The four phases of Black Friday and festive season – by Assembly’s ​Amel Chettouf

Planning a Black Friday marketing strategy is the key to standing out in an ever saturated market.

As we know, the three intense months leading up to peak, are a critical time to shine for most e-commerce retailers and can have a decisive impact on annual revenues. To get the most out of that time and to digitally prepare, it’s important to understand the four key phases of the festive season and how customers emotionally engage with each of them.

Knowing what users are looking for is important to make sure the relevant products/categories of the website are given visibility.


1. The Countdown

The first phase starts 12 weeks before Black Friday D-day itself. The back to school/back to work weeks are actually the opening of the whole festive season. During that post-summer holiday time, users are focused on looking for business attires as well as kids’ clothing and accessories. For electronics and fashion-specialised retailers, this could be the right time to boost visibility for some specific products such as laptops, chargers, computer bags, business bags, pencil skirts, moccasins or simply shirts for kids.

Once the back to work shopping is covered, another key moment of the countdown is Halloween, which is growing in popularity across several countries of the MENA region like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. In fact, 20% of the growth witnessed for Halloween-related searches in 2021 came from the Egyptian market, reveals Ilma Ramcevic, Video performance lead at Google. As users start looking for their Halloween costumes, queries around Halloween outfits and costumes spike in search volume. Although all kinds of costumes can be looked for, the highest number of searches are usually around costumes related to the year’s most famous movies and series. Predictions are that the most popular costumes this year won’t be Cruella, Wonder Woman, Spiderman or Squid Game like last year, but instead, outfits inspired by the movie NOPE: baseball shirts, soccer jerseys, sweatpants, trendy sneakers and cowboy hats will be the must-haves. This means that any fashion brand can put those products forward, even without clearly communicating Halloween messaging.

There is also a vast opportunity for non-fashion retailers to profit since spiking queries are usually around Halloween decorations. Any home décor/furnishing brand can benefit from this time to boost sales around the relevant décor items, be it Halloween-related ones like pumpkin stickers to more conventional ones like light strings or curtains.

The countdown phase is also important for tech brands as it’s usually the time of the year when major releases happen, as we’ve all seen this year with the iPhone 14. Focusing on optimising the relevant categories or product pages of the site, in addition to advertising the products on several platforms can have a major impact on sales across the few weeks following the launch.

If the countdown is marked by several important moments, the key aspect to keep in mind is that at this stage of the festive season, consumers plan to shop but without having a specific brand in mind, which means there is room for every retailer to shine. Google reveals that 74% of shoppers search for generic queries during that time and that only 16% of the searches are branded. Moreover, 73% of users consider themselves ready to try new brands and retailers.

2. The Spree

The second phase is marked by a key event which is Singles day. This Chinese holiday celebrates unmarried and single people as a sort of anti-Valentine’s Day. This is a great opportunity for online shops all over the world to offer discounts and sales on certain products as more and more users are participating in this event each year and are treating themselves online.

Some popular items that customers are looking for to gift themselves are anti-ageing products, shaving and grooming kits as well as collagen-based skincare. In fact, skincare-related terms saw a spike of 66% in searches during that time last year. Fashion also remained omnipresent, with more searches taking place around certain types of trends, such as velvet-material clothes and soft pyjamas. Any clothing piece or accessory that promotes the idea of feeling comfy and cosy should be advertised for that event.

Finally, another industry that can capitalise on Single’s Day and optimise its website accordingly for it is home décor. Keywords around home-safety items, bathroom decorations as well as agreeable beddings are also demanded quite a lot.

The main takeaway for the Spree season is that users start searching with a little bit more specificity as they celebrate this self-treating and gifting moment.

3. The Madness

The consumer’s emotional state starts shifting as we head into the Madness phase, which is THE Black Friday phase. The name says it all. That third phase is all about FOMO (fear of missing out). Everyone wants to find the best deals and make the most out of them. Users compare their wish lists with each other and want to be sure they’re not being left out or missing out on the best offers.

During this phase, searches are even more specific than during the Spree. Of course, most customers would have done their research during the previous weeks and would have a better idea of what they want to purchase. In fact, 34% of queries are branded ones during the madness, which shows how precise users can get at that time of the year.

Obviously, there are still some generic searches, most of them being around black Friday as well as free delivery. Putting in place a free/quick delivery strategy for a few weeks and communicating about it on the relevant platforms is a must during this season.

Finally, another important point to keep in mind is that mobile app shopping is also very crucial during the Madness phase, especially across the MENA markets. Shopping apps’ downloads usually spike at that time of the year. Therefore, optimising app listings ahead of time and then showcasing all the Black Friday discounts and sales on the app are two essential practices,

4. The Celebration

Then comes the joyful time of the festive season. During this celebration period, which goes from cyber-Monday all the way to Christmas and New Year’s Eve, users continue to engage and actively look for gifts, although Black Friday is over.

Several types of gifting-related terms peak during that time. Exclusive items are researched a lot for gifting, from brand collaborations to limited edition goods. Last year in the MENA region, 37% more people looked for limited-edition products such as sneakers, perfumes and watches. Consumers want to make sure they are purchasing unique presents, be it for their loved ones or for themselves.

At this time of the year, more than ever, customers are hungry for same and next-day deliveries as well as click-and-collect services. As a lot of users get caught up in last-minute gifting, it’s vital for brands to offer fast deliveries during that last quarter of the year and to put that messaging forward on their websites so that anyone looking for keywords around next-day deliveries can land on them. Targeting terms around last-minute gifts and presents should also be part of the strategy during that celebration phase.

As Christmas and New Year’s Eve approach, interest substantially increases around fashion, accessories and makeup-related products. This could be an ideal opportunity to publish editorial content around outfit ideas and latest trends to try and rank for more specific terms around Christmas fashion as well as New Year’s Eve outfits.

This final phase also gives ample opportunities for different e-commerce industries to benefit, given that gifting opportunities are infinite, from electronics, home furnishing and décor to fashion, beauty, self-care and more. The most important thing is to build a presence within search engines and app listings ahead of time and to deliver relevant messaging to catch the users’ attention.

Maintaining a digital presence across the four phases of the festive season and not missing out on targeting and advertising opportunities are both crucial strategies to capitalise on the holiday season’s traffic and potential conversions. Coupling this with a smooth user experience can be the promise of a successful holiday marketing campaign.