In our recent Black Friday webinar, two experts from Impression assessed the current state of the ecommerce market. They shared some of the key trends that they believe will shape Black Friday 2021, giving their recommendations as to how you should prepare for this year’s retail selling season. 

Whilst Black Friday isn’t likely to be relaxing for any digital marketer, we hope that our tips and advice will ease some of your stress and help you to drive meaningful results for your business.

The current landscape

Let’s kick off with some good news. After an extremely turbulent year for retailers, we’re pleased to say that consumer’s financial security has bounced back largely due to factors such as stronger job security, improved mental health and personal well being and the overall success of the UK vaccination programme. In essence, this means that consumers are in a better financial position compared to this time last year and are feeling much more flexible and willing to spend as we come into Q4 2021.

However, this also means that this year, consumers aren’t as reliant on sales and deals. Now, this doesn’t mean that this cyber weekend will be any less vital, however, as what we’ve seen is more of a shift away from this sales reliance and more of a pivot towards getting organised for Christmas. The appetite for Christmas gifting is already increasing, surpassing the demand that we saw in 2020. With 70% of consumers looking to buy gifts on Cyber weekend, ecommerce brands still have excellent opportunities this year, regardless of demand specifically for Black Friday itself.

So, things aren’t looking as tricky as they were a year ago! Let’s look ahead… 

Trends impacting Black Friday 2021

We’ve picked out four key trends that we think will have the biggest impact on Black Friday 2021. 

Earlier for longer

Over the last few years, we’ve seen an extension of the Cyber period. Consumers have started their research much earlier and they expect deals to run for longer. We’ve seen Cyber weekends turn into Cyber weeks and in some instances, Cyber months! We’re also seeing people begin their Christmas shopping much earlier on. 

However, what we’re seeing as a result of this elongation expectation, is consumers becoming fatigued and overwhelmed by deals, often saying that they missed out on what they wanted due to confusion and oversaturation in the market. 

Whilst consumers will indeed expect deals that run for longer than the traditional cyber weekend period, they will be unsure of when the deals will begin, and how long they will run for. Brands will therefore need to keep consumers energised with fresh deals and clear, clever communication throughout. 

Our recommendations

First and foremost, we recommend that you ensure you’re present in that all important research phase and to build anticipation between two to four weeks in advance of your deals actually beginning in order to capture those researching consumers. Tell your consumers exactly when your deals will begin and entice them in with signups and countdown formats to really build up anticipation. 

If you are going to elongate your offer period, which we encourage, you can delay offer fatigue by ensuring that you have a wide variety of offers throughout the period. Also, make sure that your on-site content is engaging enough to keep your consumers on your site and interested in your brand. To monitor ad fatigue, look at click through rates, conversion rates and engagement with your ads. Your paid media team will be able to showcase your performance across the entire holiday period and they will be able to highlight any signs of ad fatigue starting to emerge. 

Last year was a hugely volatile year for ecommerce and it’s likely that this year will be, too. Consumer behaviour changes every single year and it’s therefore key for you to make sure that you have automated strategies in place to account for any rapidly changing consumer demand in 2021.

Depending on what activity you’re running, there are many different ways that you can automate campaigns from the large suite of bid strategies that are available on social search and programmatic platforms, to using tools like our own developed ads scripts. To find out more on how to make the most out of automation, you speak to your paid media team. They will be able to give you personalised recommendations that are specific to your campaigns.

Audiences

The second trend that we have identified is the ever growing importance of audiences, particularly first party audiences. 

In a post-pandemic world, we know that consumers are still really keen to prioritise ecommerce over visiting a physical store. However, whilst online offers an all important element of convenience, it lacks the intimate and personalised aspects of in-store shopping experiences and these are both vital in building the attachment between a brand and a consumer. 

Data shows us that over half of consumers actually prefer advertising that is personalised to them and with a huge suite of audiences available to us, we certainly have an opportunity to recreate a personal touch outside of the store.

It’s important to note that this isn’t just for new customers. It’s just as important to ensure that your current customer base feels valued in order to foster their loyalty this year, especially with the return rate nearly doubling for consumers who have purchased from you two or more times. It’s really key that brands make the online experience as personal as possible. Your consumer’s loyalty will be on the line if your brand doesn’t make them feel valued. 

By personalising your advertising to specific audiences and serving offers unique to their needs, we predict that you’ll see an increase in the pool of new consumers as well as loyalty from your existing customer base. 

Our recommendations

So what can you actually do within your advertising to address this trend? From new to existing to lapsed users, it’s really key to vary up your creative and your copy to suit every stage of your customer’s journey with your brand. Research shows that if the right rewards are in place at each of these stages, 86% of consumers will recommend your brand to their friends and family and 46% said that they would remain loyal even after a bad experience. 

