“Not all deals are created equal”: 12 performance marketers offer last-minute Black Friday tips

One of the biggest shopping days of the year is almost upon us. But economic turmoil means this will be a Black Friday like no other. PMW asked our expert panel for some on-the day advice to marketers and retailers alike.

James Milne, Managing Director of Northern Europe, Outbrain

“Information-packed advertisements will likely be the go-to preference for brands. Research from Attest indicates a rise in the frugality of even high-income consumers and Outbrain data suggests 65.6% of frugal shoppers are now researching new products online, despite over 50% being loyal to a specific brand. Consequently, shoppers will require more information and assurance before making purchasing decisions. The types of information can vary, but reviews, product features, and price points all help inform consumer decision-making. Information-based adverts will be key in gaining consumer trust, prompting further engagement, and leading to product attachment and higher purchasing intent. It’ll be the brands that manage to marry aesthetics, contextual relevance and digestible information that will perform the best.

“Overall, the brands with a carefully deliberated advertisement strategy will be the ones that see success from Black Friday activities. If brands can effectively diversify their marketing mix, reaching pre-interested users on open-web and social channels using multiple data points, they’ll see a positive impact on their sales volumes and values. Black Friday this year will be an uphill struggle but, done correctly, can achieve great success for both brand and consumer.”

Rowenna Prest, Chief Strategy Officer, Joint 

“With the Consumer Price Index currently sitting at 8.8%, it’s fair to say that most consumers are probably worrying about paying their bills rather than splurging on a cut-price TV. Keeping this in mind, brands do need to be careful on how they land their Black Friday deals.

“Not all deals are created equal. Those focusing on life’s essentials will offer a welcome bit of help, especially in the lead up to Christmas, so a reasonably straight approach is all that’s needed. Those focusing on luxuries may need to take a different approach – rather than just focusing on the naked deal, what’s the ultimate benefit in the lives of those they’re trying to attract? What’s the real value for consumers to buy something which they ordinarily wouldn’t?

“But regardless of what’s on offer, if advertisers do want to take advantage of Black Friday then they need to make sure it doesn’t come across as a one-off sales-driving spike. It needs to feel part of a broader brand narrative which is focused on supporting consumers through this difficult time.”

Chris Eng, Chief Research Officer at Veracode

“Maintaining customer loyalty and trust is priority number one for retailers, and this will be heightened during the Black Friday period. With the average cost of a data breach in the retail sector calculated at $3.28 million, implementing robust tools and practices to secure the applications customers use to browse and make purchases is imperative.

"Despite the relatively low number of flaws that are fixed, the retail industry takes second place for overall remediation rate, highlighting the need for software security improvements from organisations across all sectors. Compared with other sectors, retailers are better at fixing flaws when they’re discovered. While this is encouraging, it’s clear more needs to be done across the board to integrate flaw identification and remediation into the software development pipeline so that vulnerabilities can be addressed more efficiently.”

Aaron Goldman, CMO, Mediaocean

“This year more than ever before, brands and advertisers are thinking twice about their Black Friday activities, with the rising cost of living, soaring inflation, and a looming recession causing concern around consumers’ willingness to spend. But the current economic uncertainty may not be as detrimental to Black Friday as brands think. As a shopping event centred around bagging the best bargain possible, consumers will be relying on this year’s deals to afford their holiday shopping. In fact, almost half of shoppers in the UK and two-thirds of those in the US are depending on Black Friday discounts to be able to purchase their Christmas gifts.

