2020 is almost over and most of the world is on the cusp of releasing a collective sigh of relief. Nothing went as planned this year but the month of November has marked a dramatic turning point. Trump is on his way out. Multiple coronavirus vaccines are on the way in. In France, a return to curfew and then a modified lockdown has driven the second peak of coronavirus infections back down. Stores will open again tomorrow in order to capture the holiday spending frenzy.

And here we are, Black Friday in 2020, a Black Friday that looks a lot less like Black Fridays in the past. So what exactly are we seeing?

Black Weeks and Black Months

Outside of video conferencing and sourdough bread starters, it’s hard to find an industry where sales are up. Even if DTC has seen epic accelerations across the board and around the world this year, it is still not enough to make up for lost sales in most cases. The holiday season already represents a significant amount of revenue for B2C brands in normal years. Now there is increasing pressure in order to make up sales and try to save 2020 balance sheets.

I’ve been seeing brands activating throughout the month of November with enticing deals. This is has only accelerated since Monday when a wave of brands started launching their Black Weeks. The message? Why wait for Black Friday? Get your deal now. The reasoning is rather straightfoward and it is both an offensive and defensive strategy. Offensively, people need to anticipate more in a digital commerce world. The sales peak of the weekend of week 50 (the second weekend on December) is largely based on people spending their Saturdays running between all the shops they can to finalize their gifts. This timeline is unrealistic when orders are online and need to have extra processing time. Defensively it makes sense too: today will see a deluge of advertising across all digital platforms and all brands who are competiting to be seen and clicked. Not everyone will get their share. Elongating campaign windows allow for increased optimization and visibility.

Data Catching For Deals

If the Black Friday deals are enticing, brands have gone all out in order to get people into their databases, promising them eye-watering deals in order to drive sign ups. YSL Beauty offered 60% off exclusively for CRM members in the weeks leading up to Black Friday. This is a very strong strategy. When you look at conversion rates by source, email is traditionally the highest. People who have opted in to brand communications are the most likely to convert. The hard part is getting people into those databases. Black Friday is a great lever to drive those sign ups because of the urgency of the date and the fact that Christmas is something that can’t be put off. You also don’t need to create messaging around the sign up CTA such as “discover the world of…”

Look for this type of strategy to propogate as brands and their approaches become increasingly disrupted by changes from technology providers like Apple in terms of privacy.

Clemency from The Giant

The winners of the pandemic are the ones who were winning before: technology giants. And there is no giant like Amazon. Amazon has provided the backbone for the digital economy where it operates. It is capturing marketshare across all verticals that it enters. They are starting to roll out into the pharmacy space in the US, and it is only a matter of time before every person in the western world is giving money to Amazon for some service or product on a daily (see hourly) basis.

It was remarkable then that Amazon announced that they would delay Black Friday on Amazon.fr for a week to December 4th. The move was undertaken by pressure from the French government who announced that stores would be able to reopen and limitations on movement would be lifted so people could go to them. There was a significant amount of (realistic) fear that consumers in France would spend a lion’s share of their holiday gifting budget on Amazon instead of in stores that rely on this period to stay afloat.

Every day is Cyber Monday

Will Cyber Monday be a thing this year? I don’t think so. It seems like the extension of Black Friday deals will overtake the digital rendez-vous that had been built up in the past. There is no need to drive people to online platforms in a year where everyone was already driven to online platforms. Will Cyber Monday disappear in for good and not come back in 2021, even if the world by that point in time hopefully returns to something resembling normal?

Fingers are crossed that wallets are out. Hang in there.

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