Future-Proofing eCommerce: Embracing Customer Advocacy for Sustainable Growth Beyond Black Friday 2023
Read time: 9 mins
Black Friday 2023 experienced subdued sales growth in the UK market, with consumers exercising caution in their spending amid economic challenges like the rising cost of living. Instead of depending on continuous discount cycles, brands can capitalise on the customer advocacy data collected during peak periods, using it as a strategic tool for ensuring sustainable business growth in the future.
To understand how to deploy customer advocacy marketing for your brand, watch a demo of the world's first Customer Advocacy Intelligence Platform:
Overview of Spending Trends
Let's dive into the numbers – Here at Mention Me, we noticed something intriguing about Black Friday 2023: our order volumes got a little boost, climbing up by 5% from last year - a bit of good news, right? But, when we peek over the fence at the bigger picture, it’s not all confetti and cheers.
From a UK retail perspective, the view from the British Retail Consortium is that while online shopping rose by 5% year on year, overall sales growth was ‘weak’ in November at 2.7%. Barclays, keeping an eye on nearly half of the UK's card swipes, noticed something interesting: a dip of 0.63% in Black Friday transactions compared to 2022. Despite more orders coming through the door, revenue numbers and average order values were down from a hearty £122 in 2022 to a more modest £101 this year.
What's going on? It seems like shoppers are tightening their belts, perhaps nudged by the not-so-gentle nudge of high inflation and the ever-so-squeezing cost of living. Or maybe, just maybe, they're getting savvier, scouting for the best early bird deals.
If you're a marketing leader at an eCommerce brand and notice your sales aren't soaring as they did previously, there's no need for alarm. You're not alone in this. The key is to shift our focus from a repetitive cycle of discounts to harnessing the power of customer advocacy. It's about nurturing a dedicated fan base that not only purchases but actively promotes your brand. Instead of relying solely on constant discounts, let's pivot towards cultivating genuine loyalty.
By leveraging the valuable customer advocacy data from Black Friday and other peak periods, you can enhance your customer advocacy strategies and drive sustainable growth from your customer base.
Let’s first explore this Black Friday’s data and trends.
Peak Shopping Hours – When Did Consumers Hit 'Buy'
At midnight on Black Friday 2023, as the early birds were catching their worms, our platform was catching a wave of eager shoppers. By the time the clock struck 10 am, a whopping 350k orders had already whizzed through our system, matching almost the peak traffic of the day before, which, mind you, was one of the busiest days of 2023 for us. The morning saw a digital rush hour, with consumers not just buying but sharing and snapping up offers.
This hive of activity buzzed despite a hitch over at HSBC, where outages starting at 8am left some shoppers fumbling at the checkout. It’s clear that when it comes to Black Friday, the early hours are golden, and even the slip-ups of major banks can't dampen the consumer's zeal to hit 'Buy’.
Similarly to last year, Black Friday emerged as the star of the show in a week of high retail drama, with Thursday's prelude and Saturday's encore trailing behind. Meanwhile, Cyber Monday wrapped up the spectacle with a significant, yet more subdued finale compared to the heights reached on Black Friday itself.
Top Performing Categories and Products
According to an Adobe report, electronics, notably smartwatches, televisions, and audio equipment, led the pack in sales this Black Friday. These categories, along with toys and gaming, saw significant consumer interest. Other sought-after items included Bluetooth headphones, smartphones, skincare products, cookware sets, and coffee makers, highlighting a diverse range of interests and needs among Black Friday shoppers.
Online vs. In-Store Shopping Dynamics
2023 was a year of notable shifts in the retail landscape. A significant highlight was the resurgence of in-store shopping, particularly on high streets, which led the way with a 10% increase in footfall on Black Friday, outpacing both shopping centres and retail parks. This surge represented a significant leap from the previous year, with a week-on-week rise of 3.2% in 2022 for the same period.
The trend of consumers returning to physical stores post-pandemic was unmistakable. Evidently, the eCommerce boom has come full circle, with traditionally online brands recognising the allure of brick-and-mortar.
