Effective Marketing on Black Friday

Posted on 18/11/2019 by Ben Wood

£1.49 billion was spent in the UK Black Friday 2018 shopping extravaganza. Learn what retailers should be doing in 2019 to maximise their takings, and practical examples of what worked well last year.

Last year, UK shoppers relentlessly hit the shops and the internet, spending over £1.49 billion during Black Friday weekend in 2018. This was a slight increase on the £1.39 billion spent the year before.

The ONS published all of the stats for Black Friday last year here. In short, online sales as a proportion of all retailing exceeded 20% for the first time, and the way we find and buy the best deals is changing. While the UK had its biggest ever online retail day, footfall and sales on the high street didn’t prosper quite as well. This is no surprise to me, with in-store high street spending dropping by 7% compared to 2017.

Why do Black Friday sales continue to grow so massively?

This move online may have happened for a few reasons. Perhaps consumers don’t want to be involved with the huge queues, or maybe they want to avoid the chaotic scenes reported in the media:

Black Friday Chaos

David McCorquodale, the head of retail at KPMG, believes that this change could be because of a stand-off between consumers holding off for a Black Friday bargain and retailers determined to hold on to their hard-earned margins.

It is clear to me that the high street retailers who drove people to their online sites by offering the same deals prospered the most, as millions of consumers hit the mobiles, tablets and computers to buy their bargains. Last year Apple Airpods, Echo Dots, and Google Home devices stole the show. This year, there are Airpod round ups a couple of weeks ahead of the event.

John Lewis, for example, took 4.9 online orders per second on Black Friday. The retailer smashed its sales records in 2018’s Black Friday and taking its biggest week ever as shoppers snapped up Black Friday deals on gadgets, beauty products, and clothing.

The department store chain said sales were up 7.7% in the week to 27 November on the same period last year, with sales in the fashion and beauty department up 13.1%

Instead of navigating crowded high-streets on the weekend and facing limited stock, large queues and overall an unpleasant (in my opinion) retail service experience, consumers are now buying their items online and whenever, and wherever they want to. Not restricted by high-street opening hours, consumers can order their Black Friday bargains from their sofa.

But the biggest reason for the shift to online shopping might be the rise of the smartphone or tablets, with so many different ways to browse and shop on retail sites now available:

Mobile Black Friday

Here at Hallam, we can’t stress enough the importance of ensuring your website is ‘mobile-friendly’. All e-commerce sellers must optimise their sites for mobile searching, as over half of all mobile searches lead to a sale. Argos said half of its orders last year had been made on a handset, up from 40% the year before, while Carphone Warehouse said its sales through smartphones were up 8% year on year.

Throughout Black Friday 2018, expectations for discounts were high, so it goes without saying that those who offered the biggest discounts performed best, but effective marketing played a key role. Black Friday is arguably the best opportunity to boost an e-commerce business.

What Worked Well on Black Friday last year?

Email Marketing

Email is still a major marketing channel, as it ensures that customers know what bargains to expect. Open rates for email marketing during Black Friday and Cyber Monday exceeded 60%.

The content in the emails needs to be right, using offers and promotions effectively helps build anticipation, and also suspense. Make sure the marketing message is clearly heard.

Gift Guides

Some retailers used gift guides to good effect, visualising the savings and products on offer. As we all know working in digital marketing, we need to make life as easy as possible for the customer/end-user. So present them with the categories to navigate to, and present the top discounts and savings in a handy guide. Amazon does this really well, take this Christmas gift guide as an example 👇🏼

Xmas Gift Guide 2

Building Anticipation

Asos, Boohoo, and Gymshark lead the way with this, but they are not the only retailers attempting to build anticipation for Black Friday. Others are going one step further and actually releasing deals before 19th November. It might seem like an overblown tactic, but it is also a way to reduce pressure on the day itself and to stagger sales more consistently over the entire month

You also want to stand out! What is unique about your offering? Well, Gymshark have turned their Black Friday activity into a “Blackout” campaign. Here they are muscling into their target audiences space building their anticipation!


This taps into the “Why wait?” trend!

