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Black Friday is not a day, it’s a ‘bargain bonanza’ fortnight

With recent reports lamenting the demise of the high street, one could be forgiven for thinking that physical stores have had their day. However, bricks-and-mortar shops still occupy an important position in the shopping experience and no more so than in the run up to Christmas, with the frenzy kicking off on Black Friday as retailers slash their prices to tempt shoppers in.

Having imported the Black Friday tradition from America, where the seasonal shopping blitz starts the day after Thanksgiving, Brits have taken it to their hearts, spending more than £10bn last year.

Insights taken from GroundTruth’s Discovery platform over the same period last year reveal that overall foot traffic on the UK high street increased by 35% on Black Friday and Saturday last year (and by 43% in department stores) compared to the November average. And that rises to a 63% increase in footfall for those seeking electricals, 49% for clothing and 44% for beauty buys.

November 23 may well be circled on the retail calendar but in truth it’s far more than a single day. Black Friday should now more accurately be viewed as the pinnacle of a two-week bargain bonanza that leads the charge into the festive season; with retailers trailing promotions and customers flocking to research both in-store and online far ahead of the day itself.  

Which is why unless you’ve planned your retail strategy seamlessly over the entire festive period, from early November on, across online, mobile and your physical stores, you’re seriously out of step with your customers’ behaviour.

In order to navigate and capitalise on the evolving Black Friday landscape, the savvy retailer knows its edge is in location and timing. By using foot traffic insights to understand the key areas of opportunity from November on, they can make sure Black Friday is placed firmly within their strategy for the entirety of the holiday season.

Leverage the value of a visit

As foot traffic trends suggest, the high street is undoubtedly a vital ingredient in the overall success of Black Friday, but what is it about physical stores that keeps consumers invested in bricks-and-mortar? And how can retailers leverage this to draw people in again this year?

The value of a visit comes down to two things: convenience and experience. Physical stores that offer great customer service, physical experiences of products and the ease of taking them away quickly and instantaneously. Even with the best will which the online retail world is yet to rival.

According to research by Deloitte, 62% of consumers believe that traditional bricks and mortar retail still provides both the best shopping experience and after-sale care available. A good experience to purchase is also critical to this experience, with four fifths (81%) of respondents in Groundtruth’s consumer survey also citing ‘quick checkout’ as the number one factor that makes in-store shopping the preferred approach, closely followed by ‘good customer service / helpful sales people’ at 76%.

So, what exactly is the benefit of retailers investing in this experience over online? According to the same survey, 38% of shopper feel they spend more in-store than they do online, and overall 67% of consumers still prefer to shop in-store in general, with the only exception to this being electronics and clothing where people prefer to shop in both.

This strongly suggests that by focusing on the significance of the physical shopping experience, retailers can utilise the value of the visit to drive incremental sales across the channels in the lead up to, and during, the Black Friday weekend and festive season in general. But be warned, as Warby Parker CEO Neil Blumenthal said: “I don’t think retail is dead. Mediocre retail experiences are dead”, so retailers need to ensure excellent customer service and experience over highly competitive shopping periods.

The drive to better online and offline sales

Interestingly, the GroundTruth survey saw overall shoppers prefer on the whole to shop in-store. But there are two shopping categories – fashion and electronics – that overall attract the omnichannel retailer.

So, how can retailers provide an excellent experience to both shoppers based on real world behaviours? Using a location and drive-to-store visitation strategy, marketers can drive both offline and offline sales, building campaigns that leverage real-world behaviour and bridge the gap between the digital and the physical.

Smart planning and execution on the days and weeks leading up to and after the Black Friday week should ensure that consumers are being influenced at the right time, and that they are ready to buy when the event starts.

Retailers can begin by building awareness of their best promotions, incentives and VIP offers among their key audiences by using location insights through real-time targeting, loyalty and conquesting.

Next, deliver experiences to drive customers in-store and highlight convenience – this can be achieved by using proximity and retargeting tactics as well as creative mapping and dynamic distance messaging. Use special offers to convert buyers and steal competitors’ customers by enticing them in with the best Black Friday deals.

Black Friday is undoubtedly one of the most important retail events of the year, but its significance goes far beyond one day. Instead it’s an incredible barometer of the increased sophistication of consumers’ retail experience. One in which the high street continues to play a key role in their overall festive shopping behaviour, acting as the fulcrum of their integrated digital and real-world shopping experience.


Theo Theodorou is GM EMEA for global location technology GroundTruth, with clients including Curry’s PC World, Timberland and BMW.

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