Black Friday 2020: a ‘digital-first’ affair?

10th Nov 2020

For many, Black Friday means long queues, packed stores and hordes of shoppers battling to get the best discounts from their favourite brands. But, given we’re still in the midst of a pandemic, it will come as no surprise that this major shopping ‘holiday’ is set to look a little different this year.

Now, with just a few days until the big day, planning is in full swing for many retail brands. But 2020 Black Friday plans will look rather different, as social distancing and lockdown measures now mean customers will no longer have the option to shop in-store.

Prior to the latest lockdown measures being announced in England, research from Emarsys showed that only 7% of UK consumers had actually planned to shop in physical stores this Black Friday, with 20% already having all intention to avoid Black Friday entirely this year because of Covid-19 before the shops were officially closed.

Nevertheless, while customers cannot literally hit the shops, it in no way means Black Friday 2020 is cancelled or that consumers aren’t interested in the discounts available. 43% of UK shoppers say they haven’t lowered their expectations from brands, and 37% are more likely to seek out the best deals this year than in previous years.

Given this departure from visiting physical stores, it’s clear that there is no better time to for brands to focus on ecommerce. Retailers need to prepare adequately for this so-called ‘digital-first’ Black Friday, or risk losing big.

So how can brands optimise their ecommerce sites and get the best out of Black Friday this year?

Take a data-led approach

2020 being ‘digital first’ is in many ways a blessing, not a curse. By focusing predominantly on ecommerce, brands have the opportunity to use customer data to their advantage to maximise sales.

However, for ecommerce to reach its full potential it’s vital for brands to make sure customer data isn’t sitting in separate siloes, but rather centralised into a single bucket. Centralised customer data makes for easier analysis and will help brands to gain a better insight into the actions of their customer base in previous years, and make sure their 2020 campaigns align directly with consumer preferences and trends.

Pick the right channels

Without in-store promotions to consider, this Black Friday is the perfect time for brands to put their full focus on the online approach. But this requires more than having a good website (although this is essential!). A multichannel approach is needed if brands are to cut through the noise and be heard by customers.

Despite a majority of consumers still being in some form of lockdown, and therefore less likely to be out and about, mobile purchasing is equally, if not more, important as other years. In fact, 80% of shoppers now use their mobiles to browse and buy from home, making mobile-optimised sites and promotions an essential step in a retailers’ Black Friday preparations.

For any digital campaign a brand decides to run, whether it be email marketing or social media posts, by automating these campaigns, brands can save time while helping to drive sales and foster customer loyalty. For example, if you send a loyal customer a voucher or discount code over email, and they haven’t used it in 30 days, you can set up an automated email campaign to remind them to use it — helping to drive revenue for the brand.

Invest in the in-store experience

Sound counter-intuitive? Well, although consumers will not be permitted to browse in shops on Black Friday, for many brands it is traditionally these physical stores where they make their most profit. Retailers should consider how to continue to encourage shoppers in store, in a Covid-safe way. By offering bigger discounts for customers who click-and-collect, brands can maximise sales and reach the customers who don’t want an entirely online experience.

Brands can also utilise their physical stores as ‘dark stores’ during this time, turning their empty shops into additional warehouses to serve online-only orders. Other retailers are experimenting with “virtual in-store experiences”, as a way to maintain relationships with customers who are missing the traditional shopping experience. Mecca Beauty, for example, created an online service which enabled shop assistants to serve and advise customer online, giving them the best of both worlds.

While Covid-19 is looking to be sticking around for the foreseeable, this is no way means that Black Friday 2020 has to be a write off for retailers. By investing in digital experiences and optimising their online presence, brands can help consumers get the best deals this year, however they plan to shop.

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