16/02/2023 • Andrew Lowdon
Black Friday is the single biggest sales day of the year and can make or break the year for brands.
But where do you start with planning for it?
Don’t worry we’re here to help and with our experience running award winning Black Friday campaigns that have delivered continual growth year after year, we know a thing or two about Black Friday.
This should be the first and most important question to ask yourself.
Over the last 10 years, Black Friday has gone from an event you watch on the news in bemusement with Americans fighting over TVs in Shopping Centres at midnight to the jewel in the UK Christmas retail season.
Last year saw UK consumers spend just under £9bn over the Black Friday & Cyber Monday (BFCM) weekend.
The increase in consumer demand and the accessibility provided by ecommerce has made BFCM a real dilemma for brands. On the one hand this is the peak season for consumer demand where you expect to make your most sales all year. On the other hand, consumer expectations for high discounts eat into ever reducing profit margins. A lip service discount can do more harm than good for brand reputation.
Essentially BFCM artificially brings the Christmas demand forward a couple of weeks and for brands the risk is that you don’t get involved and the demand doesn’t come back in time for Christmas.
This increase in demand with more brands taking part has also led to an increase in costs on advertising platforms, further eating into profit margins.
So when it comes to deciding on whether to take part in BFCM, you should ask yourself the following questions:
BFCM is more than just a 4 day event. Consumers now start searching up to 6 weeks in advance. Customers are more aware of BFCM now and plan ahead to ensure they get the best deal possible. Brands need to be even further ahead and going early and building over the month gives you the best chance of success.
We saw this with Stone Refurb in 2021 & 2022, we went for a 3 week long Black Friday promotion which saw best ever Traffic & Revenue levels each year, but only 19% of sessions and 20% of revenue for November actually came across the BFCM period.
It’s not just on Google that you see this increase in demand. Reddit’s a platform where users highly trust the opinions of other users. They see conversations around BFCM & Christmas Shopping begin to pick up as early as the first week of October. Their users are gauging the opinions of trusted peers way in advance as they get ready to pull the trigger on a purchase.
Consumers are hit with more advertising noise at BFCM than any other time. This year will be no different when World Cup advertising is thrown into the mix. It’s vital that your message is easy to understand and resonates with your consumer.
Don’t underestimate the power of your creative. It’s not uncommon for creative to be an afterthought, but with advances in automation on media platforms, scroll stopping creative is more important than ever. Don’t have your brand blur into the background with a generic ad.
There are some simple ways to improve your creatives to give yourself the best opportunity of attracting a consumer.
There will be an increase in search demand around ‘deals’. Ensure you are prepared with up-to-date copy & ad extensions which focus around your deals messaging to capture the consumer’s eye over a competitor.
For example, price and promotion extensions are a great feature which allow you to show off key products and any special price deals, discounts or offers. These are a fantastic way to help your products and promotions stand out against competitors at a time when many consumers are looking for the best value possible.
On top of this, when users search on Google with words like “deals” and “Black Friday”, a ‘deals’ section appears in the search results, which pulls from a dedicated feed of discounted products in Google Shopping. Making sure you have promotion extensions will be vital in ensuring your ads show competitively and attract consumers who are looking for cost-savings deals.
There’s a reason why you start to see Christmas TV ads at the start of November. Consumers trust brands and remember them when they’re ready to purchase. You can use this in two ways digitally.
1. Learning phases are a thing and it takes time for a campaign to be firing on all cylinders. In the initial learning phase you will encounter reach limitations. Launching ads at the start of November allows you to get this roughly 2 week period out of the way before buying intent really kicks in during the lead up to Black Friday.
2. Consumers don’t buy straight away. They’re looking for the right products to buy and expecting to find a deal somewhere. The graph below looks at the impact of Assisted Conversions during the BFCM period. 40% of all transactions took at least 4 days from the initial interaction through to purchase. If you focus your whole BFCM around the 4 day period, you don’t give them the time to put you into their consideration mix.
Building this brand awareness for Black Friday will also have positive long term gains for your brand too by having a good audience list of potential customers for the future.
Dynamic catalogue ads are where Facebook will dynamically generate an ad for a shopper that expresses interest in an item from your catalogue. They will then deliver that ad across all their platforms to keep you in their mindset.
We’ve used this to great effect, with a key contributing factor being the historic data & learnings built up over the last 12 months. The more data you have here, the better.
Smart Bidding is a form of automation that can handle frequent or sudden changes in search demand and requirements, which you will see as BFCM approaches.
Switch towards smart bidding to remain as competitive as possible during any unusual fluctuations in demand, which manual human optimisation can’t compete with. Not only does it provide the added benefit of auction time bidding, but it’s also a major time saver, something which is sparse over a busy seasonal period.
However, as smart as the computers are, a bit of human context will amplify their performance and reduce restrictions automation may put on your campaign. We know when to expect an increase in buyer intent and conversion rate. Add a Seasonality Adjustments into the bidding platforms so they know to expect this. When you create a seasonality adjustment, you're scheduling a conversion rate adjustment (an increase or a decrease), which accounts for estimated changes due to an upcoming event.
The measurability of digital platforms is a fantastic benefit of showing the impact of your activity. But it can also be a massive hindrance to scalability of performance. Most platforms report differently and getting a unified, accurate view on performance is a massive challenge.
It would be great if all consumers purchased on their first visit or stayed in the same channel for all of their touchpoints. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that and ultimately if decisions are made on whether you’re hitting a channel’s ROAS target and it’s not factoring in the impact from an Assisted Conversion point, then you’ll make decisions that reduce your ability to drive sales.
To make the most of BFCM and going early to build your way into the consideration mix, you need to look less at individual channel ROAS targets and use an overall Marketing Efficiency Ratio (MER) to report on performance. It’s incredibly simple to set up. Divide your Revenue by all Marketing Costs, (whether that be Media Spend, Salaries, Agency Fees). There isn’t one correct ratio target that works for all businesses. Play around with this to see what feels right for you.
Do you have profit data you can feed into this? Even better! Divide your GP by all of your costs to provide the real business impact of your campaigns.
BFCM provides a great opportunity for ecommerce businesses to drive high levels of profitable sales, but only if you have a clear plan for success. The steps I’ve detailed above are ones I’ve personally used successfully and will give you a basis to start your own planning. It would be great to hear about any other ideas you’ve taken yourself or are planning to do and I’d be more than happy to discuss some ideas with you.
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