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Insights

Impulse vs research: Are you offering Black Friday shoppers the real deal, or damaging their trust in you?

Another Black Friday has come to an end, and in those 12 months, customers are wiser than ever to the deals offered. Yet it appears that some retailers are up to old tricks – and a recent study will only shake consumer trust ahead of a critical Christmas sales period.

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Impulse vs research: Are you offering Black Friday shoppers the real deal, or damaging their trust in you?

Another Black Friday has come to an end, and while the UK may not be seeing the impact on the high street, the sales event is booming online: the average shopper visited a retail site over 38 times, nearly twice as many visits than they made last Black Friday.

In this 12-month period, customers have become ever wiser to the deals being offered. Despite this, it appears that some retailers are up to old tricks – and a recent study will only shake consumer trust ahead of a critical Christmas sales period.

In a recent report, Which? discovered that is was “repeatedly shown that deals touted by retailers on Black Friday are not as good as they seem”. Its home products and services chief Natalie Hitchins continued: “Our investigation indicates that this popular shopping event is all hype and there are few genuine discounts.”

After citing numerous examples of “sale prices” being replicated from discounts earlier in the year, Hitchins went on to reiterate a simple fact to consumers: “Time-limited sales can be a good opportunity to bag a bargain, but don't fall for the pressure tactics around Black Friday.”

It sounds like straightforward advice for shoppers, but it should be retailers, not those who visit them, that really take heed of this advice. After all, we said exactly the same thing this time last year.

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In his piece for SHIFT last year, Matt Gardner said that “while consumers love Black Friday, they’re also more than aware of the true value of offers.” He continued: “It’s critical you ensure your offers are genuinely great deals; consumers are savvy enough to know if a deal is something that competitors – or even you! – offer at other times of the year, and labelling a rerun of this sale with a Black Friday banner will insult their intelligence – and undermine your participation.”

It’s these instances of disrespect that consumers are becoming all too aware of. With an increasing number of price comparison tools, cost trackers like camelcamelcamel, or thriving communities such as hotukdeals – which enjoys two million users in the UK alone – the risk is no longer that sales won’t be made during Black Friday; it’s that retailers will do themselves serious reputational damage ahead of an even more critical shopping period.

The most important Christmas in recent memory?

If retail projections are to be believed, retailers’ Black Friday strategies may be hurting them ahead of one of the most difficult times for British retail. While Christmas is usually a saving grace for many, GfK discovered a foreboding sentiment among British citizens ahead of the period.

At the end of October, the market research institute revealed that “UK consumer confidence in October fell to its joint-lowest point in six years amid continued Brexit uncertainty and ahead of the 12 December general election”. Client strategy director Joe Staton said this was “worrying” as strong consumer spending “has been the main driver of economic growth since the Referendum in 2016 against a backdrop of low inflation, low interest rates, low wage growth and high employment”. At the end of November, things didn’t improve – they “flatlined”.

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While election years in themselves have little correlation with sales downturns, certain retail categories are more at risk when people feel put on the political spot. As this research piece explains: “Ultimately, shoppers still need to put fuel in their cars and food on the table. However, most exposed are ‘big ticket’ retailers selling furniture, consumer electronics and automobiles. Fashion clothing and accessories are expected to struggle as such purchases are tied to discretionary spending.”

While SHIFT believes that in the UK, it’s important to pull out all the stops to offer something during Black Friday, it’s better to offer nothing at all rather than advertising non-deals to get people through the doors. It all comes down to remembering the roots of British retail, even as new trends dominate the headlines.

Going back to what you, and your customers, know

Black Friday is a direct product of Thanksgiving, which takes place on the fourth Thursday of November in the US. The public holiday is extended by millions of Americans, who want to enjoy a four-day weekend and make the most of their time off. America infamously “treats paid time off as a perk rather than a right”; employees are entitled to zero days of paid leave, and while companies regularly provide it, the culture is simple: make the most of your time off when you can.

Here, Black Friday is just another working day. Boxing Day, however, is a public holiday and a shopping bonanza that’s stood the test of time, even as online shopping brings internet deals slightly forward in response to Christmas delivery cut-off points. On top of that, those who have most trust – and patience – with Boxing Day sales tend to come from older, less technologically able demographics that are more likely to leave their homes on the day itself to explore the stores they love.

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Patience from retailers pays, too. With Christmas said and done, they can assess excess stock brought in for Christmas, make space for the next generation of product ranges and models, and provide what customers want: actual deals at a time when they’re looking to fill gaps that Christmas presents didn’t cover – or get complementary products to go with their newest acquisitions.

In 2019, trust is more important than anything

There’s a frank bottom line to adhere to in the future: if it’s impossible to provide new and valuable offers to consumers on Black Friday, simply wait until you can. A loss of consumer trust is worse than missing out on a Black Friday event which, because it’s new, Americanised and full of non-deals, is rightly treated with more cynicism than others.

However, if you can still make a mark on the day after Thanksgiving, offer genuine deals to consumers and build that brand loyalty ahead of a strong Boxing day offering. Given the current state of retail, this Christmas will provide a critical headstart for those who need a great 2020 to reverse their fortunes.

Insights

Making the most of your marketplace might: All-important strategies for success

The dominance of marketplaces means they can no longer be overlooked, but it’s not as straightforward as treating the channel as a simple add-on to a business strategy.

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Making the most of your marketplace might: All-important strategies for success

Marketplaces have devoured ecommerce; the long-term viability of any consumer product business will come down to its ability to reach and interact with marketplace customers. In short, every brand needs a clear and considered marketplace strategy if it is to thrive in this rapidly evolving retail environment.

So where do marketplaces fit in as part of your broader strategy? That depends on your core business objectives.