Take Avon, for instance, announcing plans to open standalone stores in the UK – A move that's in sync with the strategy of other direct-to-consumer brands like On, SEPHORA, Lounge, and Gymshark, all embracing the tangible benefits of physical stores.
ASOS.com, a notable Mention Me client and a stalwart in online fashion retail, recently ventured into offline retail with their inaugural pop-up store in London. Collaborating with Snapchat and partnering with other Mention Me clients like Charlotte Tilbury, ASOS.com's foray highlights a growing trend towards holistic, customer-centric experiences, seamlessly blending online and offline interactions.
So how were consumers really feeling and spending? According to PwC's Consumer Sentiment Survey, while consumer sentiment in 2023 improved compared to last year, spending intentions have been negative across all categories, even essentials like groceries. This trend is most pronounced among younger consumers and the less affluent, indicating a cautious approach to spending due to economic factors.
Customer Advocacy and Referral Impact
Black Friday has long been associated with fleeting visitors lured by steep discounts. However, forward-thinking brands are flipping the script, using the event not just for short-term gains but as a catalyst for cultivating customer advocacy. This strategic move transforms new Black Friday shoppers into a continuous source of revenue, propelling business growth well beyond the festive season.
Among our 500+ clients, an impressive 11,500 new customers during Black Friday itself (and 83,000 in the two-week period) were the result of trusted recommendations.
Additionally, with nearly half a million shoppers from Black Friday sparking referrals, the ripple effects are set to amplify. These acts of advocacy are projected to have their most substantial influence in Q1, a period historically proven for brands to garner more new customers through referrals than in the bustling Q4, thereby bolstering each referrer's Extended Customer Revenue significantly.
The Future of Black Friday
As the dust settles on Black Friday and the holiday period comes to a close, it's the perfect moment to gaze into the retail crystal ball and forecast where this annual sales juggernaut might be heading. Drawing from the latest data and evolving consumer trends, we can begin to map out a future where Black Friday may look quite different from today's discount-driven spectacle. What emerges is a nuanced approach that may redefine the very essence of this shopping holiday for both consumers and brands.
Rethinking Discount Strategies
Black Friday is evolving, and it's time we rethink our approach. It's not just about slashing prices anymore. Tony Preedy, Managing Director of Fruugo, warns against the dangers of uncalculated discounting: “The problem is that very few retailers properly calculate the impact on gross margin of reduced prices and the massive growth in units required to keep income stable, never mind growing. In this economic climate, indiscriminate use of discounting to drive volume can be ruinous.” Preedy advises focusing on increasing product visibility through a robust international sales strategy, rather than resorting to discounting.
The Rise of Social Media in Shopping
This shift aligns with the growing importance of social media, especially among younger consumers who are less likely to default to traditional ‘bargain-hunting’ platforms like Amazon. Social media is their search engine, making a well-crafted social media strategy essential for Black Friday success.
Customers who share their positive experiences organically amplify a brand's reach and credibility. This word-of-mouth marketing, integral to referral marketing strategies, is both effective and cost-efficient.
Embracing Customer Advocacy
Alongside this, embracing customer advocacy emerges as a key solution. It’s about creating lasting connections and turning customers into brand champions. This approach goes beyond the transactional nature of discounts, fostering loyalty and repeat business driven by genuine brand affinity and shared values.
Customer leaders are trending towards omni-channel, online & offline experiences to delight and engage with their customers. By building customer in love this way, brands will captivate customers and convert them into enthusiastic brand advocates.
Brands focusing on fostering long-term relationships and recognising customer preference are poised for sustainable growth. This relational approach is key to building a customer-obsessed growth engine, essential for modern brands.
Beyond Black Friday: A Focus on Long-Term Growth
For consumers, Black Friday is an opportunity to purchase big-ticket products at reduced prices. For brands, however, it marks a pivotal period for sales and growth. A whopping 80% of Wattbike’s Mention Me referrals convert to new customers during peak periods. As brands worldwide prepare for this event, the real opportunity lies in the post-Black Friday period - a crucial time for driving customer advocacy, increasing retention, and capturing long-term business gains.
