Black Friday is one of the most important days in the retail calendar for a lot of businesses, if not the most essential. It is a pivotal time for retailers to generate revenue and meet their financial goals. With discounts and promotions galore, businesses are always looking to set themselves apart from the rest of the competition. Without a successful Black Friday marketing campaign, it’s easy to get left behind!
As we go into the holiday season, we thought we’d round up some of the best Black Friday marketing campaigns of 2021 and all time. We also wanted to look at how you could use these examples for your own marketing, as well as a touch of SEO wizardry to optimise your website, ready for Black Friday 2022.
Black Friday 2021: What Happened?
In 2020 the focus on online shopping had never been greater whilst the UK tried to celebrate Christmas safely amidst the global pandemic. But it seems there has been a shift in 2021.
Statistics reported by The Guardian suggest a record 9.2bn was spent this year, a 15% increase on 2020. Whilst online sales were still strong, the high street did bounce back somewhat. Overall, Black Friday 2021 was the UK’s biggest yet.
We’re getting so used to Black Friday that we’re talking about it less, but it’s still the biggest shopping day of the year and marketers should ignore it at their peril. It’s getting much harder to innovate and stand out from the crowd, so we’ve had a look at the landscape today.
Who ranked highest for ‘Black Friday sales’?
When it comes to ranking on the first page of the search results, competition is fierce and on Black Friday this is no exception.
While some may believe that sales are what matter most, it is important to remember that rankings play a vital role in the conversion process. Once your customers find you online, this will increase your chances of them buying from you.
Who dominated the SERPs over Black Friday weekend?
- John Lewis
- House of Fraser
- Not On The High Street
- Toms Guide
- The Independent
- Radio Times
- Radio Times
As you can see, big businesses dominate the rankings for this term, but why is that? One significant reason is that bigger firms generally have more search engine trust than smaller companies. Though not a legitimate metric (it was created by Moz), Domain Authority ratings are a good indicator as to how “trusted” a website is.
There are lots of factors that can affect the rankings of a website, such bounce rates, conversion rates, backlink profiles and page speed. But generally speaking and not to oversimplify it, the higher your DA, the easier it will be to rank for competitive keywords.
‘Black Friday sale’, ‘Black Friday deals’ and ‘Black Friday offers’ are all highly competitive keywords that can be difficult to rank for when fighting against the big boys.
So, how can smaller businesses outrank larger companies on Black Friday?
If you are a smaller business it can seem impossible to rank against the more established websites with a wider following, but there are ways of doing this if you’re willing to play the long game and be a little more thoughtful in your approach.
Consider The Keywords You Target More Carefully
You may have to reconsider the keywords you’re targeting. The bigger websites with high DA are most likely to take up the top positions for general short form keywords and trying to target these can be a costly exercise with not much return. That time and energy could be better placed digging a little deeper.
If you target long tail Black Friday related keywords with less competition that are hyper-relevant to your business and what you sell, your chances of ranking well will (hopefully) increase. As will the relevancy of the traffic coming to your website, naturally improving conversion rates.
Sell branded products? Consider targeting branded keywords. For example, “Black Friday Nutribullet deals” has a competition score of 24% by comparison to the more general “Black Friday deals” with a score 56% – meaning the branded term should be easier to rank for.
The same thinking can be applied to non-branded terms too. For example, “Black Friday clothes deals” has a competition score of 34%, compared to “Black Friday winter coat deals” with a competition score of just 18%.
The search volume for the less competitive terms may be lower, but your traffic will be better qualified. As you’re targeting users that are further down the sales funnel, you’ll have a greater chance of converting a visitor into a customer.
It’s also worth taking into account how the likes of Google categorise your business and how this can have an impact on the results that are delivered in the SERPs based on relevancy.
Take a look at the above companies, what do they have in common?
The retail businesses offer a range of different consumer goods, none of them are particularly niche when you consider their product range. The other sites that ranked well were review articles of “the best Black Friday offers”.
Google will present these results because it has a picture of what those types of users are looking for. This is all based on how it understands Black Friday shoppers due to previously collected search query data and how users have gotten to that point (plus the tons of other ranking factors we touched on above).
