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December 1, 2014

Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Here to stay or just another flash in the pan?

I am sure that we have now all observed the scenes of frenzied shoppers, desperate to bag a bargain in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.

Having lived in America, I experienced Black Friday long before it came to the UK. I witnessed the measures that some people went to, simply for the chance to grab a bargain. Some would camp outside retailers for days, others preferred to barge in and queue jump on the day. While I was impressed with the reductions available, I was shocked at the way that retailers mercilessly promoted them for weeks in advance, hoping to build up the frenzy. It was then, perhaps, not so much of a surprise when we were hearing reports on the radio of riots, stampedes and stabbings by 9am on the day.

‘This would never happen at home’ I foolishly thought.

Well, Black Friday did arrive and sure enough the PR stunt has seen buy-in from many high street retailers, not to mention the hoards of shoppers who caused scenes across the country. I am still cynical about whether this American phenomenon will continue to appeal in it’s current guise, but I must admit that it was certainly more pronounced this year!

I wholeheartedly agree with Rob Sellers from GreyShopper (in a recent article in Marketing Magazine), who questions what place it holds here in Blighty. Black Friday is clearly linked to Thanksgiving in the States, when people make use of time off to do their Christmas shopping. This holiday does not exist here so Black Friday has no meaning to us. It is simply an example of retailers making the most of the hysteria that has grown around it.

I agree with Sellers’ sentiment that Cyber Monday is at least based on shopper behaviour with it being the peak day for pre-Christmas online shopping purchases. According to Experian, we are likely to see a 26% increase in sales this year with totals reaching just shy of £650m (£451,000 per minute). The reports that I have been hearing about sites crashing seem to support this.

So are these events simply a passing opportunistic trend or will they be here to stay?

While we really like the anti-cyber Monday tack that Apple have chosen, contributing a proportion of their proceeds to the Red charity rather than offering discounts, this year has certainly seen an increase in activity around both days. More and more on-line retailers started on Friday promoting Black Friday deals, and we have seen many retailers seemingly run one big promotion from Friday to Monday both on-line and in-store, some even starting on Thursday. There are of course exceptions to every rule and Aldi have chosen to break the mould in style, putting their everyday value message across:

While I question the origins of Black Friday, the adoption of yet another American tradition, and I am shocked at the behaviour it has inspired in the high street, I do think that retailers need to make the most of this. Boxing day sales were once the linchpin of a retailers’ calendar but with sales being drawn¬†forward, it is a period that few can ignore.¬†The news coverage that we have seen surrounding deal junkies fighting for products will likely create more buzz next year, the question will become “can you afford not to engage with it?”. In summary, I think that it is here to stay, in some form or another.

We need to make sure that we learn from our (and other) retailers experiences this year. Look at your processes‚ what worked, what did not? What was your peak traffic? Did you have the right deals to compete? Was the PPC ad copy right? Were you competitive on delivery? Did you capture data from your customers? Was your website up to it? Whether you took part this year or not, look at your data and processes and take findings now while they are fresh, as you will likely need to employ them next year!

Happy Cyber Black Monday thing everyone.