“Like other recent events such as Amazon Prime Day and Singles Day, this year’s Black Friday offers brands the perfect opportunity to entice new and existing customers. But they can’t just rely on good discounts and deals. To cut through the festive noise, brands need to personalise and empathise with what consumers are going through, using cross-channel marketing to reach them in the most effective way. One way of achieving this is by using AI systems to automate the personalisation of marketing outreach based on product inventory, pricing, and other dynamic factors. By using actionable media intelligence, brands and advertisers can gain visibility of the wider landscape, using it to shape an approach that will maximise sales. And after gaining these all-important insights, brands can evaluate the findings and use this data for the upcoming Christmas rush. “ 

Ed Hill, SVP EMEA at Bazaarvoice

“While Black Friday and Cyber Monday will always attract one-off, impulsive purchases, brands need to focus on creating authentic relationships that centre around building real connection, considering key elements that shoppers care about, such as convenience, emotion, community, and loyalty. The key to this is to carefully consider what will be most convenient, appealing, and user-friendly for consumers, especially at a time when they need to carefully pinch pennies and are having to make deliberate decisions about where and how to spend their money. 

“User-generated content (UGC) can be one of the most effective ways to turn one-time purchasers into loyal shoppers. Reviews are something that play a key role in shoppers’ decision-making and purchasing habits, especially on discount days, and increasing the numbers of reviews for products can go a long way to boosting sales. For retailers to win the trust of consumers, they must extra efforts to ensure such content is real and authentic by weeding out things like fake reviews. In fact, if customers suspect fake reviews, over half wouldn't buy the product and 83% said they would avoid using a brand altogether after losing trust in it. By utilising genuine UGC, retailers can provide consumers with a reliable insight into their products and customer service to create an identity of a brand that provides quality products above an agenda of profit."

Richard Cudd, Senior Director, Customer Success Engineering at Confluent 

“Particularly this year, people are even more conscious of spending due to inflation and political uncertainties. This makes it critical for every online retail organisation to address the returns problem – and fast, especially if they are predicting lower sales during their biggest quarter. This will ensure they can prevent damaging financial losses as returns now feature in most retailers' annual reports as a key audit statistic, with retailers making provisions for returns in their financial statements. And this is on top of returns raising the cost of fulfilment and logistics across the supply chain, as well as the issue of trying to source critical data across many different platforms. 

“Resolving the returns challenge will require a fresh way of thinking about connecting data sources across the business to ensure money and resources aren’t being wasted elsewhere. This is why a growing number of retailers are taking advantage of data in motion platforms, understanding that they need to be a critical component of their technology stack.” 

Tom Bianchi, EMEA CMO, Acquia

“Retail competition is as steep as ever; growing numbers of consumers are only identifying with brands that have values that align with their own; and on top of all this, the rising cost of living is combined with consumers no longer amenable to having their data taken without their consent. For consumers, the sunsetting of third-party cookies can’t come soon enough. According to a CX report by Acquia, three out of four (76%) consumers report being frustrated when brands suddenly appear to market to them because they searched online about the brand or a similar one. So how do brands negotiate this landscape?

“Use data intelligently – and with consumer permission. Data is easy enough to find, with resources to gather, organise, and use, but putting that information to use is a different story. Real, practical, actionable data insights are a rare find – they are the gold dust for every marketeer. Transform these insights into appealing personalised content that consumers want to engage with, and market to their environmental mindfulness in a way that is more sustainable, is the winning combination. And for those marketers who recognise that a strong CX grows the bottom line, taking stock of their data use will ensure they get a cut of the Black Friday spend.”

Dominic Tillson, Marketing Director at Azerion

“A lot has justifiably been written about the social and political aspects of the Football World Cup  – even to the point of whether brands SHOULD get involved in it all. For those willing to enter the arena, there are a number of considerations, not least the double header created with Black Friday/Cyber Monday. Regardless of your stance, it is happening, so marketers need to know their play when it comes to connecting with their fans. As 86% of people plan to watch the World Cup on TV at home, and more than 50% of football fans engage with sports sites or the sporting section of a news site before and after a game, participating marketers should think strategically about the timing and placement of their advertising 

“With the right partners, advertisers have the opportunity to connect with millions of fans across multiple touchpoints before, during, and after a match. To engage these fans effectively, advertisers should employ impactful creative that captures quality attention at the right moment, with the right message.”

