Gearing up for Black Friday, by Criteo’s Abdelrahman Alfarra and Samer Saad

Criteo shows online retailers how to navigate the social distancing economy.

Abdelrahman Alfarra (left), Senior sales manager, Samer Saad (right), Head of agency partnerships at Criteo Middle East.

The Golden Quarter – the most lucrative time of the year for retailers – is now, here. While consumer sentiment may have returned to pre-pandemic levels in some sectors, what are the challenges posed by the social distancing economy? Criteo, the global technology company powering the world’s marketers with trusted and impactful advertising, has released consumer shopping insights for retailers to plan better for the festive season ahead.

Advertisers need to navigate reduced budgets and store closures, yet reach new audiences during the red-hot online sales opportunities presented by Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Abdelrahman Alfarra, Senior sales manager, Criteo Middle East, is helping digital marketers in their efforts. “My conversations with advertisers these days are focused on two topics,” he says. “The first is how Covid-19 has impacted their business. The second is Black Friday – and if they are ready to promote their products and go online. Even during a time of uncertainty, budgets are being shifted from offline marketing to online marketing.”

Samer Saad, Head of agency partnerships at Criteo Middle East, says: “The last six months have seen a tremendous shift in execution and strategy. As Covid-19 forced more retailers to go online, consumers discovered new shopping outlets, accelerating e-commerce.”

Criteo research shows that by October, a majority of consumers felt comfortable being outside the home. More than 70 percent were comfortable with hanging out with friends, going to a mall (77 percent) or going to a restaurant (73 percent). Nor will consumers stop the activities they enjoy at home, discovered during lockdown: 52 percent of consumers said they will continue spending time at home, 46 percent will continue cooking at home and 39 percent will continue watching digital entertainment platforms such as Netflix.

For some product categories, the pandemic has driven organic traffic and has sometimes been an unexpected source of revenue to businesses. Alfarra says: “People are spending more on upgrades to make homes more comfortable. Online verticals such as home improvement, cosmetics and electronics have seen increased spends.”

Saad advises retailers to take the e-commerce route to make it a golden quarter and to do it fast. “Keep the consumer at the heart of it, as it is about fulfilling their needs. The uncertain times may even see consumers shopping more online on Black Friday this year. After all, there are more people at home this year, spending more online. And who doesn’t like saving money while shopping?”

Criteo research found that consumers will continue with online shopping habits formed during the pandemic when half of consumers discovered a new form of online shopping. Delivery, price and shopping experience will drive consumer loyalty globally. The top three factors influencing loyalty are fast delivery (46 percent), attractive prices (46 percent), overall experience (44 percent), and free or low-cost delivery (44 percent).

Alfarra says the quality of the online shopping experience is also influencing consumers. Criteo data reveals that globally one of four younger consumers discovered in-app shopping during the lockdown – Gen Z (24 percent) and millennials (27 percent). “In Saudi Arabia, many consumers prefer shopping on apps as it’s easy to access from their phones. Advertisers are focusing their efforts not only on websites but also on building apps to promote their services and products.”

Another key trend revealed by Criteo is that consumers are looking beyond Amazon to online supermarkets, online versions of their favourite physical stores, mass merchants and smaller merchants. Older adults adopted online grocery and direct-to-consumer (DTC) shopping at almost the same rates as Gen-Z and millennials.

Saad says: “In 2018, we recorded a 571 percent increase in sales during Black Friday. I believe this Black Friday will be amplified with many new entrants in the digital realm competing for a chunk of the purchase pie. The competition, the opportunity to cut costs and save money while shopping from the comfort and safety of home will drive consumers to online sales.”

Saad has plenty of advice for marketers preparing for Black Friday: “Perform full technical checks to ensure tags are firing properly, payment gateways are working and feeds are being updated. Ensure shoppers’ data is being captured. Once the tech is verified, look at the creative aspects – how the user journey will be shaped. This year, the big change is contactless delivery. The creative will drive fundamental awareness of any Black Friday campaign.”

Saad and Alfarra agree campaigns should start four to six weeks before Black Friday. Saad says: “That time is required to build awareness and deliver a consistent message. After all, we are browsers before we become shoppers. Many people end up browsing while looking for products, checking prices and sales, and comparing before Black Friday, when they finally hit purchase. Some shoppers are early birds, others make impulse purchases. Your approach needs to be tailored to both kinds of shoppers.”