Kinloch Magowan, Market Director of ForwardPMX MENA, shares his insights on how brands performed during Black Friday and Cyber week.
2020 has been an interesting and challenging year in the marketing space, bringing a series of unprecedented circumstances that online businesses have had to adapt to. With this in mind, many brands laid hopes on a successful peak sale period in November. But did it live up to the hype? I spoke with our agency team, advertisers, and media partners to find out.
Overall performance through Black Friday and Cyber week activity has been strong, with many brands exceeding their targets for this period.
Some factors that contributed to this include:
Consumers are now comfortable shopping online
Lockdowns, travel restrictions, and social distancing in shopping centers earlier in the year forced many consumers into the habit of shopping online. This is particularly relevant in the online grocery sector, where consumers had to turn to during lockdown periods earlier in the year.
Consumer confidence, and therefore spending, is increasing
Personal attitudes towards spending has changed substantially throughout 2020. Earlier in the year, we saw drawbacks in spending as the reality of COVID and lockdown conditions kicked in. In Q4, there’s a notion that consumers have accepted the current situation and embraced the change in lifestyle. Expats that have survived initial cuts from their employers and salary cuts are beginning to feel more confident in their spending, and this led to a ‘pent up demand’ factor over the sale period.
Retailers pulled out all the stops to offer great deals
Retailers knew the sale period would be important to bolster numbers for the year, and this seems to have resulted in sale propositions that were even better than before the pandemic.
…And they extended sale periods
Many advertisers in the retail space ran two-week sale periods at the end of November, with their own Middle-East branded spin on the Black Friday or Cyber Monday theme. While this gave consumers more time to capitalize on the offers, it also impacted advertising activity, with budgets stretching over a longer period of time. Performance of adverts in terms of click-through and conversion rate waned over time, suggesting ad fatigue was a factor. Coupled with a near 4X increase in Paid Search cost per click vs standard trading periods, this led to a challenging period in terms of ad metrics.
Brands were prepared operationally
Earlier in 2020, the consumer switch to online shopping took some brands by surprise. Stories circulated about overloaded websites or how shoppers were waiting weeks for a delivery slot. The mid-part of 2020 has forced e-commerce retailers to bolster their operational abilities, improve their websites, launch new apps, and work on logistics. For those that made the necessary improvements, this led to a slick system that was prepared for the peak.
Popular shopping categories changed
Popular categories in previous years have largely been focused on electronics, however, 2020 has shown growth in other categories that reflect changing lifestyles. Home improvement, furniture, fitness, home office, and pet product sales all grew, showing that consumers are spending more on their home life; while they spend less on travel and leisure pursuits. Sales of hot electronics products such as the iPhone 12, PS5, and XBOX series X were still high, however.
Hospitality also saw success
Hotels and hospitality also reported successful periods at the end of November. The sale period coinciding with the national day public holiday in the UAE led to a range of attractive staycation and minibreak offers which were well used by local residents. External visitor numbers also continued to rise with an increasing number of countries, including the UK, opening travel corridors to areas of the Middle East.
Brands will now be looking forward to the festive period with the hopes that the upturn in sales will continue into 2021, as the retail space begins to normalize.
Opinions in this piece belong to the author.