In recent years, Black Friday has become an established feature in the Irish shopping calendar. It has rapidly gone from being a novelty American import to being a significant generator of sales for retailers and brands going into the Christmas period.
The world of shopping is transforming and the radical pace of change is being driven by technology, innovation and rising customer expectations. The winners will be those retailers and brands who best anticipate these trends in advance, and best activate them both online and in-store. Those who create integrated, customised experiences and targeted promotions will be the market leaders who capitalise on the loyalty of customers they have engaged and delighted.
Continuing our series on Retail and Consumer Insight in Ireland, PwC in conjunction with Amárach Research undertook an online survey to gauge shoppers’ attitudes and behaviours around Black Friday and Christmas. We explore consumers’ spending intentions; when and what they expect to purchase; how much they will spend; their expectations of retailers; and the effect these will have on their Christmas shopping.
Understanding that change is constant is vital to succeeding in this challenging consumer driven market. Retailers and brands who understand and approach their consumers – who are always-on, smart and connected – with the right blend of loyalty-generating service and personalised promotional strategies will reap the benefits of the Black Friday effect.
What do shoppers wish for when Christmas shopping?
Irish consumers have embraced Black Friday. 98% are aware of the occasion. One fifth are definitely going to shop and 56% are considering it. This is indicative of the positive sentiment among consumers about the future of the economy with one quarter believing the economy will perform better in the next 12 months.
Shoppers are polarised in their views of Black Friday shopping. 61% of 18 to 34-year-olds intend to make a purchase, while 17% of over-55s plan to avoid the occasion altogether.
Of those savvy shoppers intending to purchase, a third are planning to spend more than last year, significantly higher for the younger age groups and those aged 55+ being most economical with their spending. Smart retailers need to ensure that they get their fair share of this incremental spend.
When looking at both Black Friday and Cyber Monday as shopping days, it is clear that Black Friday is the most favoured with 15% of shoppers stating they will do the majority of their Christmas shopping on this day compared to 5% for Cyber Monday. Interestingly, men are most likely to delay their shopping until the week before Christmas (18% vs 11% for women) whilst 11% of female respondents claim to have already completed their christmas shopping (vs 6% for men).
These Black Friday trends have been growing over recent years and it is worthwhile examining last year's retail footfall patterns to understand the effect of Black Friday on store traffic. Store traffic data from 2017 (powered by: Retail Services Ireland) identified that there was a 30% increase in retail footfall across Ireland as a whole with a 39% increase in shopping centres on Black Friday 2017 compared to the previous Friday.
How do shoppers feel about Black Friday?
The ‘always on’ shopper is only one step away from purchase and is always in pursuit of value, convenience and experience. In order to grab and maintain their attention, retailers must provide shoppers with a seamless mobile experience that allows all age groups to research and purchase on and offline. 67% of those polled in our survey intend to purchase online – whether that be by smartphone, desktop / laptop, tablet or smart home technology.
We know that the mobile-first generation is influenced by the device in their hand, but all generations are changing their buying habits through the power of technology. 49% of 18 to 34-year-olds intend to make their purchases for Black Friday and Cyber Monday via their mobile phone while, 34% of those aged 55+ intend to purchase online via laptop or desktop.
Smart home technology such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, while representing a small proportion of Black Friday spending channels at 1%, will be an emerging trend in online shopping. This poses challenging questions for brands and retailers alike when it comes to investing in their search strategies in the very competitive virtual retail space.
In spite of the online trends, satisfying consumer expectations in-store is important as the store remains a key destination for Christmas shopping compared to the Black Friday weekend where Online is identified as being more important to shoppers. This is perhaps influenced by the higher number of younger shoppers who have expressed interest in Black Friday purchasing versus the older cohort. The optimal level of promotional activity, in-store theatre, staff engagement and order fulfillment, i.e. click and collect experiences are important to deliver these physical sales.
Retailer owned media channels, including websites and social media, are powerful methods to directly entice and engage with shopper segments. They can also help retailers reach the ultimate goal of long term customer value.
What channels do shoppers prioritise when shopping on Black Friday & Cyber Monday?
