Black Friday started in the US to clear stock after ThanksGiving and has since spread across the pond and beyond. It was Amazon who introduced the concept to the UK with its attention grabbing discounts of >70% off consumer electronics and other big ticket items. Following its inaugural success for Amazon, other e-commerce and high street retailers jumped on the trend the following year. Our news channels lit up with footage of desperate people trampling each other for unbelievably cheap items, further fanning the hysteria around the bargains that could be bagged on this new day. 

Whilst we Brits sometimes sneer at the enthusiasm of our transatlantic cousins, they are undeniably the trend setters in consumer capitalism. What followed was one of the most successful marketing ploys to boost retail in decades, extending the Christmas shopping period and creating a false sense of urgency to buy. 

As with all marketing initiatives, consumers soon became savvy and the discount claims came under closer scrutiny. Consumer watchdog Which? released a study this year revealing that just one in seven Black Friday deals is genuine. They did this by analysing the cost of products for 6 months either side of the day versus the Black Friday deals across seven big retailers. The report exposed prices for 86% of the products were the same or lower during the rest of the year. Which? turned on the trend’s architects, calling Amazon the “worst retailer overall for dubious discounts”. 

How does all this cynical price manipulation affect smaller businesses? For a start, the cost of impressions on social media rockets as brands of all sizes pump more and more cash into Meta in the hope of acquiring new customers. There are only a finite number of eyeballs on Facebook and Instagram at any given time, but a surge of advertisers wishing to get in front of them at this time of year. For this reason, the price to be seen a thousand times (CPM) shoots up 19% the day before Black Friday and 50% on the day itself. So for a small business to absorb a higher customer acquisition cost (CAC) paying more for Meta ads at the same time as offering discounts good enough to stand out from the crowd, it becomes difficult to maintain any reasonable margin. 

Next we should consider what message the discounts give to your loyal customers. “If I’ve been purchasing your product for X all year, and now you tell me it costs Y, why would I go back to paying X?!”

At Vinca Wine, we crunched the numbers, watched the trends and decided in November 2021 that we wouldn’t offer any discounts on Black Friday. Instead, we encouraged new and existing customers to make purchases by sending a free gift of wine to their friend. We found our sales increased by 148% and our organic social engagement rocketed too. The messaging optics of brightening somebody else’s day with a free gift resonates far more with Vinca than the greed of cheap products for yourself. Not only that, it also turns your customers into advocates by spreading the word about the brand. We found that in 2021, 100% of the recipients of the free gift were new to Vinca and 28% of them went on to make a purchase in the next 6 months. 

That’s why this year, we’ll send a free discovery pack to surprise and delight a friend whenever somebody orders 9 cans of Vinca. Great wine should always be shared. 

Together we can.


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