Love it or loathe it, Black Friday is upon us. Amazon, the mother of the event, continues to lead the charge, forcing the rest to follow. Countries at different stages of eCommerce evolution are now embracing Black Friday, with many players adopting the event as their own. With the retail calendar ever-evolving, this might just be the last Black Friday as we know it.

The Home of Black Friday

Among all plethora of emails and shops awash with mega deal posters touting mindblowing bargains, Amazon continues to demonstrate that it well and truly owns the event, opening the aptly-named The Home of Black Friday experience store in London’s Shoreditch.

Amazon’s Winter Wonderland in the heart of Shoreditch.

The temporary location showcases Amazon’s ecosystem at its finest, the plethora of unique artisan products available from third party sellers, new services and solutions such as Amazon Wardrobe and, of course, Alexa.

The store also serves as a glimpse of what future instore shopping might look like: entertainment-driven, with unique experiences and gamification, all underpinned by technology to blend the best of the physical and digital seamlessly.

Artisanal and handmade gifting options were very much to the fore.

Throughout the store’s lifespan there will be numerous events and experiences, such as jewellery-making workshops by Amazon Handmade Artisan Lual Earrings, a Tanqueray TEN Martini masterclass demonstrating their Alexa Skill, ‘The Bar’ showcasing Beer, Wine and Spirit brand partners, Prime Video screenings and live music from special guests on the Amazon Music stage.

Name brands on show include P&G, LEGO, Reckitt Benckiser and more.

Big brands are well represented, with Samsung, LEGO, Hotel Chocolat and Logitech, to name a few, on show. While everything is shoppable through the Amazon app using bespoke Smile Codes (which encourage charitable giving along with purchase), the focus is not on product or shopping, but building even greater stickiness with Amazon that will last long after the doors close on 24 November.

The longest Friday ever?

All the while, the Black Friday event, which seems to start earlier and last longer each year, is well underway. Amazon’s reasoning for extending it is, of course, customer-driven, with the added incentive of smoothing logistical pinch-points by spreading the spend.

Shifting from one day to an entire week of Black Friday deals presents rivals with something of a dilemma. Either follow suit and erode margin, or stick to the Big Day itself, and risk losing sales to competitors. This has become evident this year, with events stretching out as much as a month (Africa’s leading platform Jumia.com, for instance), or a week (most Amazon European sites) or a weekend (Aldi Netherlands, Lidl Poland). 

One retailer; varying promotions. Lidl’s ‘Black Weekend’ in Poland and ‘Black Week’ in Spain (Source: Lidl.pl, Lidl.es)

Extending this now accepted retail calendar fixture also means it butts up against other events like Singles’ Day (11:11) or JD.com’s 12:12, creating a constant event stream all the way until the January Sales. Promotion fatigue is kicking in, with consumers, empowered with greater visibility of what really counts as a good deal, becoming jaded by the true value of such events.

A new participant emerges from the East

With the dust barely settled on Singles’ Day, it might be expected that Alibaba would rest on its laurels. But having ramped up its China-to-Europe fulfilment capacity for 11:11 - seeking to deliver in 72 hours to 50% of Europe - AliExpress is running Black Friday/Cyber Monday events across all its key European portals (Netherlands, Poland, Spain, France), presumably to reiterate its value offer to those new shoppers that shopped AliExpress on Singles’ Day.

Even more interesting is the event on Tmall Russia, currently the only Tmall platform beyond China. Here, the influence Alibaba exerts in the Russian online space is evident, particularly in the ‘Brand Zone’ where, instead of the China-based suppliers usually populating AliExpress, we find high-end or global names like Samsung and P&G offered at deep discounts for the event, all shipped free from within Russia.

Just some of the name brands participating in Tmall Russia’s Black Friday promotion. (Source: tmall.aliexpress.com/ru)

Russia is now central to Alibaba’s global expansion plans, not only as a staging point for goods shipped faster to Western markets, but also as a place in which it can demonstrate its model’s efficacy to global brands outside the Chinese market. What we are seeing on Tmall Russia’s Black Friday 2018 may one day be viewed as highly significant: the first time Alibaba has flexed its brand muscle beyond its home borders.

Consider also the reach of AliExpress, 2017’s most popular site for cross-border shopping in Poland, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Serbia, and it becomes clear why Alibaba’s co-opting of what is often viewed as an ‘Amazon event’ signals the next evolution of the event as it is embraced by the colossal Alibaba ecosystem.

The Discounters giving a discount

We are not only seeing Black Friday evolve in new markets, but in new channels. Discounters are continuing to act more like mainstream supermarkets and further indication of that can be seen in this year’s event.

Given that weekly centre-store promotions are integral to their DNA, it might seem incongruous to find Lidl and Aldi stepping into the Black Friday melee. But in many markets, this is happening, no more so than in the UK, where Lidl is offering an impressive roster of name brands at often very deep discounts – “while stocks last”. In markets where Lidl now operates a standalone GM online offer (the Czech Republic being the curious exception), Black Friday is showcased prominently, with a variety of deals available – some being one-day events (UK), or alternatively an entire ‘Black Week’ (Spain).

Lidl UK has partnered with some impressive names for its limited-time event. (Source: Lidl.co.uk)

Balancing FOMO with JOMO

An emerging trend this year is that more conscientious consumers, placing greater emphasis on experiences over possessions while saving up for indulgent items, have created something of a purchasing paradigm between the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) and Joy of Missing Out (JOMO). Promotional mechanisms are becoming smarter at leveraging organic traffic, or FOMO, to drive adoption of loyalty, mobile, apps, newsletters or other promotional mechanisms that create stickiness to the brand.

Feel Unique offers timed deals throughout their Black Friday event, creating greater sense of FOMO and immediate conversion to make shoppers feel their one of only a few to get a deal. (Source: feelunique.com )

When it comes to JOMO, mechanisms or deals to entice consumers to convert their wish lists, saved products, present boards. Mechanisms to make these desirable items more affordable, or to purchase that special gift for someone are not only limited to luxury items but are being extended to travel retail. While consumers might find satisfaction from abstaining from the plethora of deals on items they don’t ‘need’, these are deals on items they have been desiring. 

British Airways offering Black Friday deals is testament to the event transcending products, to selling life-style enhancing experiences. (Source: BA.com)

Key considerations to not see red during Black Friday

  • Make it meaningful: With appetite for generic flash sales such as Black Friday waning, moving forward, it is those retailers and brands that activate shoppers in meaningful, compelling, genuine, and personal ways, that will win shoppers hearts and minds. This is about identifying key moments in the new retail calendar that balance FOMO with JOMO in innovative ways that create brand stickiness.
  • Make it easy: Convenience is being redefined through desire for speed, freedom, choice, and flexibility. Amazon’s mantra is to make shopping easier, wherever shoppers want, with mobile the link between the physical and digital. Those assisting in enabling this through adapting ranges, assortment, packaging, and promotions, to suit missions and occasions over channels will benefit beyond Amazon’s ecosystem.
  • Make it experiential:  The future shopping is blending all channels and touchpoints seamlessly. The store is fundamental to this, but should be true destinations where consumers can engage with their favourite brands and discover new ones, in unique and compelling ways. It is a mash-up of showrooming, hospitality, retail theatre, entertainment, and technology to enable it all. Those embracing this ethos, and working with retailers to achieve it, will reap the rewards.

Further Reading:
The New Retail Calendar
AliExpress sharpens its Europe focus for Singles’ Day 2018
Instagram raises awareness around its retail potential

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