By Jack Winter, Craft Media London
Over the past fortnight my email inbox has filled with brands announcing their Black Friday sales. My social feeds are saturated with more of the same messaging, but attempting to lure me into early sale access for the price of my personal data (of course).
I understand why it’s intensified this year: in a market flirting with recession, the short term sales hit for many brands with a flaccid Q4 could be a vital boost to the bottom line. But it’s more important to understand what normal people think (unlike us ad weirdos who get excited about this sort of thing), and what that means for planning advertising.
Black Friday will shrink this year because people are wise to the promotion tactics
When considered in the context of constant inflation and ongoing cost of living crisis, it would figure that this year should be a bumper Black Friday, with people trying to make their budgets go as far as possible. But it turns out that the public are starting to wise up.
Google Trends data shows that searches relating to Black Friday peaked during the pandemic, and since then have declined year on year. In the past year searches have declined 23%. After ‘When is Black Friday?’, the second largest search query over the past 12 months is ‘Are Black Friday deals worth it?’.
According to YouGov’s ‘Black Friday or Bleak Friday?’ report, 36% of Brits say they’re going to skip Black Friday this year. But what’s most interesting is that 27% don’t believe that the Black Friday deals are actually discounts, and 52% think that they are discounts but that you can get better deals at other points of the year. 15% have never even heard of Black Friday (cue the collective raising of adland eyebrows)*.
Participation won’t shrink significantly, but the amount spent will
But all is not lost. 49% are planning to do some shopping in the Black Friday sales this year, albeit with 29% planning to spend less than they did last year.
The sales will always attract those people who are naturally thrifty shoppers. Bauer Media’s Illuminate programmatic data demonstrates that those most likely to make a purchase in the sales are 89% more likely to always be on the lookout for deals, and they’re 66% more likely to switch brands if it means bagging a bargain. This presents an opportunity to acquire customers who are less likely to buy you already - people that your performance algorithm-driven social ads won’t necessarily be hunting.
The Tech Giants will win whilst the legacy retailers lose
Since 2019 the lowest year on year increase in UK Black Friday ad budgets is +74%. As everyone cranks their budgets up ahead of the big weekend, they will pour their budgets into Google and Meta products in the hope of pulling people through to their webstores (after all, 68% of all purchases are forecast to be made online this year). Planners will have set up campaigns to target those most likely to be seeking deals and bidding against generic Black Friday keyword lists, resulting in skyrocketing costs.
According to Wundermann Thompson Commerce research, 52% of people will go directly to Amazon to find the best deals, whilst 32% will use search engines. Whilst Google data suggests that John Lewis are the second highest associated brand with Black Friday searches in the UK.
In the financial year ending in 2022 John Lewis saw a revenue increase after four consecutive years of decline, but then saw a £70 million year on year decline in 2023. Their operating profit in the first half of the year has declined by £18m. Once hailed as the Long and Short of it textbook example of brand-building, they run the risk of debasing their brand quality to try and drive recovery. YouGov brand index data shows a consistent decline in perceptions of being good value for money (important distinction: not cheap) over the past two years. Relying on heavy discounting during sales periods is not a solution that will reverse this trend and keep the Amazonian wolf from the door.