Tuesday 10 November 2020 6:09 am

DEBATE: Will Black Friday save the retail industry?

Kam Phullar is lead strategist at Feed Agency
and Nic Pietersma
Nic Pietersma is business director at Ebiquity

Will Black Friday save the retail industry?

Kam Phullar, lead strategist at Feed Agency, says YES.

Occuring during England’s second lockdown, this Black Friday will be an online-only affair. But if brands get it right, 2020 could be the biggest online Black Friday yet, and a step towards saving the retail industry in the long term.  

Preparation is key and brands must offer a flawless e-commerce experience to stand a chance: overhauling old legacy systems to accommodate the influx of site traffic, introducing tech like augmented reality to allow customers to “try before they buy” online, and ensuring delivery options like click and collect cater for a range of needs. 

Brands must also introduce better ways to interact with consumers in real time, such as business messaging and chatbots to mitigate against chaos if things do go wrong. 

People need cheering up this November, and Black Friday offers a chance for some serious retail therapy. This is the year to nail online commerce once and for all.

Nic Pietersma, business director at Ebiquity, says NO.

In the midst of Covid’s second wave, it seems very unlikely Black Friday will be retail’s starting gun for recovery this year.  

At a household level, Black Friday will be very uneven. While many families have struggled financially this year because of lockdown measures, others have stayed in employment and accumulated additional savings from not going out.

However, just because some consumers can spend, it doesn’t mean they will. And even if they do, retailers have previously seen that up to 45 per cent of Black Friday revenue is simply displaced from the weeks before and after the event. Black Friday is not necessarily the saviour people would expect.

Instead of a short-term focus on Black Friday, retailers hoping for a lasting recovery should take a longer-term approach, particularly focusing on customer experience. Long-term investment in customer experience — online and offline, once shops are allowed to reopen — can be a pivotal driver of sales success. That is a much better focus for retailers, rather than prioritising one day at the end of November.

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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