Adopted from America almost a decade ago, it has taken British shoppers a while to get warmed up to Black Friday but it has come a long way from its initial introduction to the high street, to the largest online retail movement it is today. While the initial mania and scramble for TVs in department stores may be over, the growing relationship shoppers have with Black Friday looks set to last.

One of the many reasons Black Friday has gripped UK shoppers so tightly is its increasingly stretched timeframe. Moving away from one significant day of price drops, the occasion has become a much longer shopping sensation and a fantastic opportunity to bag a great deal. Its evolution means the original American import is now well and truly ingrained in UK shoppers behaviour. 

At eBay Advertising, we have insights into the shopping behaviour of the 32 million unique users of our UK site each month – and these reveal some interesting patterns that should influence the way brands engage with consumers in the run-up to Black Friday. Here are a few trends we’ve seen emerge over the past year, along with some advice on how advertisers can make their ad spend work hard for the occasion. 

Be the early bird that catches the worm

Black Friday has become an immersive, longer-term shopping experience. Consumers have been found to start actively searching for Black Friday deals up to a week and a half prior to the event.

It’s not just a case of starting early as Black Friday ends late, with shoppers continuing to come out in force on ‘Super Sunday’ (the Sunday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday). Last year, purchases of coffee brand ‘Krups’ rose by 23% two days after Black Friday, having already increased by 78% on Black Friday itself. 

This new pattern of starting early and ending late highlights the widening window of opportunity for brands to engage with sales-hungry shoppers – suggesting that audiences should be targeted and inspired well in advance. Clearly, shoppers are thinking about Black Friday way before the occasion itself – and are likely to have drawn up their shopping lists and know exactly what they want to buy in advance of Black Friday. Relevant ads served to consumers in the run-up to the event will help brands ensure they are front of mind when the money starts to flow.

Don’t assume shoppers want the same things every year

Brands across all sectors should sit up and pay attention because data suggests that Black Friday is no longer a tech-centric occasion. 

For example, in 2018, the clothes, shoes and accessories category on saw a 36% uplift in purchases on Black Friday compared to the same time the previous week. Sports clothing, in particular, saw a boost as fitness fanatics maximised the savings over Black Friday to splurge on ski wear and gym gear – with purchases of Adidas products rising a quarter (25%) overnight. Sporting equipment also experienced a similar boost with purchases soaring 27% in total. On top of that, we saw purchases of ‘golf clubs’ and ‘ski jackets’ lift 21% and 23% respectively on Black Friday, compared to the day before. Even the vehicle, parts and accessories category cashed in on the shopping frenzy, with purchases ramping up 11% overnight.

Rather than assume they know what shoppers are in the market for, advertisers should analyse insights like these to ensure they’re not missing an opportunity to engage with potential customers or wasting their money on those who are unlikely to be interested. 

Remember, context is king

Black Friday looks set to be bigger than ever this year due to the calendar date on which it falls. In 2019, Black Friday will land on 29th November – almost a full week later than last year. This is important for two reasons  – firstly, it’s more likely that it will be after (or on) payday for many UK shoppers, and secondly, it’s closer to Christmas – the biggest shopping occasion of the year. 

On this basis, consumers are likely to have more disposable income available to splash on purchases, as well as being more inclined to think about Christmas gifts – meaning the opportunity for advertisers during this year’s Black Friday is particularly significant.

With a potentially bigger prize available, advertisers should harness both behavioural and contextual insights to engage with shoppers with the right content at the right moment. Contextual targeting means consumers can be served ads when they’re already in the mood to shop – taking some of the guesswork out of how likely they’ll be to convert.

Ready, set, advertise

As we near Black Friday, it’s crunch time for advertisers and these findings highlight just how important it is for advertisers to have a solid but flexible strategy in place. Brands should plan early and engage well in advance, and incorporate meaningful data into their campaigns at every stage to ensure their efforts lead to big returns. By targeting the right people at the right time and in the right way, advertisers can reduce potential wastage and bag themselves even bigger savings than consumers do come discount day.