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Will the extension of Black Friday sales confuse shoppers?

black-friday

Black Friday, a little known event in the UK before 2013, is now the biggest shopping day in the country. Last year shoppers spent approximately £1.1 billion in just 24 hours (The Telegraph).

This year, Amazon has invested heavily in ensuring that the event is equally profitable. It has extended its Black Friday sale to 12 days, and more small businesses than ever will be participating in the event. In order to fulfill what it forecasts to be its biggest Christmas on record, it has created 3,500 full time jobs across its Head Offices, Development, Fulfillment and Customer Service centres in the run up to the day.

Doug Gurr, UK Country Manager at Amazon, said, “in response to positive customer feedback for Black Friday deals, we are introducing The Black Friday Sale – 12 days of fantastic deals on must-have gifts and products, saving our customers millions of pounds. We’re also thrilled to have over a thousand small businesses featuring in our Black Friday Sale, broadening the selection for our customers and enabling those businesses to boost their sales in the run up to Christmas.”

Many other retailers are following Amazon’s approach with the extension of Black Friday sales. Very has extended its sale to a ‘Black Friday Week’ with a different sales focus by day, for instance Monday 21 November saw promotions focused on its Fashion lines. Similarly, Currys and PC World have been running a ‘Black Tag Event’ for the full week preceding Black Friday.

Spreading promotions across a number of days and weeks may help retailers in their fulfillment of orders over the sales period. Last year there were reports of late and failed deliveries as fulfillment centres and delivery firms struggled to cope with the additional demand of Black Friday. Research suggests that such extended approaches may be also be successful since they seem to mirror consumer behaviour – it takes UK shoppers six days, from initial research to purchase, to decide to buy on Black Friday (Rakuten Marketing).

The profitability of extending the sales event is yet to be seen. Forecasts suggest online spending could reach £6.77 billion over Black Friday week from 21-28 November (IMRG and SimilarWeb). However, there is a concern that an extended sales period may cause shopper fatigue, and even confusion. Despite retailers’ investment in Black Friday, many analysts have predicted that shoppers’ enthusiasm for the event may already be beginning to wane. A recent survey conducted by Periscope by McKinsey shows that 42 percent of shoppers see Black Friday as a marketing trick. This fact, coupled with Which? findings that some 49 percent of Black Friday 2015 offers were actually cheaper in the months before or after the event may cause some shoppers to boycott the event.

Amazon’s Black Friday deals

Amazon, who brought the event to the UK from the US, sold more than 7.4 million items on Black Friday at a rate of 86 items per second in 2015 (Internet Retailing).

This year the first section of the Amazon Black Friday webpage featured 70 deals on a range of products including games consoles, laptops and televisions.

The section was led by promotions on Amazon’s own Fire TV Stick, Echo Dot and standard Amazon Echo.

Amazon Black Friday headline deals
Amazon website 25 November 2016 (9am)

 

Amazon reduced the price of the standard Echo to £119.99, this was the lowest the price has been for non-Amazon Prime members. However, Amazon Prime members could have purchased it when it was released for £99.99.

Argos and Currys price-matched Amazon on this item, with Argos including it in the 15 headline deals on its Black Friday webpage (at 9am). However, Argos charged a £3.95 delivery fee whereas Amazon and Currys had free delivery.

John Lewis undercut all three retailers by charging £119.95 and since the retailer did not charge for delivery it was the cheapest retailer for this item. This shows while Amazon may be the retailer most strongly associated with Black Friday, it may not be the cheapest retailer, even for its own brand products. This highlights the importance of shoppers looking around for the best deals before purchasing.

Amazon Echo John Lewis Black Friday
John Lewis website 25 November 2016 (9am)

 

Fire TV Stick offers

Once again, the Amazon Fire TV Stick was the first deal on the Amazon Black Friday webpage, as it was last year and it was promoted for the same price of £24.99.

fire-tv-stick-deal-amazon-black-friday-2015-and-2016
   Amazon website Black Friday 2016 compared to Amazon website Black Friday 2015

 

Currys matched Amazon’s price for the Fire TV Stick, however Argos and John Lewis both undercut them with a price of £24.95. Despite the cheaper shelf price, Argos and John Lewis both charged delivery fees for this product, so Currys and Amazon were the cheapest retailers for the Fire TV Stick when including delivery.