Big ticket items receive most attention in the minds of shoppers this Black Friday. Providers of electronics and technology goods need to harness consumer enthusiasm for high-tech shopping in advance of Christmas by providing attractive solutions online and in-store.
Electronics accounts for 60% of all planned purchase intentions, with 74% of male shoppers likely to make technology purchases on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Toys account for one-third of intended category purchases on Black Friday with 48% of 35 to 44-year-olds intending to purchase toys over the Black Friday weekend.
50% of shoppers expressed their intention to spend between €100 and €500, with the 45 to 55 age group most likely to spend more than €200. One quarter will spend between €100 and €200 and one quarter of 18 to 24-year-olds will spend under €100.
Although not classed as big ticket items, there will be considerable spending by men on the likes of books, movies and games, DIY and home improvement and sports gear and equipment. While Female shoppers bring their spending power to the Black Friday experience with clothing and footwear accounting for 74%, while beauty and personal care for 50% of their planned purchases.
Though Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not usually associated with the promotion of food groceries, those products account for 19% of planned purchases amongst those polled. Although items in these categories may not identify individually as “big ticket”, their cumulative value is important to overall spending trends.
What are the most popular purchases on Black Friday?
Irish shoppers have contributed to the conversion of Black Friday from a traditional American in-store promotion to a global digital phenomenon. Black Friday weekend is now a key event for shoppers albeit only forming part of their overall Christmas shopping.
Only 20% of shoppers expect to do their Christmas shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and almost 10% already have their Christmas shopping done. This may suggest that purchases on Black Friday are impulse driven and for consumers themselves, rather than planned Christmas gifts for others. Large purchases such as electronics are likely to be for home usage therefore indicating that Black Friday can satisfy both personal and gifting purchase opportunities.
The majority of shoppers polled in the survey intend to do their Christmas shopping in December – 44% early in December and 14% during the week before Christmas. December 8th had been the traditional start of the Christmas shopping period but Black Friday has clearly disrupted this. However, December remains a critical trading period with 51% of those aged 55+ intending to do their Christmas shopping in the first two weeks of December.
Black Friday drives footfall to stores and conversions online. Proactive retailers should leverage that appetite and seek to maximise the extended christmas trading period, capitalising on targeted promotions and margin management opportunities.
When do shoppers plan to do their Christmas shopping?
Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the lead in to Christmas enables retailers to engage with and create a positive relationship with shoppers that will last through the season and beyond.
Shoppers look for ‘a good deal’ and a ‘stress free shopping experience’ when they are choosing where to do their Christmas shopping, whether online or in-store. In our survey, 62% of shoppers stated that one of the most important factors in choosing where to shop was to get ‘a good deal’. 58% of respondents’ express a preference for a stress-free shopping experience serves as a reminder for the importance of shopper satisfaction and eliminating pain points along the customer journey.
Black Friday and Christmas presents an opportunity to use customer data analytics and segmented / personalised messaging to generate engagement and sales. Technology enables a gateway for shoppers seeking value with frictionless, faster, smarter choices. Consumers are willing to share their personal information provided that trust exists and they receive something of value by way of return in this two-way relationship.
Enhancing engagement across digital and physical touchpoints can create lifetime loyalty. The solution is not about in-store or online, it is about digitizing business to offer an integrated seamless experience to the shopper with ever increasing expectations.
What do shoppers wish for when Christmas shopping?
Local matters in Ireland. It always has. 86% of shoppers recognise the importance of supporting local products and believe that buying Irish has a positive effect on the Irish economy. 84% are aware that it is important to support local retailers and 53% believe that product traceability is more guaranteed.
60% of all shoppers feel it is important to buy local or Irish products during Christmas. The 55+ age group expressed the highest preference (70%) due to quality, traceability and positive effect on the local economy.
The mobile-first generation also have an awareness for the role of local with 51% recognising its importance for a positive effect on the economy, the importance of support for local retailers and product traceability.
Satisfying shopper expectation and their demands for local quality products at Christmas is a need that can be delivered by all Irish retailers and suppliers. Ensuring consumers are aware of local or Irish products, that those products are available and visible, is paramount for Christmas, as much as it it for other times of years.
Discerning shoppers are willing to pay for quality, particularly at Christmas.
Why do shoppers buy local and support local retailers at Christmas?