Optimising Post-Black Friday Activity
Black Friday isn’t just about sales – it's also an opportunity to create loyal customer advocates who spend more, come back often and bring their friends. Viator’s brand fans deliver a 56% higher 180 day lifetime value than other customer segments. Brands can optimise their post-Black Friday activity and harness the power of advocacy data captured during the Cyber Week period to drive lasting brand wins.
Growing Your Consumer Base with Advocacy Programs
Promote and uplift your customer advocacy programs. Black Friday and the holiday season, with its influx of both new and existing shoppers, is a prime opportunity to grow your consumer base in the long term. Incentivise referrals with programs offering discounts and rewards to encourage return visits beyond the peak season.
Leveraging Advocacy Intelligence Data
The advocacy intelligence data gathered during Black Friday is pivotal. Identify your advocate segments, their behaviour and advocacy signals as well as the messaging they respond best to. This information can elevate your advocacy program, ensuring you drive retention by appealing to what your shoppers want.
Capitalising on a New Consumer Base
With Black Friday and other peak periods as your launchpad, now is the time to capitalise on a new consumer base with a bespoke and value-driven advocacy programs that drive repeat custom, larger AOVs and more advocacy behaviours, like referring-a-friend, leaving a positive review or sharing your brand on social media.
Prioritising Post-Purchase Engagement
Captivating your customers during key moments, such as the post-purchase phase, is vital. With Mention Me, you can tailor incentives differently for users encountering your referral program on the homepage versus those seeing it after a purchase.
This strategy allows you to reserve exclusive offers for existing customers, experiment with various rewards, and effectively balance margin protection with the acquisition of valuable new customers.
allplants integrated Mention Me and Klaviyo with their CRM to deliver personalised messaging to their customers, including referral offers and incentives. In doing so, their share of new customer acquisitions that came from referrals rose from 15% to 25%.
Capitalising on Positive Consumer Sentiment
Successful post-sales engagement goes beyond communications. It's about creating a feel-good connection. Including promotional testers, exclusive in-person events or limited-edition products during Black Friday and other peak periods can drive consumer loyalty, especially when average order values drop due to discounts.
Gathering Consumer Feedback
Collecting positive feedback from Black Friday shoppers provides numerous benefits, particularly if your brand responds. Increased sales, stronger brand sentiment, and return visits – social proof that delivers.
A Unified Approach to Post-Black Friday Strategy
A successful post-Black Friday strategy requires a complete view of your customers, an integrated customer advocacy marketing strategy that drives engagement, and a smarter, more unified martech stack for a seamless consumer experience.
By working strategically with Mention Me and Emarsys, BrandAlley identified new segments of high-quality customers and transformed their perception of who their best customers are. Through utilising Mention Me's pre-built tactics in Emarsys, they were able to increase repeat purchase rates by 25% — driving retention and highlighting how unlocking these previously untapped customer segments drives powerful growth.
Conclusion – Your 2024 Success Strategy
Brands that proactively engage customers throughout the customer journey and particularly post-purchase, capitalising on positive advocacy signals and feedback, have set the stage for enduring success and a fortified consumer base.
As the retail landscape becomes increasingly competitive, the need for a robust platform to leverage these insights becomes more crucial than ever. Those who fail to invest now are not only forgoing a crucial boost during these challenging times, but also overlooking the powerful momentum that could propel them towards growth and give them a competitive edge when prosperous times return. Mention Me stands at the forefront, offering you the tools to transform Black Friday and holiday shoppers into year-round customer advocates. Let's craft your future campaigns to not only meet the expectations of the modern consumer but exceed them, ensuring that every Black Friday is more than a sale—it's a step towards lasting brand triumph.
To understand how to deploy customer advocacy marketing for your brand, talk to one of our experts today and we'll help you get started.