Should Black Friday ditch the discounts and sell the experience? - Shoppertainment Management.

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Last modified on 21/11/2018

As Black Friday approaches retailers everywhere are preparing for what should be one of their busiest times of the year. But with figures compiled by Springboard revealing that last year’s Black Friday saw a decrease in high street footfall of 4.2% when compared to the year before, does this mean the hype for the event, which originated in the USA, has died off? And should stores be bracing themselves for another ‘Bleak Friday’ or even abandoning the day all together?

Not just yet argues Clare Andrew, managing director of marketing and commercialisation experts Shoppertainment. She believes the change in shoppers’ behaviour lies in how stores are marketing the event and argues that if stores are willing to adapt their strategies to meet the changes in consumer needs, they will be able to achieve the levels of engagement that Black Friday used to have. Clare says:


“The problem with Black Friday, or any sale only events, is they represent an outdated idea of an industry that is constantly evolving but events like this haven’t changed with it.

Most stores’ strategies seem to begin and end with simply announcing there will be sales, with a few posters in the window and perhaps a post or two on their social media accounts. They’re relying on the promise of a discount alone being enough to tempt shoppers in. Maybe once this was enough but consumers these days are a different beast.

“Shoppers are no longer just looking to shop, they can do that whenever they want. With a few taps of their fingers they can browse any number of stores and more often than not find what they want and a discount to boot. If stores want to be able to compete with this, they need to be offering customers something they can’t get online; an experience.

“Take for example a recent event we organised for one of the shopping centres we work with, in essence the event was very similar to Black Friday, with a number of the stores in the centre offering exclusive deals that shoppers could only get by attending. However we didn’t rely on this alone to draw them in. In addition to the promise of exclusive discounts we organised a number of performances from live DJ sets to Stormtroopers and even a meet and greet with the recent Love Island winners Dani and Jack. All of which had been purposefully designed and curated to draw in the exact audience the centre wanted to attract.

“Perhaps the best example of why Black Friday retailers should be thinking more about creating an overall experience rather than sales is China’s incredibly successful Singles Day.

In recent years Singles Day has eclipsed Black Friday in terms of sales. In 2016 Singles Day totalled a staggering £13.5bn nearly triple what Black Friday made and perhaps even more impressing, more than Brazil’s total annual e-commerce expenditure for that year. This year totalled around £24.1bn, a figure that this year’s Black Friday has no hope of matching. And a large part of this success is down to how Singles Day is marketed.”

Held annually on November 11, the event was originally marketed as the ‘anti-valentine’s day’ with the premise revolving around a day for singles to treat themselves, however in recent years the event has moved beyond this to being an annual day for everyone to indulge in a little retail therapy regardless of their relationship status. The success of the day is not down to this coherent identity alone, it comes from the fact that it is constantly embracing different ways to shape the shopping experience. Simply, Singles Day has evolved whilst Black Friday has remained stagnant.


Singles Day has recently turned to technology to further enrich the shopping experience with everything from VR in stores to digital wallets and AR display screens.

Take this year for example; a catwalk style event was created that was simultaneously cast to all major Chinese social media platforms, which allowed viewers to click on the show and immediately purchase the items on display at that time.

Last year Alibaba, the company behind Singles Day, capitalised on the growing trend of technology enhanced stores by converting 100,000 stores into a form of ‘smart store’ with no tills, instead surrounding shoppers with immersive experiences of the different products all while being able to instantaneously and seamlessly purchase any products they wanted via their mobiles. In addition to this they also provided a number of experiential pop up stores.

This is another lesson UK retailers can take from Singles Day in order to boost their Black Friday strategy, by blending e-commerce with physical stores Alibaba has created an experience that shoppers can’t get anywhere else. Clare continues:

“The key, as cliché as it sounds, is to think outside the box. Forget about what everyone else is doing and ditch the expected Black Friday strategy. Instead of relying solely on massive discounts and ‘when it’s gone it’s gone’ tactics... get people queuing up and through the door, perhaps shift your sales and the actual shopping to the afternoon and host an exclusive cat walk style fashion show for shoppers in the morning, where they can see all the clothes that will be on sale. Not only will this create a unique experience for the customer, it allows them to see and interact with the products they want to buy. Another idea could be to have an area where tired shoppers can rest and try out for example, prosecco tasting or perfume making. Shoppers can enter their email address for data collection and then be sent a discount code that allows them purchase the product with a discount.”

“Build up events and experiences around the products and allow them to sell themselves with the discounts being the cherry on top rather than the dessert itself, and this is where shopping centres have an advantage. By being marketed as a whole rather than the individual shops, any events that draw in potential customers are going to have a knock-on effect to the other shops in the centre. Unless something changes, retailers may begin abandoning Black Friday completely in physical stores, shifting the entire event online where it will eventually become meaningless. There’s always a sale on somewhere, customers are looking for something they can’t get anywhere else.”



Tags: Customer Experience, Retail Place Management, Technology & Innovation