Robin Langford Robin Langford Premium Content Editor, Performance Marketing World

Black Friday boredom? Shoppers losing trust in ‘month long event’

The season of discount days and shopping frenzies is almost upon us, but advertisers risk complacency with a more savvy post-lockdown audience. What can retailers and performance marketers do to rekindle that Black Friday magic?


Once a feel-good Friday of deals, the now month-long ‘BFCM’ event is one that customers no longer altogether trust,  says Charlie Casey, CEO at LoyaltyLion. 

Characterised by bargain hunters, busy stores and hefty queues, the Black Friday (27 November) and Cyber Monday (29th November) weekend, is still hugely lucrative for the global retail industry, holding that sweet spot post-thanksgiving and pre-Christmas. 

Despite this huge popularity, new research suggests the now month-long discount event is being viewed with increased cynicism from customers, while widespread disappointment with deals risks a drop in sales and return on ad spend.

“Traditionally a golden opportunity to acquire new shoppers, the retail event is in danger of leaving existing customers feeling undervalued, under-appreciated and deprioritised. Whilst it is fair to say that there will no doubt be some good bargains out there, a worrying proportion of shoppers feel that the discounts aren’t all they’re cracked up to be,” says Casey.

A report commissioned by data-driven loyalty and engagement platform LoyaltyLion quizzed 2,009 thousand consumers in the UK ( carried out by independent research firm Censuswide).

The report, entitled The New Discounting Playbook reveals key attitudes towards the discounting period and Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) in particular.

Key findings include:

  • Over half (57 percent) of consumers feel that BFCM discounts are never as good as they expect them to be

  • 58 percent reported that products they want aren’t usually discounted making the retail event less relevant to them.

  • A significant number (58 percent) also felt that BFCM discounts pressure them into making purchases they wouldn’t otherwise have made.

  • 54 percent of UK consumers expect brands to push lower quality products during BFCM.

  • 53 percent said that the deals and offers provided during this period impacted their trust in brands.

  • Over half (56 percent) of consumers feel that brands care more about selling products over supporting causes or living their values during BFCM.

  • 54 percent feel that brands don’t do enough to prepare for the rush of orders they’ll receive during BFCM

Disappointment reigns amongst UK consumers 

The research found that over half (57 percent) of consumers feel that BFCM discounts are never as good as they expect them to be and 58 percent reported that products they want aren’t usually discounted making the retail event less relevant to them. A significant number (58 percent) also felt that BFCM discounts pressure them into making purchases they wouldn’t otherwise have made. 

Negativity towards brands dishing out BFCM discounts

Even more concerning than shopper sentiment towards discounts, were the feelings targeted at brands peddling these reductions. 54 percent of UK consumers expect brands to push lower quality products during BFCM and 53 percent said that the deals and offers provided during this period impacted their trust in brands. Just over half (56 percent) of the consumers surveyed felt that brands care more about selling products over supporting causes or living their values during BFCM, disappointing given the rise in conscious consumerism. Furthermore, 55 percent felt that brands focus on winning new customers over making their existing customers feel special during BFCM. 

Poor preparation cited by consumers as key issue

Despite the months of planning that go into BFCM preparation and strategy, consumers still don’t feel brands have got it right. 54 percent feel that brands don’t do enough to prepare for the rush of orders they’ll receive during BFCM and 50 percent believe that they don’t communicate enough post-BFCM purchase with them. On the flip side, 54 percent feel that brands send too many promotional messages in the run up and during the BFCM period. 

What can performance marketers and retailers do? 

Traditionally, retailers have relied on heavy discounting during the BFCM period, but this often comes at a cost to a business. The research findings indicate that it is possible to replicate the surge of oxytocin that comes with bagging a discounted bargain and garner a feel good factor towards a brand, but through alternative methods that won’t harm profit margins. 

Brands would do well to note that 61 percent of consumers cited that they’d feel positive towards those that offered the opportunity to contribute to a charity or initiative aligned with their values. 

Whilst 78 percent said that offering free or discounted delivery would encourage positive sentiment towards a brand, as would giving out loyalty points that consumers could redeem against future purchases (73 percent). 

Special birthday offers (72 percent), promotions offering early access to sales (66 percent) and early access to new products (65 percent) were also cited as ways to enhance sentiment. 

The feel good factor: an alternative to discounting?

Charlie Casey, CEO at LoyaltyLion concludes: “Consumers expect discounts over BFCM, however as it stands today, they’re also expecting a negative shopping experience. This might result in attracting new customers and shoppers in the short term, but it’s unlikely to generate a long-term relationship and repeat business. Brands need to rewrite the rules this year and balance the impact of BFCM discounts by using alternative incentives to build emotional connections. This will in turn increase the chance of customers returning to spend with a retailer again, even when the peak trading period is over. This strategy can be just as effective as discounts in encouraging customers who have abandoned their carts to return, winning back at-risk customers who haven’t visited the site for a while, and encouraging customers to make a commitment in the form of either starting a subscription or joining a loyalty program.     

“Gone are the days where brands can afford to rely on heavy loss-making discounting. The focus must be on creating positive sentiments AND driving BFCM sales to result in stronger, long-term customer relationships that keep both profits and customer lifetime value high, all year round.”

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