Black Friday 2023 Unwrapped: Insights, Trends and Tactical Takeaways

Black Friday, the international shopping frenzy that first hit South Africa in 2014, has become a staple in the retail and e-commerce landscape. As we reflect on the recent Black Friday extravaganza, we sat down with Paid Media Managers Helga Ndawula and Cassidy Lassen to dissect key insights that defined this year’s shopping spree and extract actionable takeaways for brands aiming to optimize performance in the coming seasons.

Helga Ndawula & Cassidy Lassen

2023 Black Friday insights:

Black Friday or Black November? – The trend of extending Black Friday deals beyond a single day has gained traction, with many local brands launching their specials at the beginning of November and maintaining them until Cyber Monday. This prolonged approach serves a dual purpose; it attracts a broader audience and alleviates the strain on brands’ websites. Historically, Black Friday has witnessed website crashes due to the overwhelming influx of deal-seeking shoppers. Starting deals early not only eases the pressure on consumers but also provides brands with the flexibility to manage increased demand and adapt strategies throughout the month. 

One of our senior marketplace specialists, Mark Bremer, notes, “An interesting trend we’ve seen is that the peak of Black Friday sales actually starts a week before the Friday itself. This year, for example, advertising campaigns for the event on marketplace platforms like Amazon started as early as the 16th of November.”

Be transparent about your specials or deals – Building on our previous article ‘8 strategies for brand success on Black Friday’, we mentioned that retailers must avoid trying to pull the wool over shoppers’ eyes. This means that the special or discount showcased in your shopping ad must align seamlessly with what customers find on your website. Consumers are now more discerning, carefully selecting their Black Friday purchases. Savvy shoppers often earmark desired products and track their prices, seizing the opportunity when a compelling deal arises. A common misstep we observed is some brands only revealing the discounted price at the checkout stage, potentially causing confusion and leading to high drop-offs. The same principle applies to in-store specials – simplicity reigns supreme. Avoid complicated offers like “buy 3, get 50% off the cheapest product.” Instead, opt for clear and straightforward deals to simplify the purchasing decision for your consumers. Clarity not only builds trust but ensures a smoother shopping experience for your audience.

Ignite excitement with creativity – Consumers are becoming less inclined to part with their money if they are not receiving good value in return. Some brands, however, join the Black Friday frenzy just for the sake of it, offering deals that lack the punch customers crave. There’s a noticeable trend of brands sticking to the same old specials year after year, failing to generate excitement. Get creative. Break away from the norm, try out fresh deals, and keep it simple. Don’t overcomplicate things; just aim for deals that are both competitive and genuinely appealing to your customers. During Black Friday season, a dash of creativity goes a long way in making your brand stand out.

Strategic use of data – Data holds the key to Black Friday success. Leveraging First-Party data is not only crucial in navigating our evolving data protection landscape but also forms the foundation for campaign success. Brands need a strategic approach to optimize their campaigns well before Black Friday kicks in, ensuring a setup that guarantees success when the big day arrives. For instance, one of our clients, an international fashion brand ran a Lead Generating campaign leading up to Black Friday. Subscribers gained early access to exclusive Black Friday specials, marking a game-changing strategy. Why? Because it not only grants access to high-intent buyers but also provides a treasure trove of data for retargeting and creating lookalike audiences. By prioritizing first-party data, brands can craft highly targeted, personalized campaigns that trim ad spend waste and significantly boost the likelihood of conversions. Data and specifically First-Party data is a powerful tool for a successful Black Friday game plan.

Cyber Monday. The Grand Finale – Some brands found success on Cyber Monday, outperforming Black Friday. This year, Black Friday fell on the 24th of November – hitting before many households had received their monthly salaries. This financial constraint most likely impacted sales this year. Another noteworthy factor is the consumer awareness that Cyber Monday marks the final shopping opportunity, creating a sense of urgency that fuels higher traffic and sales. The lesson here is clear: don’t underestimate the power of a strong Cyber Monday campaign. Capitalize on the entire sales season by concluding with a strong Cyber Monday strategy. It’s the last hurrah, and savvy brands can leverage this final sales day frenzy to secure a winning performance.

Valuable Takeaways for the Next Black Friday Season:

  1. Messaging & copy – Simplify your communication. Be concise and crystal clear about your copy and specials to avoid consumer confusion. Transparently present your terms and conditions, ensuring they are prominently visible and well-articulated to avoid frustration. Consider seeking external opinions from agencies or other parties to gain an unbiased perspective, maximizing the impact of your campaigns.
  2. Adapt to shifts in consumer spend – Consumer spending is changing due to economic challenges, increased interest rates, and higher prices. People are now focusing more on essential items than luxury. Adjust your deals to match this shift, offering value in products people need. This not only helps in the current financial climate but also builds loyalty by respecting consumers’ who are mindful of their budgets.
  3. Re- evaluate your budgets – Align your targets with your budgets to navigate the increasing competition each year successfully. Leverage the expertise of your agencies and partners; involve them in your goals and targets. Their insights can guide you in optimizing budget utilization to effectively reach your business objectives. A well-calibrated budget ensures a competitive edge in attracting and acquiring customers.
  4. Think beyond your usual target audience – Black Friday isn’t just about your regular audience. Remember that consumers are often on the lookout for Christmas presents during this shopping spree, leading them to explore stores they wouldn’t typically visit for themselves. Don’t confine your focus to the usual target audience; instead, broaden your approach. Get creative, cast a wider net, and introduce your brand to new customers. Black Friday serves as a golden opportunity to secure long-term repeat customers who will remember and return to your brand post the Black Friday buzz.


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