Of course, you may see the marketplace model as a simple means to acquire new customers, boost sales and increase your brand’s visibility from high-traffic channels. But with over 450 marketplaces to choose from globally, there are so many more exciting possibilities that will have a much deeper effect on the very nature of your business, as well as its long-term success.

Marketplaces are far more than just a sales platform: they’re a tool you can use to revolutionise your company.

Testing new markets

A recent report published by research firm Forrester predicted that cross-border ecommerce would reach $627 billion by 2022, accounting for 20% of total ecommerce. Expanding cross-border is not without challenges, whether that’s because of product localisation, payments, managing delivery expectations or, of course, the cost of driving sales in the first place.

Yet for any business looking to trade cross-border, marketplaces represent the quickest, most efficient and cost-effective way of testing new territories and markets. Indeed, for brands looking to expand overseas, marketplaces mean the cost of acquisition and associated risk has never been lower.

Leveraging Amazon’s network of European fulfilment centres is the clearest example of how a business can quickly penetrate new territories without any of the complexities that would typically face brands looking to expand across national borders.

For example, Amazon’s Pan-European FBA program enables sellers to place their inventory closer to customers in Europe’s dominant markets (UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain), fulfilling orders at a lower cost and far quicker than most brands could ever achieve using their own logistics. Moreover, Amazon deals with all customer services, localised for the relevant region. Naturally, products are made visible to millions of customers throughout Amazon’s European marketplaces.

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As a result, marketplaces allow businesses to test the demand and viability of products in new markets without the need to invest in a costly ecommerce site, localised currency payments, or even bricks and mortar stores.

When it comes to forming a strategy for international expansion, marketplaces are the most efficient and cost-effective way of gaining valuable market insight to support a more comprehensive regional roll out.

Brand control

Brands are increasingly looking to re-exert control over their products and brand message through marketplaces. In 2017, after years of resistance, world-leading sportswear brand Nike began a pilot program on Amazon. While many believed its primary motivation was to increase sales or market share, this was far from the truth: it wanted to take back control.

At that point in time, Nike was already the number one clothing brand on Amazon; a search for its products returned approximately 73,000 results. The problem for Nike, however, was that it had no relationship with the sellers responsible for these listings, and as such there was no consistency underpinning how the brand was being presented to millions of consumers viewing it on a daily basis.

Amazon works with brands through its Brand Registry function to help them protect their intellectual property, safeguard against counterfeit products, halt unsanctioned third-party sales, and accurately represent brands across the site.

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It’s not the only one. Indeed, the majority of major marketplaces have rolled out brand protection measures. eBay, for example, operates its Verified Rights Owner programme, which supports brands that want to protect their IP across its platform. These measures have the dual purpose of overcoming brand reluctance to sell via these channels, but also ensuring marketplaces continue to be regarded as trusted shopping destinations for the consumer.

When approaching marketplaces, your brand strategy must focus heavily on controlling who sells your products, as well as how and where they sell them.

Brand promotion

Amazon is now the most popular place to search for a product online: in late 2018, Jumpshot discovered that 54% of all searches for goods online are made on its network of sites. Brands now look to leverage the dominance of marketplaces with sponsored placements aimed at driving brand awareness as much as sales themselves. Indeed, according to eMarketer, Amazon advertising is growing six times faster than Google and Facebook, with a 122% increase in platform revenue in 2018 alone.

Marketplaces have historically been seen as sites that sell products, rather than ones that build brands, but this is simply no longer the case. In a 2019 Feedvisor survey of 500 brands, 59% of respondents claimed that “driving brand awareness” was a major reason for advertising on Amazon.

The top three marketplaces now have a total of nearly one billion users, and brands now have the tools to engage with these customers at every stage of their journey. As such, a clear brand promotion strategy must be closely aligned to wider business objectives in any marketplace plan, especially given how effective marketplaces are at driving connections with both new and existing customers.

Outlet product

While many brands want to run mainline products across marketplaces – effectively mirroring their ecommerce businesses – an increasing number of brands are utilising marketplaces as a channel to sell discounted, off-price products.

Earlier this year, eBay launched its Brand Outlet, which features heavy discounts on goods from renowned brands such as Adidas, Bose, Ray-Ban, Samsung and even Rolex. Meanwhile, other marketplaces operate entirely on a discounted, deal-driven model.

Privalia, as an example, is an online fashion outlet operating across Spain, Italy, Germany, Brazil and Mexico, with more than 15 million users worldwide. Brands including Adidas, Lacoste, Converse and Calvin Klein have found great success here.

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Using marketplaces for liquidation can help brands better manage their stock position, essentially treating sites like eBay as a virtual outlet where they can shift large volumes with markedly better margin than traditional clearance avenues.

Excess inventory and terminal stock is an ongoing struggle for retailers and can be a very costly one. Not only does it take up valuable warehouse space, it often results in challenges around cash flow and supply chain management. Having a clear plan in place for inventory reduction can be invaluable and marketplaces should be considered as part of this wider strategy.

One size doesn’t fit all

These example strategies are by no means the only ways a business can get the most out of marketplaces, and every company using these platforms will combine different elements as they see fit. But as marketplaces expand and evolve, even more possibilities will emerge; this only highlights the importance of acting quickly to set a strategy in place, so new developments can be responded to as and when they arrive.

The success and viability of a marketplace strategy relies on the level of understanding of those working within or alongside the business. Marketplaces are here now, and will only exert more dominance in the future. Without drawing on the experience the right people, you’ll be left behind.

Finding prosperity through marketplaces means having an open-minded and flexible strategy that can be quickly, constantly tested and adapted – much like the marketplaces themselves are refined on a daily basis.

Learn more about the incredible opportunities that marketplaces can provide brands by downloading our State of Marketplaces Report.