Post-black week strategies | Event wrap-up
Rasmus Skjold NielsenClient Director
The hardest week of the marketing calendar is finally behind us and it’s tempting to move on to the rest of the holiday season before the dust has settled. But although this may be the easy option (and better for our sanity), there are crucial learnings from this week that can help shape your strategy for the rest of Q4 and 2024.
In our recent event with Booster Box, we explored what actions you can take in the weeks immediately proceeding Black Week, and in the following months, to implement a data-driven approach to your marketing strategy.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the biggest learnings from this event, including short-term insights, mid-term manoeuvres, and long-term strategies.
1. Short-term insights: understanding Black Week results
Now that Black Week is over, let’s uncover the “how” and decipher the “why” behind our performance. Our immediate focus is on gaining insights for a successful Q4 wrap-up.
1.1. How did you perform relative to the economic context?
As a marketer, it’s easy to have blinkers on when it comes to your own performance. Comparing your campaigns year on year, quarter by quarter can often neglect the wider picture. And this year more than ever, it is crucial to understand the wider economic climate in the context of your black week performance.
Black Friday sales in general continue to skyrocket. Adobe Analytics reported a record $9.8 billion in Black Friday online sales, up 7.5% from 2022. But it’s when you break it down per market – especially in the Nordics – that we see mixed results – for example, inflationary differences between the Swedish and Danish Kroner. And in the UK, retailers saw weak sales growth in November despite Black Friday deals in light of the ongoing cost of living crisis. This demonstrates that it’s important to keep the economic climate of each market in mind when evaluating your campaigns over this period.
Nevertheless, the economic situation meant that there was generally a spike in Black Friday searches across European countries in 2023, reflecting a heightened interest in discounts. With searches not limited to just one day, but the week before and even earlier – with many users planning to spend on discounts weeks in advance.
Advertising costs are surging across markets, with varying CPM rates but consistently higher CPCs. This amplifies pressure on businesses lacking robust first-party data strategies. Acquiring new users is more costly in a stagnant market, posing challenges for companies aiming to break even or match last year’s performance.
1.2. How did you perform relative to your targets?
Let’s use post-Black Week analysis to check our accuracy. Did you hit your desired targets, or do you need to make adjustments for next time?
2023 overview: How we’re doing so far
Overall, 2023 has proven unpredictable (just as we thought the pandemic was enough…). To understand Black Week performance better, it’s important to evaluate year-on-year development in general as well as for similar periods earlier in the year (e.g. Summer Sale).
By taking a long view compared to previous years as well as wider consumer trends over the year you can start to understand the performance of this one week with more perspective.
November overview: Beyond Black Week
Whilst Black Week is significant, a broader look at November also unveils interesting patterns, showcasing the varied dynamics of Q4.
And naturally, we have an immediate focus on Black Week itself. However, we have started to see a pattern in which Black Week itself is stretched further as well as several peaks in November (and Q4 as a whole).With this in mind, make sure to check search volumes and conversion rates in the Black week period. Did you time your team time investment to the best possible extent to take advantage of the longer period?
Or did you take advantage of that immediate search spike/interest to build e.g. first party audiences for later use, by for instance, lowering the price of your conversions when black week first started.
2. Why did you excel? Our strategic model unveiled
When we look at black week performance – or any significant campaign period really – it’s important to review them in the context of three key performance indicators: Products & offers, distribution and end consumer & media.
2.1. Products and offers
Seek to understand the impact of product segments (categories, brands, etc.) as well as the offer strategy. Did certain categories drive our performance or did a certain offer cater to a specific user segment?
Ultimately, the success of our campaigns hinges on our offerings and the deals we present. It’s important to understand the breakdown of our portfolio and the combinations of offers we provide. Vigilance in monitoring our competition remains crucial. Have there been any categories or brands that underperformed despite compelling offers? It’s essential to scrutinise details such as sizing, average discount rates, and other pertinent factors to gain insights into campaign performance.
Understanding the breakdown of revenue across different parameters is great for evaluating our performance.
- Which channels specifically influenced changes in revenue distribution, and can we explain why?
- Considering the varied nature of markets at a broader level, how well did we adapt to these differences?
- Especially for individual brands, competition from resellers and major marketplaces like Zalando or Amazon significantly impacts e-commerce outcomes. If these competitors run more successful sales, we should strategise how to respond effectively.
- Do we offer exclusive products, and do we prioritise first-party customers?
These considerations are crucial for navigating competitive dynamics.
2.3. End consumers and media
Ultimately, evaluating end-user performance involves examining known versus unknown users, demographics, and other relevant metrics. Understanding the evolution of key performance indicators is fundamental for gaining deeper insights. It’s pivotal to analyse this data in relation to different audience segments.
- Are specific audience types or demographics displaying notable distinctions, such as higher Average Order Value (AOV)?
- And if so, did our offerings align with these trends?
