Black Friday's Bright Future
by Thomas George
It’s over. The world’s collective commercial frenzy has passed its annual peak, with the inevitable feelings of emptiness and regret – triggered by the sight of red print on the bank statement – the precursor to a lumbering stagger into the cold arms of financial responsibility. At least until the Christmas sales begin, anyway. Still, it was quite the rush while it lasted.
Even by their own gaudy standards, this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday were monumental events, setting the tone for another record-breaking romp of credit. With Amazon confirming that December 2 was the single largest shopping day in the company’s history, we know who the winners were. The losers? A matter of opinion. The American public alone found themselves a colossal $7.4 billion lighter after Black Friday this year, and if that was not enough, relieved themselves of a further $9.2 billion on Cyber Monday just three days later. Still, the right to buy whatever we want (or even what we don’t really want) is one of our few remaining freedoms, which is perhaps why the opportunity to do so is seized upon so readily.*
However, Black Friday’s status as a uniquely American phenomenon is also fading quietly into the distance. Colonial cousins in the UK also melted the plastic of their credit cards to a tune that once more snapped the 10-figure mark. Leading lender Barclaycard observed a total expenditure of around £1.7 billion in online sales alone, 16% more than 2018’s paltry £1.49 billion. That is more than £64 per household.*
Traditions and rituals are always difficult to change, but it can also be hard to notice when they do.
Commerce’s incremental shift from the past to the present to the future comes disguised in timeless packages of heart-warming winter scenes, as we slip inexorably into a new paradigm of gift giving. If Santa Claus shares some of his workload with the online sector, he probably does it on a mobile device, as 41% of us chose to do this Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Even 10 years ago, this figure was negligible.*
What does this mean for your Saturday shop girl or backroom boy? Well, if you look closely, you will notice that the often-turbulent marriage between brick-and-mortar retail and online shopping has reached something of an uneasy truce. While Amazon reigns supreme in the online retail sector, other major firms are finding intuitive ways to break the hegemony. By successfully tying their online presence to the more humane look and feel of their lavishly stocked Main Street and mall outlets, firms like British brand John Lewis are posting major progress too.
This comes down to user experience more than any other factor. A trip to John Lewis, especially at this time of year, is a pleasant experience, even with the crowds. The well-spoken assistants provide calm and polite advice to all potential customers, without anything as grating as an actual sales pitch: ready to demonstrate electronics, help find clothes, or watch you paw through their carefully crafted displays of home and kitchenware. These companies are coming to terms with the fact that they can watch you leave the store without a sense of missed opportunity, as long as they have provided a memorable in-store experience that prompts you to buy the product from them online.
There are a variety of reasons why this is an attractive proposition for customers. Firstly, there are some items that people just aren’t comfortable with buying “blind”. These are usually products that have a subjective feel to them: mattresses, cushions, and the like, but also for higher-value, bulkier products that represent a larger investment or would be difficult to bring back if they didn’t suit. It’s considerably more arduous to return a wardrobe by post than a pair of earrings, should the cold light of day be less flattering than store lighting. Although many outlets offer augmented reality features to reduce the reliance on their physical presence, for many of us, there’s simply no substitute for a good feel through.
Establishments that previously functioned as traditional shops are increasingly repurposed as extended showrooms for the online business. The Black Friday statistics are telling in this regard as well. Although 58% of this year’s online purchases were made on desktop computers, 63% of traffic came from smartphones and tablets: in short, people are trying before they are buying. They view the product in the shop, find its location online, and return home to seal the deal.*
This is actually good news for brands. Firstly, it reduces the pressure on high-street stores to keep so many of their high-demand items in stock, which, particularly for shops specializing in larger products, can lead to significant savings. Secondly, it widens the scope of business hours: the online sector doesn’t need to worry about the effects of rain on footfall or pay overtime for staff staying late.
However, the model essentially favors bigger brands, who have the requisite personnel and logistical systems to operate such a model effectively. Furthermore, cost of delivery is markedly different for firms shipping a single product nationwide to those who can afford to direct operations from their centralized depots.
Where do we fit in? As a manufacturer of adjustable beds, we know that our products fall very much into a category affected by this cultural change. However, our cutting-edge new model can provide a perfect compromise for retailers everywhere:
online seller-convenience that maintains the unique look and feel of your showroom.
Our innovative delivery model smashes through the barriers and helps sellers big and small fulfill their online potential. The SILVERlite’s “One Bed, One Box” drop shipping model means that brick-and-mortar retailers have the opportunity to free up valuable space on the shelves of their stockrooms. Better still, LOGICDATA will deliver directly to customers via UPS and FedEx, with no oversize charges.
The only bed you’ll ever need to keep is the one in your showroom, leaving you to do what you do best: inspire your customers. You’ll be able to find out more about the SILVERlite and more at this winter’s Las Vegas Market, where we will be demonstrating the benefits of our (r)evolutionary concept for retailers.
Lite by name, light by nature. Let us do the heavy lifting for you.