Why brands shouldn't bother with Black Friday
A view from Debbie Klein

Why brands shouldn't bother with Black Friday

Consumers aren't just bored with Black Friday - they're getting wise to it.

Many retailers will have spent months agonising over how they can cut through the noise on Black Friday, and leverage the biggest shopping event of the year to pull more consumers into their stores and onto their websites.

My advice would be not to bother. Sure, it’s a way of clearing stock off your shelves quickly, but anyone viewing this event as a game-changer should think again. In fact, all Black Friday really does is pull forward orders. But because of this new spike, it has become something of a drug that retailers now can’t wean themselves off.

For consumers, the initial hype that accompanied Black Friday when it arrived on these shores several years ago has worn off. What started as a day-long flash sale now lasts at least a week, starting long before Friday itself and lasting through the weekend and "Cyber Monday", well into the Christmas season.

Consumers aren’t just bored with Black Friday - they’re getting wise to it. They know that many stores artificially inflate their prices to make their discounts seem bigger, with 60% of products sold at the same price or cheaper at other times of the year.

And at a more fundamental level, the whole experience of Black Friday – the stress of the in-store experience, the difficulty of navigating the sheer volume of offers available, the onslaught of generic and untargeted advertising – is the opposite of what today’s consumers want.

Our shopping habits are changing, and so are our demands. Customers today don’t want to spend hours trawling through the "sale" section of a website to find the discounts they might be interested in – they want tailored deals delivered to their smartphone.

They don’t want a dehumanising shopping experience which urges them to buy things they don’t want or need. Today’s customers expect their interaction with brands to be less transactional and more personalised – Engine’s Cassandra Report last year found that 23% of millennials say that visiting their favourite store is like visiting a friend.

And perhaps most of all, many younger shoppers want to buy from brands whose values and identities they share – not simply from whoever will give them the biggest saving. In fact, 70% of millennials think our society is "too consumerist".

Instead of wasting time on this stunt, brands should focus on using their own campaigns to build trust and loyalty with the consumers that matter to them.

Brands seeking to engage customers with offers and promotions should focus on giving people the tailored and personalised experience they want, rather than simply the biggest discount.

So save yourself the hassle and stress of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and focus instead on creating meaningful experiences and campaigns – that’s what today’s consumers want, and will strengthen your relationships with them for the long term.

Debbie Klein is chief executive of Engine Europe and Asia-Pacific