Black Friday 2020: Price is king, but what you say about it is far more important

The pandemic has shifted the retail landscape: ushering in an industry wide digital transformation that looks set to continue well beyond 2021. Neil Devlin, Director of Retail at Acxiom offers key predictions for Black Friday and beyond into 2021.

There is no way anyone could have anticipated 2020.

In retail, the pandemic has led to some new consumer habits. In the first quarter of the year, contactless payments grew by 40% (Mastercard). Britons continued to spend over £40bn on dispensable items – from inflatable pubs to jigsaw puzzles – during lockdown (Barclaycard Payments). And – perhaps unsurprisingly – luxury barware sales increased 3,430 per cent on the same period last year (Amara).

In the same vein, what will happen on Black Friday this year has become equally hard to predict.

In recent years, we’ve seen Black Friday and Cyber Monday extend from one day/weekend events into week, or even multiple week-long sales. In the midst of a lockdown, it’s fair to say the majority of sales will be online for many retailers, but with competition high, how can they differentiate?

If there is a word that will dominate people’s decision making in this period, it’s price. But retailers need to go a bit deeper and look at the messaging around price in order to achieve success in sales this season.

The price might be right, but is the message?

With the bulk of sales staying online for the first half of 2021 at least, we’re already seeing an increase in people actively searching for the best possible price, which will only be amplified as Black Friday approaches.

But what retailers need to know is, it’s not just about offering the best deal on the market, it’s about the messaging around it.

For those that have less disposable income than a year ago brands need to communicate in ways that are sensitive to that, with the awareness that their customer is more likely to shop around for a bargain.

For those who have saved money on travel and going out this year, they may have an eye on luxury goods more than they did before, but they want more bang for their buck. As a result, discounting needs to be smarter and more personalised.

To achieve this, it’s imperative that retailers understand their customers, what they’re purchasing and how they’re shopping. They need to be working with the customer data platform that suits their needs, to help them unify the data they currently hold, and better understand their customers now and moving forwards.

This is how retailers will provide the best possible experience and stand out in a crowded market this Black Friday.

Don’t forget to use data wisely

With data comes great responsibility. Knowing how comfortable people are with sharing data has never been more vital, and its important retailers to be cognisant of customer preferences.

Our ‘Spheres of Trust’ report looked at levels of comfort amongst UK individuals  when sharing data online, and what people are happy to share and with whom. It explored comfort levels on sharing different types of data – from health to spending – and the reasons for doing so.

What this research reaffirmed is that organisations – be they governments or online retailers – must first understand the types of data people are willing to share and the specific organisations they are comfortable sharing that data with. Push too much and people will withdraw – or worse, intentionally give incorrect information – a phenomenon we call data duping.  Misread the mood of customers with regards to their data and retailers will risk losing trust, and as a result, custom.

But there is one truth retailers can hold onto: people will share data if they feel they get value in return. Focusing on this value, and showing the benefits to people is imperative,

Know your customer

The message is simple. Yes, retailers should make sure their price is competitive, but they need to use data to understand the challenges, habits and attitudes of their customers, and base their messaging around that. Ecommerce is a crowded space, and those who have the right message, at the right time, coupled with great prices and smart discounting, will come out on top. Baked into this activity must be the responsible use of data, and the right partner who can help retailers deliver that.

By Neil Devlin

Director of Retail