Event roundup: The key takeaways from our Black Friday London breakfast

Black Friday is an oft debated topic in the retail world. On the one hand are the stories that emerge every December about record breaking sales, but on the other are the doubts that seem to be creeping in.

After being largely responsible for bringing the concept to the UK full force in 2014, last year saw Asda pull out citing shopper fatigue. Others started to question what the true impact of the sales bonanza is, with research from Clear Returns revealing that the day could cost retailers up to £180m in returns (Telegraph, November 2015). Amazon went even further, creating their very own Prime Day and pulling peak ever further from the traditional Christmas focused schedule (Retail Week, July 2016).

Our #QubitRetail breakfast sought to get to the bottom of the Black Friday conundrum. Welcoming guests from some of the UK's top retailers we heard from the experts, and found out how retailers can set themselves up for success, whether they back Black Friday, or back out.

Cassia-Lily Aldred, Retail Strategist at Qubit, kicked off the morning with a brief tour of Black Friday to date, looking at the tactics that stood out in 2015.  For many of her luxury customers it was all about being strategic with discounts, offering money off selected products. Some chose to opt out altogether to avoid brand erosion. Live polling of the retailers in the room revealed that in 2015, 80% chose to participate in Black Friday, and this rose to 82% for those planning to take part in 2016. Looking ahead to 2016 she shared her expertise with room, outlining the successful experiences Qubit has launched, and how retailers can apply them on the day and beyond. The key messages from Cassia were:

  • Analyze, analyze, analyze: Retailers can't begin to understand the impact of a day like Black Friday unless they turn to the data, and not enough of them are doing this.
  • You don't have to discount: a better experience will set you apart, whether thats making sure you're mobile ready, or segmenting your visitors to give them a more personalilsed experience. 
  • Amp up the urgency: utilise social proof, countdown timers, and personalised abandonment strategies to make sure customers convert.

We then heard from our guest speaker, Laura Keir (Head of Acquisition & Retention at The Protein Works). With a wealth of experience gained from working at Nike and Ryman Laura shared her insights:

  • Don't let FOMO take over: Both retailers and consumers are united in their 'fear' on Black Friday, but this isn't something that should drive your strategy
  • Move toward mobi-channel: Laura talked about how, more than any other sale period Black Friday is inextricably linked with the evolution of online retail, and that to succeed today retailers need to realise that mobile is their new shop window
  • Use data to optimize your performance: Laura shared her thinking around test tactics, something you can read about in more depth on her blog
  • Know your channel marriages: a simple attribution strategy is key, if you dont know your channel stucture then you can't play the game this Black Friday.
  • Think personal over pressure: new customers might not be your most profitable. Start campaign planning off with segmentation and you may find some gems to target with a personalised experience

Thanks to everyone who attended, but don't worry if you couldn't make it. We've just launched our new research into Black Friday which looks at the data across five key retail sectors to understand the true value of the day. Get your copy here.