Richard Robinson, Director, Econsultancy

"Amazon’s surprise return in October with its Prime Early Access Sale fired the starter’s gun for this year’s Black Friday. June’s annual Prime Day saw record results, with 300m items purchased to make it the biggest Prime Day in Amazon’s history – however the October follow-on event saw sales dip to 100m with average transaction value declining from $60 to $47 in three months. Lack of awareness of the new event, two events in one year, or a lack of disposable income may have all contributed to the decline however with 30% of purchasers claiming they used the two day event to shop for the holiday season, and two out of three claiming they’d now bought half of their holiday gifts a big chunk of Christmas cheer may have already been taken out of Black Friday 2022.

"What Amazon have done is prove ‘Black Friday 2022’ has started earlier than ever. In parallel we know the economic slowdown means retailers will have excess stock in their systems, supply chain issues are likely to grow, and online sales as a percentage of the absolute will continue to increase. Black Friday 2022 will also see additional challengers to its traditional dominancy for share of wallet from the unstoppable rise of Singles Day (11th November), the one-off World Cup (20th November), Small Business Saturday (26th November) & the overall slowdown driven by stagflation.

"Within these headwinds the tone of brand & promotional communication, most especially online, will be at an unprecedented levels in 2022 if brands are to drive clicks and cash through ecommerce. Sainsbury’s Be a smart cookie campaign is a standout example of a brand understanding how to speak to people in their time of need across a full end-to-end omnichannel experience. Likewise, Tesco and Boots have gone early with stunning Christmas campaigns which inclusively communicate they understand their customers when they’re needed most. Boots’ website has moved to a full Black Friday takeover & the tonality of their messaging is spot on.

"To win, brands need to pause business as usual and prepare for Black Friday 2022 as business unusual."

Simon Cotterrell, Executive Director of Strategy, Interbrand London

“Originally, the purpose of Black Friday was to showcase the amazing deals that would help people make the added financial drain of the holiday season more manageable. But as everyone has clambered on to this early sale opportunity, its role and, more importantly, the extent of the discounts on offer has been eroded so that it has become a disorganised jumble sale of noise that only feels like it's benefitting the retailers.

“At a time when the cost-of-living crisis will be nearing the peak of its effect, it feels like this winter retail showpiece needs a rethink, or a rewind. Christmas this year is set to be very squeezed, so consumers will need help from brands to find them the right deals that will also genuinely save them money. 

“Black Friday should be redirected back to the frugal event for which it was intended and not the buy bonanza that it has become today. With prices rising so fast there’s a real chance that consumers simply don’t believe the value of, say,  a 20% discount – thinking that the price has probably gone up 20% in the last few weeks to allow for such a deal. And this can have a real impact on a brand. Techniques like price freezes, ‘wind-backs’, and the good old BOGOF [buy one get one free] may be the best ways forward.

“It will be those that are able to truly position their discounting in a way that feels genuine and relevant that really stand to gain. And this is where the data giants like Amazon stand to win again, much like they were able to increase their relevance in the pandemic. The ability to gather data, spot buying patterns, learn and be relevant is the key and it’s what the large digital-first retailers have in abundance."

Xavier Klein, Head of Performance, Making Science UK

“Last year we saw Black Friday weekend CPMs rise by up to 90%, and the same additional costs during the UEFA Euros 2020, with CPMs increasing by around 17% between the 11th June and the 11th July. With these figures in mind, it’s easy to understand why the next few weeks will be a playoff for marketers; the potentially huge opportunities to capture audience attention during key shopping events combined with the FIFA World Cup means brands will need a solid strategy to tackle the higher costs for advertising inventory and compete with rivals. 

“To achieve their goals, marketers should be aiming for a broader audience, using omnichannel campaigns, and remaining agile by adjusting budgets to increase or decrease at the most competitive times. By pre-booking traffic in advance, costs can be minimised but still ensure effective spend. Brands will definitely need to keep their eye on the ball, but if they play strategically there could be an open goal to score.”