It’s that time of year again when we face yet another event imported from our friends across the Atlantic but unlike Halloween, this time rather than getting dressed up, it’s a time for worshipping the discounts that have been made to kick-start the Christmas spending boom. Gone are the days when everything was full price until Christmas, and then we stood in queues on Boxing Day for the bargains that were set to come. Parents biding their time and hanging on for TVs and sofas, while the kids wanted the cheap toys that were sure to be reduced.
E-commerce merchandising teams have been burning the midnight oil updating their websites, with the latest products and prices. IT teams have been testing servers to overload and CIOs are simply praying that the whole infrastructure withstands the demands about to be placed on it. And let’s not forget about the warehouses, fully prepared for the twin peaks of big order volumes and the inevitable deluge of returns. But is it worth it? Is everybody going to spend as much as we think they are? What has this early discounting done to customer behaviour in recent years, and what is expected for 2019?
Has it changed in recent years?
Black Friday peaked as a one-day flash sale in large bricks and mortar stores in 2014, when the images of crowds causing a crush and brawling over televisions horrified many. From that point, we have seen Black Friday as a promotional event lasting a week or so but we have, in recent years, seen a marked shift to online. And with this, the phenomena of Black Friday and Cyber Monday create a long promotional weekend at the end of November and beginning of December.
For 2019, Deloitte is predicting a successful Black Friday period for retailers, as the discounting weekend itself falls nicely on payday for many. Additionally, they are seeing promotions across regular merchandise rather than offloading old stock, and expect to see deeper, dynamic, deals happening on the days themselves.
By shifting online, the focus is put onto the fulfilment arm of the operation; the delivery to your chosen point by the courier services. Having managed to secure the deal, the final few yards to your front door and into your life is where a crucial part of the Black Friday experience takes place. Have they turned up on time? Do they follow your preferences if you are not in? If they put it ‘in a safe place’, is it safe and secluded from view? Is it dry?
One large retailer is not getting any business from me this year after their chosen courier ignored my preference of ‘leave in the garage’ and instead left the parcel in my back garden – on a day of rain of biblical proportions – leaving me with a soggy mess where a present should have been was not a good experience.
Christmas is still all about the in-store experience
Over 60% of the 7,000 respondents to the Deloitte Christmas Survey expressed a strong preference for doing their Christmas shopping in-store – this is where we seek the ‘Magic of Christmas’ and get ourselves into the Christmas spirit! Whether it’ s a local department store revealing their annual Christmas window display, a magical toy department like Santa’s Grotto, or the smells of Christmas spice being filtered throughout the store; memories and loyalties can be created at this time of year. Add to this the extra magic of discounted prices around Black Friday, and there is an intoxicating cocktail of experiences to help accelerate retail’s Golden Quarter.
But how often do we find the ‘must-have’ gift that is not available anywhere? Are we now seeing stores go the extra mile to locate it in similar stores, or further along the supply chain? Is Twitter giving the instant global update on availability, or Instagram being used to show the latest party looks that you just need to be seen in? (We all know that Instagram will be used for those ‘after the party’ images but that is definitely out of the retailer’s boundaries).
So what will the winners look like?
To win, they will have had the right offers – both on and offline and the entire experience will have been to our satisfaction (or will have exceeded it). I am sure the winners will have paid attention to their offers and to how they were presented. They will have made sure that they had enough stock of the offers so that you feel that you’ve earned a bargain. It will have been delivered to my door, and if I was not available, it will have carefully been stored in a safe place that I have designated. Stores will have set the Christmas fires burning within you, and you will – admit it – have had more than a passing glance to see Santa in his Grotto.
In keeping with the theme of our recent ‘Bridge for Retail’ webinar, and ‘Employee Enagement’ blog, I am also sure that the winners will have engaged their employees, rather than burned them out. Said ‘thank you’ when they worked the extra hours, and they helped make this season special for their customers.
Which retailers will be the winners of this Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the Christmas period as a whole? In very early January, we will find out!