By Ariane De La Motte

Emerging in America in the 1950s, Black Friday was introduced to mark the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, following the Thanksgiving festivities. It has now grown to become a global phenomenon. Everyone likes a bargain, and brands are increasingly offering discounts that are too good to miss. Mintel estimates that Black Friday sales in the UK hit £4.2 billion in 2017, having grown by 13% year on year (Black Friday - UK - January 2018). So how do consumers in neighbouring countries react to this ever-growing shopping bonanza?

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France

Launched in France five years ago, Black Friday took a while to take off amongst consumers who were used to the traditional winter and summer sales periods. Initially leaving the population a little confused by such large discounts offered in late November, it seems like the idea of Black Friday has started to soar in consumers’ mindsets in the last couple of years.

According to the CSA Institute in France, while only a fifth of the country’s population was planning to take advantage of the late November bargains in 2016, that figure rose to over 50% in the last year (French People and Black Friday). Some shops even recorded having doubled their sales from the event in 2017 compared to the year before.

Although consumers still prefer to shop in store for a more tangible experience, their path to purchase has evolved since 2016 to start with mobile phones for most shoppers. According to the digital advertising group Kwanto, in France approximately 47% of online purchases are completed on a desktop, 24% from a tablet and the remaining 29% on mobile phones, with the latter taking an increasing share over time.

Every year, the impact of Black Friday grows in France. Consumers take this event as an opportunity to save money on their Christmas shopping. Purchase intent is known to be the highest in the fashion, high-tech and toys industries, with Amazon recording a historical success, generating more than 1.4 million orders within a day in 2016 (that’s 970 units per minute – yes, you read that right!).

Interesting Fact #1: In 2015, following the Bataclan attacks that happened in Paris two weeks before Black Friday, most brands chose to rename the event to “Jour Discount” or “Crazy Week-End” as a measure of respect for the victims.

Interesting Fact #2: It is rumoured that a group of major French brands are coming together to launch their own version of Black Friday in the hope of redefining it as a national event. Only, this one is expected to take place in spring (April 27th – May 1st) – when it comes to boosting sales, everything’s allowed of course!

Germany

Black Friday has had slower growth in Germany than it did in France because of an already saturated market, with the established popularity of Christmas markets at the same time of the year. German consumers are also known to be better savers than spenders.

Yet, being able to take advantage of large bargains for a few days every year is becoming increasingly popular and has gained a foothold in Germany as an addictive game for shoppers. In fact, a consumer research led by McKinsey found that 43% of the German population took advantage of the Black Friday sales in 2017 to do most of their Christmas shopping for the year, compared to only 9% in 2015 (Black Friday 2018 Shopping Report).

Blackfridaysale.de is the most visited online portal for Black Friday in the country, referencing discounts for each industry, product, or manufacturer and offering brands access to their large consumer database. In 2013, the website even obtained the necessary copyright to protect the term “Black Friday” as their own trademark in Germany – who can beat that? As a large number of businesses filed their disagreement to this monopoly, the company legally lost the trademark in early 2018.

This year, Black Friday will start on Thursday 23rd November at 7pm on blackfridaysale.de and will last exactly 24 hours.

An internal analysis conducted by Google has highlighted the following industries as being the fastest growing in Germany during Black Friday: computers, clothing and high-tech. Those together represented 65% of the search queries recorded in November 2017.

Interesting Fact #1: Last year, Amazon employees in Germany took the opportunity of the scale of Black Friday to go on strike and put the squeeze on their “ignoring employer” by partially paralysing orders and deliveries across the country – they did not beat around the bush!

Interesting Fact #2: Already exercising a monopoly in Black Friday online searches, the company Blackfridaysale.de launched their own free mobile app in September this year to capture the growing share of mobile traffic and to continue reaching their large consumer base across all devices.

Italy

As opposed to France and Germany, Black Friday has experienced severe difficulties infiltrating the Italian market until last year. In 2015, Italy was recorded as the country with the lowest percentage of companies offering e-commerce options within Europe (4% vs an average of 15%) (Ecommerce News Europe). It has therefore taken consumers a long time to gain confidence in the practice of online shopping.

The event’s popularity has taken a turn in 2017, with the research company Statista reporting that 65% of the Italian population were aware of Black Friday sales, with only 4% of them having never heard of the event previously (Italy: awareness of Black Friday sales 2017).

The vast majority of discounts are available online, but Black Friday is slowly making its appearance in physical stores across the country with 7 out of 10 stores having taken part in the event in 2017. Studies have found that approximately 76% of shoppers browsed special offers on a desktop, 18% on mobile phones and the remaining 6% from a tablet.

The highest levels of consumer interest for the event were recorded in Rome (19%) and Milan (16%), with the population showing a strong purchase intent in the high-tech, clothing and cosmetic industries.

Just like in Germany, Amazon suffered a strike during the Black Friday period last year in northern Italy at one of their distribution hubs, from a wave of employees demanding better working conditions.

Interesting Fact #1: Last year, Greenpeace led a movement in a shopping centre in Rome on the eve of Black Friday to protest against consumerism’s negative impact on the environment, inviting the public to create, repair and re-use products instead of buying new things.

Interesting Fact #2: Following the popularity of Black Friday and the wave of growth generated by the yearly summer sales in Italy, the electronic chain Mediaworld launched what they called a “Red Friday” campaign (6th-8th July 2018), with discounts up to 50% both online and offline (for restless shoppers who could not wait until Black Friday!).

In brief...

Perhaps in continental Europe we have not yet seen stories emerge such as the two Californians who camped for 22 days in front of a Best Buy in 2014 just to be the first ones through the shop’s doors on Black Friday. In reality, most of the limited time offers are available online, as shoppers prefer to avoid the wild experience of long queues and rushing bargain hunters to browse offers from the comfort of their own home.

Retailers in France have been making the most out of this golden opportunity in the last few years, while in Germany and Italy the day has been distinguished for something else – strikes!

Still, the event is starting to gain a considerable foothold across the continent and is expected to continue driving more and more revenue for businesses who always find new clever ways to keep consumers spending every year.

Merkle | Periscopix now have their very own internal International Export Team, ready to give you advice on how to set up, run and optimise your international advertising campaigns, so please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions!

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