Shoppers must consider delivery fees before purchasing a Black Friday deal, especially on smaller ticket items where delivery fees can greatly impact the final price, to ensure that they are truly getting the best deal.

black friday amazon fire stick pricing with and without delivery

 

The extension of Black Friday sales

This year saw retailers launching their Black Friday deals earlier than ever before. Amazon had 12 days of Black Friday deals starting from 14 November. Tesco Direct’s Black Friday deals started on 21 November and are due to end on 1 December, while Argos had a 13 day sales event.

The introduction of new deals each day over an extended period before Black Friday could amplify shopper confusion. If a shopper is interested in a deal before Black Friday they will be unsure whether to buy the product in that instance, or wait until Black Friday to see how other retailers promote. Some shoppers may purchase a product on Black Friday only to find out it was cheaper through a rival a week previously.

On Black Friday, Ao.com reduced the price of the Sony KD49XD8077 49 Inch Television from £729 to £679. However, Amazon, Argos and John Lewis were selling this product for £10 less for the two days prior to Black Friday. Argos also further reduced the item on Black Friday to £649.

As part of its Black Friday deals, Currys reduced the Vax U84-Al-Pe Vacuum Cleaner to £124.99 on 21 November – the lowest price of the retailers analysed at that time. However, any shopper that purchased this product on that day would be disappointed to learn that Amazon reduced the price of the Vacuum Cleaner to £90.99 – £34 lower than Currys on 22 November.

Finally, Argos promoted the Breville Vdf105 Health Fryer in white and green on Black Friday at £69.99 – a saving of £30 from its Was Price of £99.99.

This year saw retailers launching their Black Friday deals earlier than ever before. Amazon had 11 days of Black Friday deals starting from 14 November. Tesco Direct’s Black Friday deals started on 21 November and are due to end on 1 December, while Argos had a 13 day sales event. The introduction of new deals each day over an extended period before Black Friday could amplify shopper confusion. If a shopper is interested in a deal before Black Friday they will be unsure whether to buy the product in that instance, or wait until Black Friday to see how other retailers promote. Some shoppers may purchase on a product on Black Friday only to find out it was cheaper through a rival a week previously. On Black Friday Ao.com reduced the price of the Sony KD49XD8077 49 Inch Television from £729 to £679. However Amazon, Argos and John Lewis were selling this product for £10 less for the two days prior to Black Friday. Argos also further reduced the item on Black Friday to £649. As part of its Black Friday deals, Currys reduced the Vax U84-Al-Pe Vacuum Cleaner to £124.99 on 21 November - the lowest price of the retailers analysed at that time. However any shopper that purchased this product on that day would be disappointed to learn that Amazon reduced the price of the Vacuum Cleaner to £90.99 - £34 lower than Currys. Finally Argos promoted the Breville Vdf105 Health Fryer in white and green on Black Friday at £69.99 - a saving of £30 from its Was Price of £99.99.
Argos website 25 November 2016

 

However, this product was cheaper to purchase from both Amazon and Tesco Direct for the majority of 16 days prior to Argos’ Black Friday discount.

 

Conclusion

With the vast number of retailers to choose from and the added consideration of shipping costs, some shoppers may be unclear where the best deals can be found. The extension of the Black Friday event exacerbates this potential shopper confusion, not only is there the issue of where to buy, but also when – shoppers have the added consideration of which day within the longer sales period to make a purchase.

Retailers will have hoped that the longer sales events would more evenly distribute online sales, with a more steady stream of web traffic and potential elimination of website crashes seen on previous Black Fridays. The more even distribution of sales will also have allowed retailers to better fulfill delivery commitments and avoid late deliveries as witnessed last year.

In the coming days we will see if the extended sales event has spurred shoppers to buy and resulted in a record breaking Black Friday.

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