- Similarly, considering various channels, did the cost of ad inventory increase?
- Did user spending deviate from our expectations?
- Additionally, did our website provide a robust experience that impacted conversion rates?
These evaluations provide excellent insights into user behaviour and the effectiveness of our strategies.
2.4. Putting these insights into action
Ideally, we conclude with an overview that circles back to considering synergies. For instance, exploring end-user and product combinations to understand buyer behaviours, examining distribution patterns among end users to identify their origins, and distinguishing between products that primarily attract traffic (media buying) and those that drive conversions. This comprehensive analysis allows us to discern purchase patterns and optimise strategies by leveraging these combinations.
3. The mid-term perspective: Navigating the post-black week dip
The period between Black Week and the beginning of the year can be a tricky one to navigate. But this time is important for ensuring we have the right insights and learnings from Black Week, as well as aim to monetise whatever insights we can immediately.
3.1. Observe and make seasonal adjustments
A tactical consideration during the holiday period, especially for Google, involves implementing “seasonality adjustments” to counteract the outlier effect the event often brings. On Black Friday, lower prices are expected, leading to lower margins or an overall decrease in average margins. Interestingly, this might not necessarily translate to a decline in the average order value as customers tend to purchase more items than usual. Moreover, an uptick in conversion rates is typically anticipated. However, these fluctuations do affect metrics differently.
For those employing target Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) or any automated solutions, incorporating “seasonality adjustments” can potentially mitigate these shifts. This strategy, though seemingly small and tactical, holds significant importance to navigate the nuances of Black Friday’s impact on metrics and maintain strategic performance.
3.2. Reshaping our product offering and audience strategy for gift season
- What products are currently driving sales?
- Are there specific items that align well as gifts?
- Which audience segments are making purchases?
- For instance, are women buying for men or vice versa?
- How can we strategise to capitalise on the recently acquired user base?
- What has been the purchasing rate among users acquired throughout November up to this point?
3.3. Account for the returns to determine business impact
Looking past the initial campaign numbers, understanding the true business impact is crucial in the midterm period. In 2022, returns saw a staggering 63% surge during the peak season compared to 2021. In fact, the value of goods returned in 2021 could rival the economy of the world’s 21st largest nation, according to sources like ZigZag Global (2021), IMRG, Rebound, Salesforce (January 2023).
4. The long-term perspective: Shaping success beyond Black Friday
Taking the long view is where you can truly start to understand – and optimise – the value of your black week campaigns (or not as the case may be). However, by implementing just some of the below actions, is where you can really start to take a data-driven approach to the black week madness-
4.1. Consider whether black week investment is actually right for you
First of all, take a big step back. Looking at Google Trends, a consistent pattern emerges: Black Friday tends to bring about a rise in CPCs along with heightened consumer demand. An alternative strategy for numerous brands is to refrain from aggressive investment specifically on Black Friday.
Instead, consider bolstering marketing efforts just before and after the Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend. Testing this approach could help avoid intense competition during the peak period and potentially yield better results.
However, the effectiveness of this tactic might be diluted due to the evolving landscape where the Black Friday effect is elongated into a “Black week” or even a “Black month.” As companies attempt to extend the impact of Black Friday, the efficacy of this strategy, which might have been successful in the past, might not be as robust in the future.
4.2. Optimising towards higher value customers and profit, not revenue.
Prioritise optimising towards profit rather than solely focusing on revenue. Begin with feasible strategies that offer the best effort-to-value ratio. Initial tests will help validate their value. Following this, expand your scope and consider more ambitious approaches.
Example actions can include:
- Set higher Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) targets for product categories with high return rates.
- Develop custom audiences comprising the top 0.1% of repeat customers for targeted campaigns.
- Implement stricter targets for products with missing sizes.
- Consider boosting conversion value if users leave positive reviews and enhance conversion value specifically for new customers.
- Substitute revenue with profit as the conversion value metric, excluding returns from the equation.
This shift in focus can significantly refine strategies toward profitability rather than sheer revenue generation.
Black Week: The long and short of it
In understanding Black week strategies, it’s clear that a nuanced approach is essential. Understanding the shifts in consumer behaviour and market dynamics, especially during peak events like Black Friday, demands strategic adaptation. Evaluating the efficacy of seasonal adjustments, targeting specific audience segments, and optimising for profit rather than sheer revenue emerge as key considerations.
This nuanced strategy involves fine-tuning marketing efforts not just during Black Friday itself but also in the lead-up and aftermath. Leveraging data-driven insights, such as monitoring user behaviour, adjusting ad strategies based on audience preferences, and redefining success metrics from revenue to profit, presents a more holistic approach.
Navigating the evolving landscape of Black Friday requires agility, testing, and a strategic blend of both tactical, short-term adjustments and visionary, long-term initiatives to remain competitive and capitalise on opportunities in this ever-evolving retail landscape.
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