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New research released today shows that a huge majority of UK retailers are pinning their hopes for success over the next 12 months on Black Friday sales (90%), despite the fact that around a third (33%) of UK customers do not plan to shop Black Friday deals this year.

What’s more, a quarter of shoppers overall (26%) and a third in the US (32%) are planning to spend less this year when compared to last year. Meanwhile only a quarter definitely plan to visit a physical store (24%), whilst nearly half don’t plan to shop in store at all (45%).

The research of 4,006 consumers and 306 retail marketers across the UK and US was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of AI-powered customer marketing platform for retailers, Ometria, which looked into consumer and retailer attitudes to Black Friday during the pandemic.

Ivan Mazour, CEO and founder of Ometria, said: “Black Friday will, along with the rest of the retail landscape, be very different this year. What worked pre-COVID will not work now – and discounts alone will certainly not be a big enough driver to get customers engaged. Despite this, retailers are clearly placing a huge amount of pressure on Black Friday, Christmas and other significant shopping dates to boost sales during tough trading conditions.

“This data shows that if retailers are planning on just repeating what they did last year, their hopes for success are likely to be at best short lived and at worst completely unfounded. Retailers must take a smart and customer-centric approach in order to cut through the noise in what will be a high-stakes battle for customer spend. It’s clear that brave, bold and crucially, long-term decision making is required to influence the survival of the Great British High Street and our beloved retailers – not over-reliance on American mass-discounting holidays.”

The research reveals other interesting trends into consumer shopping behaviours and needs.

Consumers fed up of being bombarded by retailers around Black Friday

As we approach Black Friday, retailers plan to send marketing messages about upcoming offers during the annual retail holiday. The research finds that consumers – more than ever – do not want to receive communications from retailers unless the deals are relevant to them and their interests. Half (50%) of respondents would rather receive fewer emails overall, with the ones they do receive then offering products and categories they are interested in and two thirds (66%) are more likely to open an email on Black Friday if it contains personalised recommendations for items they might be interested in buying. Over 1 in 5 (22%) don’t want to hear from retailers at all – with a marked difference between UK and US customers. A third (33%) of Brits do not want to hear about Black Friday offers from retailers at all, while only 12% of Americans say the same.

Convenience, sustainability, speed 

The research also suggests that there is a tension between convenience and consumers being socially conscious. While three quarters (75%) of consumer respondents say that ‘good sustainable credentials’ are an important factor in helping them choose who to shop with for Black Friday, a further 78% say that delivery speed is crucial to their purchase. This tension reflects the divergence of customer desires into both immediacy and ethics: showing retailers must find sustainable solutions without compromising customer expectations.

Discount fatigue 

Lower spend intentions may be explained by discount fatigue, with half (51%) of customers stating that the prevalence of summer sales has led to the expectations of bigger ones to entice them for Black Friday.

This aligns with marketer concerns. Attempts to shift stock ahead of Black Friday through widespread discounting may have backfired, with three quarters (75%) of retail marketers worried that extended summer promotions have created discount fatigue among consumers and will negatively impact their Black Friday performance.

Mazour continued: “The culture of shopping is fundamentally transformed across markets, and existing retail trends have been hugely accelerated by COVID-19. Consumers want and expect far more from retailers in today’s market, and organisations that are unable to completely shed the skins of old expectations and become fully customer-centric will not thrive. It’s therefore absolutely crucial that retailers focus on operational, technological and cultural change; how are they operating both logistically and ethically; are they consumer-orientated; do they have the technology to enable change? These are the fundamentals retailers should focus in on – not on bombarding customers with any and all sales, news and product launches in order to generate interest.”

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