Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Black Friday 2021: Targeting customers in a digital-first world

Seen as the curtain-raiser for the festive period, Black Friday is one of the most critical dates in the calendar for brands. Eager to capitalise on the hype generated by the potential for savings, much focus is placed on attracting customers this time of year. But in a digitally reliant landscape, what are the most effective methods being used?

New Digital Age spoke to a host of industry experts to understand how brands can find success as the festive season approaches.

First Impressions

Engagement is everything. In a world dominated by digital ads, the ability to stand out from the crowd becomes crucial. According to Quentin Paquot, CEO of Qualifio, the way to successfully achieve this lies in interactive content.

“Many companies are turning to interactive content and gamification to provide audiences with unique experiences that drive consumer engagement, spread brand awareness and build trust while collecting valuable and actionable data,” explains Paquot.

“Using content such as advent calendars, quizzes or polls, brands can engage and entertain consumers while providing a high-quality customer experience on Black Friday. As a result, they can then create long term relationships with audiences through marketing campaigns that leverage the buzz created around the festive season to improve sales, create return customers and build brand loyalty.”

One noteworthy characteristic of interactive content is its lack of reliance on cookies. Instead, brands can collect zero-party data straight from consumers. However, Dal Gil, VP Global Partnerships at Seedtag, believes that brands don’t need to collect any consumer data at all to target them accurately.

“As cookies begin to be phased out, there has never been a better time to explore other solutions,” comments Gil.

“The answer comes in the form of artificial intelligence (AI) – and more specifically, contextual AI. 

“The technology allows brands to track and analyse consumer interests around the event, and can even take data from previous years to help brands fully utilise Black Friday content published across the most premium sites, without the need to use personal data.”

Taking a Social Approach

As Gil mentions, the “most premium” sites are the ones that brands are keen to gain leverage in their marketing efforts. But when it comes to sales channels, social media often falls under the radar. Marc Shields, Senior Account Manager – Social Media at Loud Mouth Media, explains its importance in today’s environment.

“All major social media platforms now have ecommerce capabilities, with Pinterest catalogues, Facebook and Instagram shops and TikTok’s partnership with Shopify in place to enable online sales,” Shields explains.

“Ensuring that purchasing items is as convenient as possible during the busiest and most stressful time of the year can also be achieved by using on-platform storefronts to showcase more of the product range. 

“With consumers on the lookout for bargains and a seamless shopping experience, having this in place is a more personal approach than regular ad content and can be used in conjunction with buy-now-pay-later services like Klarna to help encourage the sale.” 

Becoming Digitally Mature

Halil Aksu, CEO and co-founder of Digitopia, agrees that a personal approach is necessary. In fact, Aksu argues that there is nothing more important than the customer.

“The biggest priority is the customer,” he explains. “Retailers need to know them, care about them and understand them. They need to provide the best possible service, prices and experiences across all channels at all touchpoints, at all times.”

However, Aksu argues that retailers must still consider the bigger picture, and accurately measure digital transformation to find success.

“Digital transformation accounts for the entire business.

“Only by accurately measuring and benchmarking progress can retailers know exactly where they were, where they currently stand, and importantly, what steps they can take to continue to improve their digital processes.”

Today’s consumers must be catered to in a way that best suits their needs. Ailen Li, Head of Sales for North America at Nedap Retail, closes by noting that although online sales are now dominant, just as much emphasis must be placed on in-store operations.

Li says: “One of the most important aspects for retailers when preparing for Black Friday and Christmas respectively is securing sales across all channels without overstocking or canceling orders. 

“While the consumer has moved online, a large portion of inventory still sits in stores. 

“Securing the sale across all channels starts with knowing where items are located in retail supply chains. This requires a single view on inventory in order to prevent waste and losses through RFID technology.”

As Black Friday approaches, much of the battle will be won online – whether that is through initial engagements with customers or providing them with convenient omnichannel offerings that work to their convenience. Either way, successful brands will be those who best understand their customers.