By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group

For most of us in the UK, we think that Black Friday was invented by Amazon but that’s not actually true.  Police in Philadelphia first used the term “Black Friday” in the 1950s when large crowds of tourists and shoppers came to the city the day after Thanksgiving, creating chaos, traffic problems and looting opportunities.

The term soon grew throughout the U.S. and today it commonly marks the start of the Christmas season, where shops compete to offer the best deals.

The concept was first brought over to the UK in 2010 when Amazon promoted a range of discounts and deals to consumers – and we were hooked!  Then in 2013, Asda held its own Black Friday sale which turned into mayhem, making national headlines as customers physically fought for flat-screen televisions. Since then the sales have grown year on year, although much of the shopping is now done online and is more of a weekend than a day, and has extended to almost every retailer and across different sectors.

In our house, the phrase “let’s see what we can get on Black Friday” delays any thoughts on Christmas shopping for at least a short period of time.

From a Customer Engagement perspective, I always find Black Friday a bit disappointing and this year was no exception.  Every year I hope to see more personal engagement, more creativity and more relevance.  In the year of GDPR when brands’ email lists have been decimated (using the literal meaning here) I had hoped that this would be the time to use smaller lists to build bigger relationships.  I asked around a few friends and everyone felt the same; not very much of the messaging sent out felt that it was personal.

In general, the emails were all pretty much the same:  We have a Black Friday sale, we have some offers and some might be interesting to you.   For example, this one from Jones Bootmakers, someone I have bought from in the past has no products I have browsed, no styles I might like, in fact not even something that shows I’m a man (no jokes please).  They do get time to make sure I know that it is only selected lines though!

Not surprisingly (maybe) Amazon got it right.  They actually targeted based on what I’d bought, and the email body contained books I had browsed but not purchased.  Even if the image was a bit generic (I promise I have never thought to buy a Call The Midwife book).

Am I missing something, surely the customers that retailers have now are the people who said they wanted to still be contacted?  And surely, they are also the people who have either bought, browsed or given an indication of interest in certain products?  This generates really useful data and that data should then be getting used in these sorts of communications.

This is it, the biggest sale day of the year and yet we send generic emails with generic content.  As a data marketer I feel disappointed not just in the brands but also in my industry.  After all this time we are still failing to get the basics of personalisation right most of the time.  Is this down to lack of data being made available?  Or is it a lack of imagination in using it?  Either way we must do better.

So, a target is set: For next year’s Black Friday to get at least one email in my inbox, personalised to me, from a brand that I work with, who are using data well.  See you then!

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