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Lessons for SMES from Black Friday

By Jon Peterman on 22/11/2016 - 0 Comments

Unless you've been living in a hole, you can't fail to have noticed the Black Friday phenomenon has really taken a grip in the UK.

For millions of people Black Friday has been the time to do some serious Christmas shopping. Black Friday is defined as the Friday after Thanksgiving, and it's one of the major shopping days of the year in the United States -falling anywhere between November 23 and 29. While it's not recognised as an official US holiday, many employees have the day off -except those working in retail. The marketing lessons for SME’s of Black Friday are more than apparent.

The term “Black Friday” was coined in the 1960s to mark the kick-off to the Christmas shopping season. “Black” refers to stores moving from the “red” to the “black,” back when accounting records were kept by hand, and red ink indicated a loss, and black a profit. Ever since the start of the modern Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924, the Friday after Thanksgiving has been known as the unofficial start to a bustling holiday shopping season.

In a non-retail sense, it also describes a financial crisis of 1869: a stock market catastrophe set off by gold spectators who tried and failed to corner the gold market, causing the market to collapse and stocks to plummet.

It became so popular as retailers began to realise they could draw big crowds by discounting prices, Black Friday became the day to shop, even better than those last minute Christmas sales. Black Friday is a long day, with many retailers opening up at 5 am or even earlier to hordes of people waiting anxiously outside the windows.

As was seen again this year, more and more consumers are choosing to shop online, not wanting to wait outside in the early morning chill with a crush of other shoppers or battle over the last most-wanted item. Often, many people show up for a small number of limited-time "door-buster" deals, such as large flat-screen televisions or laptops for a few hundred pounds.

Black Friday always used to be a one-day affair when the nation sat back in horror and amusement as punch-ups over knockdown TVs made news headlines, but someone, somewhere (we're not sure who) appears to have re-written the rule book.  Now, almost everyone was getting in on the act early.

Over the last 5 years, UK consumers have developed an appetite for this buying frenzy. This year, Amazon was the first horse out of the box launching Black Friday deals daily from November 14. Morrisons followed suit, tempting shoppers with bargains on prosecco, wine and beer. eBay then jumped on the bandwagon, as did Argos, Boots, Tesco and Carphone Warehouse, to name but a few.

So was Black Friday redundant? No. Some shops may have released deals early, but many were promising new and better deals come Black Friday itself. Other stores were standing firm, refusing to unveil any deals ahead of the big day, so there were definitely be some bargains to be had.

What we can learn from Black Friday is all about creative marketing. An event built around a time of year where the expectation of consumers is to look out for deals. Whether on-line or in store, deals can be found across many different product categories. Many retailers now start to promote early to steal a march on the competition.

Some use creative pricing policies where the deals may not be as good as you may be led to believe. The reality is that it is a marketing vehicle to shift stock in bulk and get customers in the mood for shopping in the run up to Christmas.

The reality is that every company whether selling a product or service has the opportunity to develop a marketing calendar to theme promotional events linked to specific times of year. Whether Easter, Valentines, Mother’s or Father’s day or the myriad  of other variants give companies the opportunity to design and package a specific offer targeting existing or new customer groups.

Marketing programmes should not be ‘business as usual’, but should be creatively designed to capture and build additional sales peaks in otherwise slower trading periods. Giving customers a new a exciting reason to visit your company or visit your web site is your opportunity to excite them with new offers and get them re-energised in your brand. Do you have a marketing plan that does this?

To revisit your existing Marketing plan, however old, talk to your local Icon Business Advisor - and get it fighting fit, whatever the time of year.

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