Five Christmas And Black Friday Retail Lessons From Peak Connect 2017

The IMRG Peak Connect Conference 2017 brought together retailers and solution providers to try and answer the enormous question ‘What’s going to happen at Black Friday and Christmas 2017?’

If you didn’t make it, here are some snapshots of the day and the insights on offer.

How to get the most out of Black Friday

IMRG editor Andy Mulcahy opened the day with a view on the untapped potential of Black Friday.

He explained that in November 2016, 34.2% of online retail sales occurred during the Black Friday week. While a great many people avail themselves of Black Friday offers, there are those who are sceptical or even hostile to the event. That’s not to say there isn’t some overlap.

A survey IMRG ran with Toluna in June 2016 found that 24.5% of respondents reported hating Black Friday, and 44% said they had no strong feelings either way.

And the advertising around Black Friday deals is largely very similar and uninspiring — usually they feature white letters on a plain black background with a percentage discount.

With unimaginative marketing, and a majority of people either indifferent or hostile to the event, it seems like Black Friday has more potential than is currently being tapped. Retailers can do more to innovate and inspire shoppers, and that’s not just in offering huge discounts (more on those in the next section).

In a panel session, Saima Alibhai, Client Service Manager at Bronto, suggested that retailers could prepare their customers for the discounts to come about a week before they begin. They can either provide a calendar of deals, or more enigmatically encourage them to keep checking for the latest offers.

She also suggested that retailers can build demand with offers that might be loss leaders. The increased demand and relationship that you can build with the customer can more than make up for the sacrifice in margin over time.

All about discounts?

Sally Heath, former New Look ecommerce director, and Camilla Nightingale of Holbrook Digital Consultancy spoke to IMRG editor Andy Mulcahy about Black Friday discounting.

The first question was whether Black Friday is something that retailers should take part in at all.

Camilla: “I think Black Friday is essential, and it’s foolish to ignore it. Customers are ready to shop. They want to buy. You don’t have to discount, but a seat at the table is important.”

Sally: “I find it really exciting. It keeps us on our toes.” On the question of whether discounting is a strategy worth pursuing, Sally noted that sales of full-price items also increased, echoing Camilla’s point that customers are primed to make purchases during Black Friday.

Andy offered some alternatives to basic Black Friday discounting, with some innovative examples from 2016.

Rather than offering a straight discount, Lidl rewarded customer engagement with a lobster whose price fell as more people tweeted about it.

The Whisky Exchange opted for the direct opposite of discounting. They brought back a discontinued line, and put the price up.

Approaches like those stand out well against homogenous messaging and imagery.

Sally suggested segmenting your best customers, or targeting those who are apt to buy on Black Friday, and sending them a “stealth offer”. Perhaps it could be sent to those who bought last Black Friday, but haven’t made a purchase since.

Camilla noted that in a crowded and hurried market, it’s important to retain focus, “say what you’re doing and get on with it.”

Coping with the pressure

Black Friday places a lot of strain on a retailer’s resources.

James Webster, Head of Managed Services at Salmon, offered some ways to make Black Friday run more smoothly and efficiently from an operational perspective.

 His tips are:

  • Rehearse thoroughly. Make sure your operations are accustomed to reacting to any of the challenges that may arise, whether that’s software mishaps, spikes in demand, or unexpected customer behaviour
  • Stress test your systems end-to-end
  • Systems test across your partnerships
  • Build a data dashboard in advance
  • Put systems in place to prevent overselling
  • Establish an international plan. Make sure you are ready to handle volumes of overseas shipping (and returns)

On the ‘Coping with the Pressure’ panel session, Brooke Pietsche, Lead Sales EMEA, Kount, explained that “fraudsters love Black Friday”. While retailers are trying to keep up with the volume of orders, their standards for accepting the order can slip. He also reported a rise in bots, which attempt to defraud hundreds of merchants at once.

Rob Watson, head of ecommerce, Hotter shoes recommended the use of a dashboard, where all the data can sit in one place, and it’s easier to consume, process, and analyse the data that can help retailers detect what problems there may be, and which areas of their operations need attention.

The ever-changing Black Friday

Black Friday has changed every year since it hit the UK consciousness in 2014. Sally Heath noted that it defies prediction: “When we had the Black Friday Sweepstake, designers won. Content people won. The forecasters don’t win. It’s impossible to forecast. After Black Friday, you can ask ‘What happened? What was the customer experience?”

Camilla Nightingale agreed: “No-one can predict it. The customer is really savvy, I suppose you can expect browsing to increase [as customers look for the best deals].”

Emma Moorman, Senior Product Manager, Hitwise, noted that shoppers are looking earlier and earlier for Black Friday deals. Customers are now accustomed to Black Friday, and very eager to take advantage of the deals. You can choose to start your deals earlier, and/or simply start the campaign earlier.

The ever-changing customer

In our ‘Ever changing customer’ panel, Elliot Clayton, Vice President, UK media, mentioned that “Black Friday is deepening and widening”, and that “a small peak is building in the week before Christmas, when people are still confident they will get their order in time”.

Customers’ relationship with Christmas and Black Friday shopping alters as they become more accustomed to it. As mentioned in the previous section, they are becoming more savvy, and can navigate peak shopping more deliberately, rather than desperately chasing deals.

Emma Moorman again: “Understand your audience for your Black Friday campaign. Think about convenience from their perspective. Profile your audience, so that you know who your talking to, and how best to do that.”

Shay Doran, Segment Manager, Corporate Customer Solutions, Barclaycard, advised retailers to focus on “stability and customer experience” for their Black Friday offering. 



By: Charles Scherer - Deputy Editor at IMRG

Join thousands of other Online Retail professionals

Get unique insights straight to your inbox for free, and improve your understanding of online retail. Subscribe to Online Retail Weekly now.

Webinar Scroll Banner
Join thousands of other Online Retail professionals

Get unique insights straight to your inbox for free, and improve your understanding of online retail. Subscribe to Online Retail Weekly now.

Webinar Scroll Banner