Timing proves key over the weekend too, with some retailers spacing out their offers for two days or more, maximising their opportunity to sell. It almost seemed never-ending, constant bargains being revealed by retailers throughout this record-breaking sales period. Have a plan, and drip out your offers!

Paid Social

A cost-effective method of reaching your key audiences, utilise your insights and analytics and cater all your activity to one key goal. Which in this case is to build hype and drive sales!

Again, Gymshark are leading the way with this and are popping up all over my social channels. I am a perfect target to hit, as I am in a 25-35 age bracket, a gym-goer, and interesting in health and fitness.

Informative, not too messy, key message and branding is the focal point, and encouraging engagement to help spread the message. It also offers me an exclusive update, a solid tactic as consumers like to be first!

Arguably Facebook is the most cost-effective, but for more on all things paid social, and how to use data effectively in your campaigns. Check out my colleague Kieran’s presentation on Data-Driven Social Media Marketing.

Partnering with publishers

Looking at analysis from Pi Datametrics, the main websites with the biggest share of voice on Black Friday 2018 were publishers. National media and trade publications such as TechRadar captured most of the traffic with their gift guide roundups. From this report, it is interesting to note that The Telegraph and TechRadar generated more visibility on the day itself than Amazon.co.uk. One of the main reasons for this is that the media published “fresh and engaging content, showcasing the best deals.”

A lot of these roundups are now done through affiliate marketing, or an agreed ‘partnership fee’ for referring the user to your sale. One of the best-placed affiliates to promote your Black Friday offers will be your incentive-based publishers. I’m talking QuidCo and similar voucher, loyalty and cashback websites. The best of these will have millions of consumers flocking to their websites to get these deals. These sites will also offer newsletter placements and key onsite exposure for you and your deals.

My advice is to do your research, get their media pack/rates and look at the previous year’s performance to work out the budgeting and cost to each promotion. Do not proceed if they don’t give you this information. But it’s likely they will, and they even reach out to us for reminders to book in with them for the peak times such as Black Friday.

Influencer Marketing

For this, you need planning and time. You need the influencers on board, and the rate/agreement finalised. This may vary and you have multiple options. The larger influencers have management teams that take a cut and negotiates rates. You might find success with mid-sized influencers, here they will deal with you directly, and the options here is a one-off fee for a post/promotion, or again a percentage of sales that are attributed from their social channels.

Consumer Trust Index told us that bloggers and social influencers are the third most trusted source when it comes to making a purchase, after only family and friends. Enable these bloggers and influencers to become advocates for your brand in the lead up to Black Friday and you’ll reap the rewards.

Big brands such as Gymshark have the influencers as ambassadors, and can really play around and get the brand out there. Either way you choose to go, in the weeks leading up to Black Friday, you need a pool of strong content to use, usually videos and visuals.

This post includes David Laid, Ethan Payne, and Ryan Garcia (combined 7.3 million Instagram followers) as well as others. They are all involved in the marketing and advertising leading up to, most likely, a very busy weekend for Gymshark.

Compete with paid advertising

This is a vital component if you want to compete for attention! Decide on an AdWords budget in advance. It’s faster than SEO and attracts customers instantly while providing essential analytics to help inform what works. PPC on Black Friday needs a deeper dive, so check out this article with all the info you’ll need to be effective.


This is more of a long-term activity, and can take a while for your work to come to fruition. Get SEO right, as organic searches from consumers can really boost sales for specific items. Effective SEO strategies take a fair bit of time to implement, so think about deals and products to push well in advance. Get home pages and key product pages up to scratch, adding keywords in all the obvious places: descriptions, headings, alt text, and most importantly, page titles. Make sure your website landing pages are relevant and engaging to keep customer interest. Tread carefully when optimising a page for the search engines. Don’t bombard your content with keywords, as this could damage page ranking in the long run.

You should build links through digital PR to a Black Friday landing page, that will keep your authority high m and you can build on it year on year.

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One final note

Online PR was also hugely successful throughout Black Friday weekend. With the right offers, natural placements are still effective. You can read in-depth how we approached Black Friday for one of our e-commerce clients and the results we delivered here.


If you need help with your Ecommerce SEO don't hesitate to contact us.

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Effective Marketing on Black Friday

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