Generalist search terms for generalist shoppers.
You could try all the SEO tactics in the world, but if search engines just don’t deem you a relevant result for that search, you’re not going to stand much of a chance.
Consumer Driven Content
What is your audience looking for on Black Friday? What questions are they asking? Creating high-quality, highly targeted content will give your customers what they want, improve the user experience and trustworthiness of your website as visitors will stick around for longer.
Not only is it better from a user point of view, but good, targeted content will also afford you more opportunity to build quality backlinks as more external websites will be able to cite your content. As a result of these things, you will hopefully see increases in your rankings… and sales!
Other Ways To Draw Attention To Black Friday Marketing Campaigns
Black Friday can actually be quite a hard day to try and attract first-time customers, especially when you’re going up against such strong competition with multi-channel marketing campaigns. Relying on organic traffic is a little bit of a long shot unless you totally tie down those long tail keywords.
But this doesn’t mean you should give up, or turn your back on using a Black Friday marketing campaign to attract more customers. Here are just some of the ways you can help your brand stand out to Black Friday shoppers, without a massive marketing budget:
Intriguing Email Marketing Campaign
What They Did: Apple
Rather than simply sending out the details of their sale on Black Friday, Apple is known for starting Black Friday campaigns a few days early. Taking charge of a marketing channel that is often underestimated, they send out their first email over a week before the big day, then feed through more emails with more details of their offers.
This interactive version of a countdown timer can create urgency and anticipation for the sales while also making sure Apple is at the top of peoples list.
What You Can Do:
Research by Shopify suggests that email marketing has the highest average conversion rate of all the traditional Black Friday marketing campaign tools. As well as trying Apple’s repeated email approach, you can make sure your Black Friday email marketing campaign is extra effective in other ways.
Offering people early access to sales prices or initiatives should encourage sign-ups to build your list for future communications, helping you see benefits from your Black Friday campaigns for many months more.
Refresh Your PPC & Paid Advertising
What They Did: Nasty Gal
Although they are an established clothing retailer, Nasty Gal still needed a Black Friday marketing campaign to help them stand out. They updated all their PPC & Paid Advertising to make it Black Friday specific, including references to Black Friday in text and graphic design and staying strong in their voice. They even included a bold black background in their visual adverts to make sure their entire Black Friday campaign was on theme.
What You Can Do:
Your Black Friday marketing campaign is the perfect time to look at your PPC budget and check you’re making the most of it. See what ad campaigns have worked well in the past, think about how they can be refreshed and repurposed to suit a season dominated by online shopping anyway.
PPC isn’t traditionally the highest converting channel for Black Friday campaigns but it is highly effective in driving traffic and brand awareness. Make sure you’re maximising your returns.
An Imaginative Social Media Marketing Campaign
What They Did: MeUndies
In order to capture new customers, retail brand ‘MeUndies’ held an exclusive Facebook live party complete with a DJ. As more and more of their Facebook followers logged on, the brand offered more details about their sales and other purchases, effectively rewarding customers for taking part.
What You Can Do:
Of course, all the usual ways of harnessing social platforms still apply to a Black Friday marketing campaign. Use social media posts to promote your sales, making sure to include clear calls to action and providing links for followers to click straight through.
But for a truly successful Black Friday marketing campaign, think about how you can use your social accounts in more creative ways to really involve your audience.
Offer Epic Black Friday Deals
What They Did: Pretty Little Thing
Clothing retailer Pretty Little Thing hit the headlines this year by running an unbelievable ‘Upto 99% Off’ Black Friday campaign across their website, generating a huge amount of PR coverage. This means some of their stock was retailing at less than £1. A new pair of shoes for 25p anyone? Dress for 8p?
This was not the most straightforward sale success though, as it has drawn many to accuse the clothing retailer of promoting the values of fast fashion at its worst.
What You Can Do:
Black Friday is the time to provide really special deals and make sure they stand out. 10 or 20% off just doesn’t really cut it anymore. Not everyone can stretch to ‘99% off’ though – and there is an ethical question over whether you should.
