Black Friday and Cyber Monday – Beneficial to businesses or does it attract the wrong kind of customer?

It’s only in the last couple of years that Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been so highly marketed and adopted in the UK. Historically US companies with a presence in the UK had introduced an equivalent but now it would appear that many others are jumping on the same band wagon. But why? What is it they are trying to do?

In the UK we’ve had a long history of January or Boxing Day sales and in the last few years high street stores have often offered pre Christmas discounts to encourage people to spend with them; perhaps understandable in a recession. But what was all the pandemonium about last week?

People behaving like animals to get to bargains, fighting over a discounted TV and literally treading on people in some cases. Is that the sort of behaviour that a business wants to attract? From the commentary, I saw, on social media there were almost two camps – those who wanted the bargains and therefore went shopping and those who stayed away (who would have been spending more on full priced good in many instances) but simply didn’t want to be in that environment.

And then there was the impact on the ecommerce sites, again people were shopping like crazy online and so the websites couldn’t cope with it. It’s likely that stock wasn’t being updated as quickly as it needed and so some people may have been disappointed when at the final click there was no stock left. Perhaps even more so where people sell over more than one ecommerce site e.g. their own and then eBay stores, Amazon and so on where there’s no true interconnectivity for the inventory updates.

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I saw many coaches and similar businesses also joining in with Black Friday and advertising massive discounts on products and some services. Interestingly one or two took their offers down since they saw so much negative comment about the Black Friday concept that they realised they were compromising their values.

And as I was thinking through Black Friday and Cyber Monday I wondered what the overall impact to the economy might have been. How many people took a day off work to go to the sales? How many people spent time using their employer’s computer and Internet connection yet alone their time to browse and make purchases online? Who would have picked up the police force costs where they were needed to manage the crowds? When I voiced these thoughts on social media there was a lot of support for my musings and no one countered the arguments. Not to say that I was 100% or even 50% correct but it shows where our thinking is on Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

I can remember as a child news footage of people queuing over Christmas for the bargains in the window of Selfridges or Harrods and yes, there was smashed crockery and a lot of elbow bashing and some handbag bashing but it felt different. There wasn’t the almost menacing atmosphere that was portrayed on TV and social media but then what makes good stories today and how journalists portray events for sensationalism and sales has changed significantly so maybe that’s perception as opposed to reality and truth.

And it’s entirely possible that the dislike and dismissal of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is because its not a British tradition and the ‘we don’t want something else from over the pond, its bad enough with trick or treating at Halloween’ attitude. Almost a snobbish attitude whereas retailers were very grateful for the sales – after all Christmas is where many make a far chunk of their profit and if low(ish) margins but high volumes has boosted their profits then who are we too argue?

So I’ll go back to the original questions of does it attract the wrong type of customer and what does it do to reputation?

Are the people who buy from you because of the Black Friday deals going to be loyal customers or are they the type of customer that shops around for the best deal and isn’t interested in all the things that wrap around the purchase including customer service? These people are transactional customers and their interest in building a relationship with you is probably very low and so retaining them as a customer is probably going to take a lot of effort and work.

And if they are only looking for bargains all the time then their value to you is probably quite low and so doesn’t warrant the much expenditure to keep their loyalty.

Where as a customer who buys from you because you have the product or service that they want, who wants to engage with you and build a relationship with you the relationship customer is a different type of customer completely. They are interested in your brand and not just the goods and so are the ones to to nurture and cherish. They are the people who will be loyal customers, who may well do business with you not because you offer the cheapest price but because you offer a great experience, excellent value, have an after sales process that makes them feel a valued customer and they are likely to not only buy from you again but also be open to additional purchases at the point of sale.

These people will add more to the bottom line. The question is are you prepared to spend the time and the money nurturing those relationships where volume might be lower but margins higher or like the transactional customers are you just interested in that instant sale and a quick buck?

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