but ready. Ensuring you’re ready to accommodate greater traffic surges during your Black Friday sales is essential. Added to this, with over half of consumers who visit a site via their mobile phone leaving if it takes longer than three seconds to load, high-quality site speed is key.


But we get it – this may all seem slightly overwhelming. If focusing on your Black Friday sale discounts doesn’t leave all that much room for a razor-sharp digital marketing strategy, we’ve got good news. Online strategy is what we do best. And with online sales ever-increasing, now’s the perfect time to start.


We’d love to help you get the most out of Black Friday month – and the eleven other months of the year, too. Give us a call and we’ll figure out how.