But promo codes, money off vouchers and multi-buy deals can all work. Rewards of smaller value such as a free gift make a nice alternative while a free gift card will ensure your customers return to your site in future.
Alternative Black Friday Marketing Campaigns
As the rest of the world whips into a Black Friday sales frenzy, some brands stand against the traditional rollout of special prices, deals and offers to entice holiday shoppers to part with their cash.
Instead, they stand proudly by their brand values, whether these relate to the evils of fast fashion, environmental change or capitalism in general.
A great example of an Anti-Black Friday campaign that is tied perfectly to brand values is the ‘Opt Outside’ campaign that outdoor recreation services company REI run.
In 2015, REI announced a decision to close the doors to its physical stores on Black Friday in an attempt to encourage their staff and customers to spend time exploring the outdoors instead of shopping.
Though the aim of this campaign was to raise awareness of the benefits of being outdoors, it scores pretty high on the list of successful Black Friday marketing campaigns too, generating a large amount of PR coverage. It is the kind of move that inspires fierce brand loyalty and ensures their target audience will be back to do their holiday shopping.
Shutting Up Shop
In fact, many retailers take an extra step and stop people from making Black Friday purchases at all by closing. Companies like skincare brand Deciem and clothing retailer Askit closed both their physical and online stores as part of a Black Friday marketing campaign to protect their employees and promote conscious consumerism.
Preventing physical and online purchases might feel at odds with standard sales practices, but staking their profits on such a bold, ethical statement can seriously boost brand awareness. Beyond Black Friday is still peak shopping season and customers buying holiday gifts will remember the name of a brand that stands so proudly by its principles.
Just For The Lol’s
One brand that doesn’t necessarily tie its anti-Black Friday campaigns to an obvious value or moral message is Cards Against Humanity. They take a more trolling approach to this sales event.
Over the last decade, they’ve run a fundraising campaign to dig an utterly pointless ‘Holiday Hole’ and encouraged people to buy literal bull poop as part of their deals. In 2020 they held off creating any Black Friday ‘deals’ in response to a terrible year.
But in 2021 they were back with a whole new take on a Black Friday campaign. A list of tasks they would pay customers to complete, including giving a hotdog to a mail carrier, alphabetising your cards against humanity deck and even getting a Covid vaccination.
These stunts tie perfectly into the Cards Against Humanity brand, muddying an ethical objection with unusual and often pointless action. It’s the perfect pitch for their unique brand identity.
Some brands don’t stretch to full anti-Black Friday campaigns. They subvert the shopping event instead, still advertising Black Friday promotions but tying them to charitable and environmental donations.
Outdoor clothing brand Patagonia was a pioneer of this approach back in 2016, when they donated 100% of their profits from Black Friday to charities dedicated to environmental change.
This extreme approach was picked up and shared on personal social media by high profile activists such as Al Gore and Emma Watson as well as news outlets like the New York Times. Though the company may not have made a financial benefit on Black Friday itself, the increase in their social media engagement gave them a long term gain to help ease the sting of any Black Friday losses.
How To Harness An Anti-Black Friday Campaign
If you’re planning an Anti-Black Friday campaign, there is one thing to beware of. It must be honest and heartfelt.
All of the above campaigns may have had a cynical secondary benefit to the companies that ran them, but this was not their main motivation. They were willing to take serious hits to their profits to prove their commitment to their message, and that’s what matters.
Rolling out a cynical Black Friday campaign bent on profit behind a guise of being ethical won’t work. People will see through it easily, and it will likely make them actively resent and avoid your brand.
Black Friday: The Benefits
The rush of Black Friday campaigns actually signal the start of the holiday shopping season. Many businesses who run effective Black Friday campaigns will see benefits that run for months, as the raised brand awareness draws customers back again and again. It’s up to you whether you stake that on your reputation, your morals or your heavily discounted prices. Just make sure it’s authentic.
2021’s bumper Black Friday proves there is still interest in this iconic sale period, and 2022 could see even bigger growth. But you don’t have to wait till then to spruce up your digital marketing campaign and get in there early.
If you’d like to have a chat about how we can help you level up your digital marketing ready for Black Friday 2022, whether that’s SEO, content marketing or social media advertising, get in touch!