Diane Perlman
Diane Perlman 30 January 2019

How to combat 'peak retail apocalypse’ and sell this year

Christmas is done and dusted - and, amidst the festivities being over, the battle of retailers will continue in the aftermath of the spending frenzy as the January sales continue.

Of course, Black Friday saw online and offline battle it out too (rather like the crazed customers scrambling for slashed prices) and the run-up to Christmas was a key time for brands to develop a comprehensive insight into their shoppers’ behavioural patterns. This hyper-competitive period arrived alongside the looming specter of the so-called “Retail Apocalypse.” Christmas was a critical time when retailers were looking to ramp up their geofencing strategies in order to steer footfall into their stores. As such, brands were poised to optimise their ROI and amplify their turnover by implementing mobile geofencing tech into their marketing arsenal.

 Our Blis data was used to map out the behavioural insights during the Black Friday period. Certainly, a lot can be learned through consumer behavioural insights during this festive shopping season - particularly during the Black Friday period, now richly extended over a period of days rather than just one. Importantly though, this can be applied to the first shopping event of the year looming ahead, post-Christmas January sales – and there is no time to rest for retailers needing consumers back in their shops!

Learning from Black Friday

Consumer behaviour patterns vary across the seasonal period, as is evidenced by the flow of footfall. As Black Friday deals began to crop up from the 12th November onwards, the Black Friday period itself was extended and less susceptible to dramatic peaks and troughs overall. Perhaps surprisingly, our UK data revealed that the largest spike in footfall traffic did not fall across the core Black Friday week at all. Thanksgiving week may indeed have dampened footfall during the key week. The week prior to Black Friday week (12th - 18th November) actually witnessed a higher flow of footfall, where Black Friday itself saw a drop of 9.9% in measured footfall in the UK. This was most likely impacted by the early phasing of Black Friday deals by the likes of Amazon and Argos, in which Black Friday sales were actually drip-fed to consumers over a longer period.

The retailers that reigned supreme and capitalised the most from Black Friday fever were electronics, home and furniture and supermarkets. Secondary beneficiaries, including fast food, coffee shops and restaurants, did not see an increase to match the rest of their high-street rivals, in spite of the prospect of more hungry shoppers. Still, these would-be beneficiaries could well profit from the additional footfall by marketing themselves more effectively in the future, so as to tap into a more available audience.

Equally, the content categories people engage with appeared to change during the period. Our data revealed that Arts and Entertainment became the first category ahead of Travel and Hobbies. It appeared that Saturday was equally - if not more - important than the infamous Friday: Athletics retail, Clothing, Electronics and Phone Stores all saw higher footfall on Saturday 24th November. This emerges as an important consideration for targeting prospective shoppers digitally to remain at the pinnacle of their consumers’ thoughts.

With these insights, we offer three key takeaways to be applied to the new year shopping period:

1. Location, Location, Location - The surge in smartphone users since 2007 means that the majority of people carry a tracking device with them at all times. Interweaving geofencing technology into your campaigns during the Christmas period will reveal key insights into your clientele and help you forecast whether they show up all year round or just at Christmas. Location is crucial to the marketing mix - the data adds another layer to first-party and third-party data and can help identify shoppers’ behaviour.

2.  Promiscuous or Loyal? -  The data we gather from geofencing can supplement our understanding of shoppers’ behavioural patterns. Ubiquitous choice and the snowballing of deals peppering the high street can lead to promiscuous shopping behaviour. Data insights reveal the differences in shopping habits - where shoppers divert to, which products and stores they stay loyal to, etc. For example, in our latest research, we learnt that shopper promiscuity increases during the sales period. In fact, shopper promiscuity increased by 26.1% on Black Friday and by 12.6% across the week (compared to the control week.) Meaning that competition is that much more intense and retailers need to find ways to stay front of mind.

3. Staying Smart in the Shopping Season - Behaviour during the Black Friday season usually entails a fair amount of pushing and shoving - but can also reveal some excellent insights into the mindset of consumers. We saw the demographics within the high street and at a number of retailers change during Black Friday week, reflected by a shift towards older audiences in-store. This may suggest that sales of this nature have a stronger appeal to older shopping audiences than their younger counterparts, who have a greater propensity for shopping online. This information alone should influence brands’ merchandising in-store, inform their creatives and promotional approach - online and offline.

These insights can ultimately help brands ensure a healthy online-offline strategy, by reducing wastage and carefully driving customers to shops, thus increasing footfall. It’s time to start planning for the next big sales season and Black Friday 2019!

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