Black Friday – All power to the consumers?

Over the last three years, Periscope By McKinsey has lifted the lid on consumer sentiment towards Black Friday, looking at the shopping behaviour of consumers, how they prepare for the event, and the categories in which they plan to spend. Polling consumers in the UK, US, Canada and Germany, this year’s findings reveal an impressive level of consumer interest in Black Friday on both sides of the Atlantic.

But perhaps most interesting fact gleaned from this year’s findings was that, despite more than 70% stating a clear objective to participate in Black Friday 2018, consumers appear to be keeping their options wide open when it comes to exactly what they will purchase – and from whom. Asked to evaluate their pre-Black Friday shopping preparations, the vast majority of respondents in all countries surveyed admitted doing no, or very little, pre-planning with regard to which stores or products they’ll seek out on the day. All of which indicates that consumers are prepared to play the waiting game in anticipation of truly tempting offers that capture their attention or incentivise them to make a purchase.

So what does this mean for retailers and brands?

This year’s research indicates that consumers are planning to spend even more on purchases compared to previous years. Indeed, the majority of UK shoppers (37%) budgeting planning on spending big between £200 and £300. With money to burn and no set ideas of where or on what to spend it, everything is up for grabs.

To seize the day and the subsequent rewards that it may bring, retailers and brands will need to ensure they:

  • Stimulate wants and needs – while the majority of consumers say they’ve invested minimal effort in planning what items they will buy, they’ve certainly reserved significant budgets to fund potential Black Friday purchasing activities. Giving retailers and brands a clear opportunity to stimulate ‘wants and needs’ ahead of the event. Those able to up their game to craft the right marketing messages and promotions will seize the day, attracting shoppers to their stores and websites on the day.
  • Make it personal – Personalised messages are a growing part of what consumers look forward to – it helps them curate – so look to find ways to shape their last-minute decisions.  Moreover, consumers are more open than ever to receiving personalised messages that stimulate them to consider potential product options. In fact, 11-22% of consumers by country actually rate personalised offers as a key consideration. Retailers and brands that are able to leverage their customer data to stimulate demand with personalised campaigns ahead of the event will win a greater share of consumer hearts and minds.
  • Improve the in-store customer experience – it’s clear from this year’s survey that many shoppers are now wary of battling for bargains and trying to make purchases in chaotic stores. Consider implementing processes such as mobile payments or order online and pick up in-store to relieve the pressure on store operations and limit the risk of alienating consumers or damaging brand loyalties.
  • Smart Shopping is on the rise – a growing number of consumers are turning to smart shopping assistants like Alexa and Siri to help streamline their shopping chores, and many of those doing so hold considerable shopping budgets for events like Black Friday. These ‘big spenders’ represent a prime opportunity.
  • Think omnichannel – today’s sophisticated shoppers are leveraging every channel available to explore their Black Friday options – whether that’s researching deals, seeking out inspirations for gift or experiencing the excitement of the shopping event for real – with digital channels becoming increasingly dominant. Making it vitally important that retailers and brands ensure they catch their target audiences in the right channel/s – and provide a seamless experience as shoppers move from one channel to another to complete their purchasing journeys.

Consumers are clearly eager, ready and willing to participate and shop this Black Friday 2018. But with their strategic approach to sit back and see which promotions and offers most entice them to spend on the day, one may be forgiven for feeling that it is they that hold all the cards. However, this is a “golden” opportunity for retailers and brands looking to extract maximum value from this year’s event, and they should ensure they prepare the right promotions for the right customers to ensure they attract high numbers of shoppers – and secure big basket orders.

For more information on this research, download the report 'Black Friday 2018 Shopping Report: Consumers are Eager, More Digital, and Willing to Spend'.