On Friday 29th November (timing well with payday) shoppers will wake up at the crack of dawn, to ensure they are the bird that gets the worm. Setting alarms to get online or queue for stores to open, ready for the biggest retail event of the year.


Originating in the US as a way to kick off Christmas spending in the lull after Thanksgiving, Black Friday first made the journey across the pond eight years ago. The event is no longer restricted just to the Friday, as the name would suggest, but spans the whole weekend climaxing on Cyber Monday. Across four days, usually polite shoppers will be transformed into crazed bargain hunters, with scenes more commonly seen in a bar brawl.

Behaviour shift

This bonkers behaviour is driven by one thing – scarcity. Less of something heightens its appeal. So the hype is created by a simple ‘first come, first served’ tactic. Demand for the exaggerated discounts exceeds supply, and so creates urgency as nobody wants to miss out. This strategy has proven so successful that the Office for National Statistics reported that November has started to steal sales from the Christmas period. Many spenders have admitted to spending most of the day at work shopping online or even booking the day off!

So what are people buying?

When it comes to Black Friday, electronics are king. Over half of the total spend will be on electronics, with retailers using it as a good way to flog excess stock and older models. Most customers are using this weekend to get all their Christmas gifts sorted but the hype means a lot of impulse purchases are made.

Spontaneous shoppers

This impulsiveness gives marketers an opportunity to cut through the noise and stand-out from the crowd. While big savings will result in a quick sale, the money saved is quickly forgotten. In such a competitive retail landscape more and more brands are looking to do something different, even abstaining from the event all together. This is even truer in electronics as the biggest Black Friday sector. With cameras fighting off laptops and mobile handsets holding off TV’s, it’s about time someone changed the game.

Turning hype on its head

So what if we were able to recreate the hype while adding value rather than taking value away? In the current experience economy our Promotional Intelligence Index (Pii) shows that people would rather tell people about something they’ve done rather than something they have. Giving customer’s money can’t buy experiences, exclusive rewards, limited-time only activities and allowing them to get involved with your brand story is sure to make a bigger statement than any amount of money off. 

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Sources: The Conversation ‘Retail Rage’, Tech Radar ‘Black Friday UK 2019’, BBC UK, Planning Dirty Julian Cole, Periscope by McKinsey