Black Friday sales, with its deep discounts and special offers, has been something to look forward to for years now. The retail therapy of November 25 is a key part of the Middle Eastern calendar. Other places around the globe are much more focused on the festive season, while the Gulf especially sees the day as the key moment of the winter retail period.
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A little piece of history
There are different origin stories for how the day after Thanksgiving got the term ‘Black Friday’. American retail tells it that the stores turned ‘black’, meaning profitable, from ‘red’ losses. It was seen as a time of low sales before the Christmas shopping season really got underway. There’s also the suggestion that the chaos of this day meant a black day for anyone trying to manage the wild enthusiasm of the shoppers.
Not too long ago, Black Friday was a single day event, largely confined to the US with images in popular culture of people madly rushing to stores, grabbing whatever they could and then waiting in endless queues for a bargain deal, while many returned empty handed and disappointed.
The concept of Black Friday swept into the MENA region in 2014, even becoming known in some retailers as White Friday. Since then it has redefined the regional online shopping experience. Throughout the years the UAE and the KSA were among the biggest spenders on Black Friday, with a substantial increase in sales. This is attributed to the continued rise of e-commerce coupled with the pandemic acceleration of online shopping enabled retailers to establish rigorous strategies to achieve year-on-year growth. Additionally, brands across the region have extended the promotional season and inculcated its own sales culture. Some stores run entire month promotions; however most Black Friday sales run for at least four days, with retailers including Singles’ Day and Cyber Monday.
Brands should bank on research
Gone are the days when frantic shoppers would rush into a store to avail the massive discounts. Black Friday sales, especially in MENA, are being largely driven by online searches. Google Trends data for UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt show that searches for deals and offers begin 12 weeks ahead of the big day, a full month before American consumers start doing the same.
What exactly are these consumers looking for online? Convenience and flexibility feature prominently in their lists. As per a recent report on consumer insights by Google, regional shoppers search for terms like ‘same day delivery’, ‘free return’ ‘click and collect’ and ‘near me’. As usual, ‘discounts’ remains a popular search phrase. Therefore, brands should optimise their search optimisation, personalise their offerings, retarget based on interest, and invest in discovery ads.
The same study highlighted inflation as the top worry for shoppers all over the world who are expected to cut back on spending this season. On that front, brands should provide flexible payment solutions to help consumers wrestle the effect of economic challenges.
According to YouGov’s META Seasonal Holidays Study, during the festive season, customers expect experiences that are tailored to them as individuals. Omnichannel retailers should focus on providing customised experience to foster brand loyalty among e-shoppers.
Staying ahead of the curve
Digital platforms’ instrumental role in connecting brands with their target audience is key to tactical approaches to online retail. Eventually, adopting multiple creative tactics across online technologies, including diversifying the creative mix, partnering with creators; embracing all video formats and potentially even utilising AR, will contribute to their sales efforts.
The power of the brand and innovation around its representation is much more important than just offering consumer discounts. Brand power is king.