Welcome to Black November: new holiday shopping patterns

Europe has done more than embrace the North American phenomenon of Black Friday; it has evolved Black Friday’s role in the retail calendar, to change the way consumers shop in the build-up to Christmas.

In this blog post, we look at the rapid rise of Black Friday in Europe, and its subsequent metamorphosis, giving rise to ‘Black November’.

How has Black Friday grown in Europe?

Even just three or four years ago, Black Friday barely registered on the radars of European retailers and shopping centres. Fast forward to 2016, and the event has a growing presence on the retail marketing calendar.

Analysts are predicting that this year will mark Europe’s biggest Black Friday yet, with spending figures surpassing £1 billion in the UK, €281 million in Germany, €45 million in Italy and €38 million in Spain. In fact, Adobe Digital Insights predicts that it will be Europe’s main sales driver during the holiday period.

Black Friday’s instant popularity in Europe has taken some retail organisations by surprise, leading to a number of teething problems. Crowd control, product availability and website performance have all been an issue at times, as has managing the fulfilment of orders post-event.

However, with each year, retail businesses invest more and more into optimising their Black Friday strategy, in order to improve on the customer experience.

How are retail businesses managing the pressures of Black Friday?

One interesting phenomenon that we saw last year, and that we are seeing again this year, is the extension of Black Friday into a multi-day event. This enables retail organisations to spread consumer traffic over several days, in the hope of alleviating the stress that is put on their technology and infrastructure when running a 24-hour flash sale.

As Black Friday falls in the same long weekend as Cyber Monday, there is a natural opportunity for online retailers to extend their campaign into a four-day promotion. This has been mirrored offline, where many retail businesses have marketed Black Friday as a week’s worth of special deals, to manage the unprecedented footfall spikes that the event caused within stores and shopping centres when it first gathered momentum in Europe.

In this sense, Black Friday has been surpassed by ‘Black November’ – a month associated with product discounts and deals in the build-up to Christmas, rather than a single day of activity.

How can retailers and shopping centres make the most of Black November?

The rationale for retail businesses to run a series of promotions throughout November is clear; it eases the pressure places on staff, systems and processes, and creates a wider window to drive consumer activity. After all, Black Friday does not necessarily fall on a convenient day for every shopper.

However, launching a multi-day marketing event during the busiest shopping period of the year poses new challenges. For example, greater marketing investment may be required to sustain interest throughout the length of the promotion. As Black Friday is a global event, it carries its own momentum, whereas retailers and shopping centres will have to actively educate their customers on the fact that they are running a week-long or month-long event.

In order to know whether their Black Friday budget is being spent effectively, retail marketers need to analyse their marketing activities against footfall levels during the promotion period, to see if there are correlations between campaigns and shopper activity.

Equally, although consumer footfall should theoretically show less of a surge if Black Friday promotions are spread out, there will still be inevitable fluctuations in retail traffic during the course of the campaign. Retailers and shopping centres cannot use peak trading as an excuse to lower the customer experience, and therefore they need to focus on understanding when shoppers are visiting, where they are going and what they are buying, to optimise each encounter around their needs.

The next eight weeks are a critical trading period for the retail sector, particularly for retailers, as this is where the majority of revenue for the year is made. How businesses manage their Black November activities will determine not only profitability in the short-term, but potential long-term profits too – as a bad seasonal shopping experiences can impact consumer behaviour well into the New Year.

To help retail businesses understand how seasonal spikes will impact their organisation, ShopperTrak will be releasing exclusive footfall data over the coming weeks. Keep an eye on our blog page or speak to our consultancy team for further insights.


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