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Black Friday: Digitally Evolved or Grossly Oversold?

Nov 24, 2023

By now you’ll have an inbox or social media feed full of Black Friday offers. The biggest sale of the year started out with humble hype for a day-long event. Buyers would line up overnight at the doors of retailers and shopping centres to ensure they got the best deals before Christmas. 

Those days are long gone. As brands jostle for attention, the digital landscape has seen Black Friday extend into a month-long monster. Has Black Friday evolved to meet the demands of the modern consumer? Or is it a grossly oversold event that has blurred the lines between purchases that are necessary and those that are indulgent?

The Digital Impact on Black Friday

Black Friday fever spreads like wildfire from the start of November across social media and other digital marketing platforms. A lot of time is required to plan a Black Friday marketing campaign, especially one that reaches enough customers to make a profit. For this reason, it only makes sense to maximise your sale window. Brands have used the weekend following or the week leading up to Black Friday for a while. However, some brands have gone a step further to try and release their sale the week before competitors.

The average UK-based consumer allocates £150-£200 to spend during the Black Friday sale period. Over 50% of this spend is attributed towards Christmas gifts. So once this fund is drained and gifts acquired, no amount of powerful marketing on Black Friday will likely generate additional sales. 

With limited consumer funds, it’s crucial for brands to make an impact, but perhaps most importantly get to the front of the queue. Digital marketing allows businesses to market sales to a larger audience faster than traditional methods, and sustain sales for longer. Build-up typically begins on social media with organic awareness posts. These will then be supplemented by retargeting ads, email campaigns, and PPC ads, trying to drive traffic back to the website.

Digital sales provide far more variety, availability and the option to compare brands and prices in an efficient manner. Trudging around entire towns going from shop to shop and queuing at the checkouts is something many would rather avoid.

The Risk of Consumer Burnout

In 2023, Black Friday is projected to see a decline in global revenue. With rising inflation and a cost of living crisis in the UK, it’s no surprise that consumers are saving their money for more essential purchases. 

With events like Amazon’s Prime Day in early October, by the time early Black Friday sales are released in November, there’s already likely to be some retail burnout setting in.

What brands have to be increasingly careful of is driving away customers from their marketing channels in an attempt to push Black Friday deals. Excessive messaging via email and social media will likely only have a negative impact if it’s sustained for more than a week. Keep in mind your customer lifetime value (CLV) and you can use this to not only maximise your sales but also reduce the costs of new customer acquisition, through stronger retention rates.

While it’s important to make the most of Black Friday shopping trends, don’t let it come at the cost of brand reputation, subscribers and followers. Black Friday can also devalue services or products if they are too aggressive with their offers. This can create value-for-money doubts in the audience and they will simply wait for the next sale before engaging with the brand again.

Where is Black Friday going?

During the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the UK’s Black Friday spending hit £6 billion. Since then there has been a consistent decline, with sales expected to be around £3 billion in 2023. With the shift to more digital-based sales, people aged 18-23 are spending 56% more than the UK average spend on Black Friday.

What this tells us is that Black Friday is becoming less popular among the older generation, and the shift to digital is targeting young adults more heavily. Predictions are that Black Friday spending will continue to fall until 2027, but this is largely due to the extended period that sales are running. The whole of November has become a Black Friday sale, diluting on-the-day statistics. 

In future years, it’s likely that digital sales will continue to outperform offline sales. But the battle to be the first to launch a Black Friday sale could see a further expansion into late October and the first week of November, which would benefit anyone who is paid at the end of the month.

Black Friday is a huge time of year in marketing and a last push before Christmas to reach annual revenue targets. Evolution is a one-way street and it’s no different to what we’ve seen happen to Black Friday. Digital sales are here to stay, along with a stretched purchase window.

If you’d like support with your digital marketing, or to make sure you outperform the competition for Black Friday 2024, let’s talk about you, your business and your goals. Give us a call on 01785 850774.