In a future without cookies, it’s really key for brands to be building up first party data sooner rather than later. Black Friday is the perfect time to do this because you’re having a huge influx of new customers shopping with you. You can entice new users with things like sneak peeks and benefits for parting with their email details and you can then use this data to effectively nurture them into future loyal customers through dedicated communication.

Finally, it’s also key to understand your current customer base and any typical cross sell or upsell opportunities. You can showcase complementary products on site while your users are browsing, as well as use remarketing to showcase all the different products that you have to keep them interested in coming back for more.

Walk the walk

Over the last five years, what we’ve seen is a shift in the way that consumers choose their brands. No longer do consumers pick your business just for the actual products that you sell, they are now much more concerned with your values and what your brand stands for. Brands who can talk to this need in a really genuine and relevant way will likely see short term Black Friday wins, as well as long term loyalty and future proofing yourself against any negative sentiment. This has been exacerbated in the last year with multiple worldwide ethical and environmental movements that have caused consumers to really question a brands ethical and environmental standpoints and 50% of consumers say that they would actively boycott brands that don’t align with their ethical values. 

However, it’s important to note that if ethical and environmental initiatives do not fit your brand or demographic, don’t push it! Consumers will see through any advertising that seems forced or appears to be irrelevant to your company. You must be able to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

Demand for ethical brands continues to grow as millennials and Gen Z take up more of the online space. This Black Friday, those who can genuinely and authentically talk about their wider contribution to society and the environment will see better sentiment from consumers as well foster long term loyalty.

Our recommendations

First and foremost, don’t shy away from shouting about what you stand for and your company’s values if it is genuine to your brand. Consumers may make a one off purchase after initially engaging with your ad content but they will stay with you for the ethical values that you present. 

However, caution should be taken if your brand has any variation in your ethics or environmental standpoint as consumers will feel frustrated if they feel they have been lied to or misled. For example, if you are positioning yourself as a vegan brand but only 20% of your products are vegan, you’re not a vegan brand, you have a vegan collection. It’s vital to make sure that you’re phrasing in the right way to make sure consumers don’t feel misled.

If you’re finding this trend really difficult to achieve or you’re having some worries about the various different ethical standpoints of your brand, you may want to consider alternative offers for this year. Consumers want brands to make more of a stand for sustainability, so you could consider alternative offers such as charitable donations or planting a tree for every purchase made for example. 

Finally, be really proud of yourself if you really can showcase your brand’s ethical values! Your digital PR team can help you better understand how to be heard amongst the noise and the clutter of this Black Friday and drive some like minded consumers to your business over that all important peak season.

The key thing to take away from this is that of course, it’s important for brands to speak to these issues but if it’s not genuine, then it’s likely to do more harm than good to your brand’s reputation.

Efficiency and flexibility

There’s a growing importance of efficiency and flexibility when it comes to payment methods and delivery. For just over three quarters of all UK shoppers, convenience is defined as their top priority when it comes to online shopping. Last year’s Black Friday shoppers revealed that convenient delivery coupled with payment options and flexibility were major factors in making any of their purchases online. 

This trend has shifted away from being a preference and is now an expectation, with consumers actively researching how quickly and flexibly they can receive their goods, especially around Black Friday and the all important peak season in the run up to Christmas. 

Ultimately brands that offer any fast or free deliveries services and returns, coupled with flexible payment options will be successful this holiday season. Consumers now value that all important convenience factor more than ever before. 

Our recommendations 

First of all, be clear about what you offer in terms of your delivery capabilities. Quick delivery is now a firm expectation so it’s really important to make this stand out in your ads and your creative. Don’t let the competition sweep away all of the consumers that are looking for that convenience factor that you also offer but just haven’t shouted about. 

The second point here is to embrace flexibility, it’s what consumers want. As we’re seeing that consumers are more and more keen to splurge this year, if you are able to offer any buy now pay later options, make that clear to entice those desiring that level of support. 

Finally, it’s also key to ensure that you’re streamlining mobile conversions. Unlike last year, people are out and about a lot more and may be browsing and buying on the go. Make sure you offer fast payment options through platforms such as Apple Pay to make mobile shopping even more seamless.

In summary:

  1. Build anticipation in the research phase 
  2. Vary your offers to keep consumers engaged
  3. Utilise automation to combat volatility
  4. Personalise ads based on a users experience with your brand
  5. Use this as an opportunity to build first party data
  6. Utilise opportunities to cross sell and upsell
  7. Be genuine and relevant with any ethical standpoints
  8. Trial alternative ethical offers
  9. Ensure delivery and payment options are made clear
  10. Streamline mobile conversions with fast payment options

We wish you a successful Black Friday period! Need help planning for this year? Get in touch with our team. 

Polly Astill

Senior Marketing Manager

Polly has specialist knowledge in Digital Marketing Strategy.