Summits Yellow

Viewpoint: The absurdity of Black Friday hype

David Murphy

You wouldn’t want to have been my inbox these past couple of weeks. Not unless you have a penchant for spurious stats around one of the most over-hyped retail events in history. I’m talking Black Friday of course, and to a lesser extent Cyber Monday, and every year I breathe a huge sigh of relief when it’s over. Except it’s not over for weeks afterwards, because after all the stats predicting what’s going to happen, you get all the stats offering a best guess at what did actually happen, virtually all of which goes in one ear and out the other where I’m concerned, because it will take a lot to convince me that the retail community has sold anything much more than it would have sold in the following weeks anyway. It’s just done so at hugely discounted prices. Perhaps. More on that later.

Here’s a selection of the stuff I’ve been bombarded with the past couple of weeks:

Cyber Monday-themed emails converted at a rate 53 per cent higher than their Black Friday counterparts last year. Overall, roughly a third of marketers used Black Friday and Cyber Monday in their 2016 marketing campaigns, at 33 percent and 34 percent, respectively.

60 per cent of shoppers feel positively about retailers opening on Thanksgiving Day, and 57 per cent of shoppers are likely to shop on Thanksgiving Day, while 42 per cent will do their shopping on Black Friday. Electronics continue to be the hottest items for both Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping.

A study of the UK’s leading eRetailers has revealed that poor page speeds are putting Black Friday and Christmas sales at risk. The research found that 54 per cent of leading eRetailers page speeds rated as ‘poor’, taking over nine seconds to load, and 32 per cent only rated as fair, taking between six to eight seconds to load. Only two per cent of the UK’s leading e-retailers received an excellent rating, loading in under four seconds, which is the speed required to ensure minimum customer drop-off.

Retailers are set to receive a £2.6bn boost on Black Friday, up 8 per cent on 2016. Retail sales are expected to soar, with 21m customers spending £1.8m per minute online and in-store. Consumers across the UK set to spend £1.15bn online, up 15 per cent on 2016. 9.5m shoppers are preparing to spend a cool £1.45bn in bricks and mortar stores. (OK I concede, actual sales forecasts/figures are slightly less spurious than the other stuff and potentially of some value.)

Mobile is a crucial part of holiday shopping, but it’s more of a communication and discovery channel for retailers and consumers. 46 per cent of shoppers plan to research products on a mobile device even more than they did in 2017. 45 per cent of consumers will visit a store due to texts or push notifications that include coupons or prom,otional alerts via a mobile device.

Despite Brits love for a bargain 35 per cent say they won’t be taking part in Black Friday this year. However, 47 per cent)of those that are hitting the high street say they’re looking to snap up good deals on home electrical and tech.

In addition to the stat overload, others are leveraging the event/jumping on the bandwagon, depending on your point of view. Free money-saving tool Pouch has released a free Facebook Messenger chat bot, highlighting the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals the second they are live online.

And Clikky, a full-stack platform for mobile advertisers and publishers, has put together a Black Friday Bundle of deals on a range of services for app developers, mobile marketers and website owners. Altogether, 50 companies have shared their offers for ASO tools, app analytics, localization, monetization, influencer marketing, SEO, etc. The bundle also includes discounts for events including AdTech, the Israel Mobile Summit and the Mobile Beach Conference.

Deal or no deal?
So what’s my issue with Black Friday. I have several. Firstly, I get annoyed with the number of companies that use it as a hook for a load of unremarkable stats and studies. Secondly, that the whole thing is just hyped out of all proportion. Thirdly, I question how much value it drives for a retailer to have so much sales effort and activity concentrated into such a short window, and the incumbent pressure this brings on their people and their tech, as they strive to stop their websites and apps breaking under the strain of all those Black Friday bargain hunters. On top of that of course, it encourages retailers to discount goods that consumers may well have been willing to pay full price for. Goods that many of the buyers will subsequently have second thoughts about and return.

The icing on the cake for me – or the negative equivalent, the soggy bottom perhaps (Bake Off fans will know what I mean) – came earlier this week when the consumer group Which? revealed that, according to its own investigations, the majority of goods discounted over the Black Friday weekend last year could have been bought for the same price or less at other times of the year.

The Which? study found that 60 per cent of the goods involved in last year’s Black Friday deals cost the same or less, earlier or later in the year, with almost half of these on sale for the same price or less in December, as they were on Black Friday.

A Neff Slide and Hide oven from Currys/PC World looled like a good deal at £494.99, particularly as the retailer’s advertising claimed it had been £599.99 throughout September and most of October. But the oven was actually cheaper than the Black Friday price for at least 113 other days of the year. It was £45 cheaper (£449.99) just three weeks later.

Similarly, a Samsung 55-inch Smart 4K Ultra HD curved TV was advertised in Currys/PC World as ‘Save £400, now £849’, but was £50 cheaper at least 29 times in December, January and April, the same price at least seven times in April and £79 cheaper at least 18 times in May.

This was a great piece of work from Which?, serving to highlight the absurdity of the hype around Black Friday. Let’s hope retailers give it due consideration, and before too long, we can all look back on the event as just a little piece of retail history that’s been consigned to the scrapheap. Along with all those spurious studies.