What on Earth is so bad about Black Friday?

The festive sales period can be a challenging time for planet-positive businesses - here's why, and what you can do about it

Born in the United States in the 1950s, Black Friday was originally a term coined by police in Philadelphia to describe what they’d have to face at work the day after Thanksgiving, as crowds of shoppers descended on the cities from the suburbs to grab a bargain ahead of Christmas. The crowds brought with them traffic jams, over-crowded sidewalks and even violence. 

This distinctly US event was first brought to the UK by Amazon in 2010 and soon found its way to Australia and the rest of the world via the wonders of the internet.

The cost of a bargain on Black Friday

Although many people plan throughout the year and save up to buy that one item or gadget on Black Friday, Cyber Monday or during the Boxing Day sales, much of what is pushed during these times are luxury goods that we don’t need. All this dents a hole in our wallets and the environment, with the increased demand on the transportation sector, combined with the waste generated by unwanted presents and cheaply-made goods that were never intended to last more than a few uses.

Then there is the service industry who work across the festive period in warehouses for the likes of Amazon, where mandatory overtime pits workers against the clock, forcing them to stay on their feet for 12-16 hours a day.

For a business that typically has lower wages, of the top 50 retailers in the U.S. Amazon accounted for almost half (45.1 percent) of all sales on Thanksgiving Day and the majority (54.9 percent) on Black Friday. It’s a similar picture in the UK, with Amazon accounting for 37 percent of all online sales. Thanks to the pandemic causing more people to shop online, Amazon’s profit in the first three months of 2021 alone came in at $8.1bn (£5.8bn) – more than triple what it was in the same period last year.

And if you’re not Amazon on Black Friday?

Although sales events like Black Friday can be helpful to increase sales, shift stock and acquire new customers, small, independent and sustainable businesses often struggle to be seen during these big sales events.

A study by Shopify revealed that Facebook marketers view Facebook and Instagram as the top-performing marketing channels, especially for e-commerce brands. This means that lots of businesses are selling their products on these channels all the time. But because Facebook uses ad auctions to determine the best ad to show to a person at a given point in time, when more brands are competing to get their ads shown to their audiences at the same time, the cost of advertising goes up.

Billions of auctions take place every day across the Facebook family of apps, but Black Friday is unique, with ad costs typically spiking by 25 percent or more.

So, what can small businesses do to get more exposure during the Black Friday sales?

1. Consider what you can offer, other than just discounts.

Ingenico ePayments’ 2018 pan-European Black Friday report found that discounts aren’t necessarily the only thing motivating buyers and that the most successful small businesses leveraged the unique value they could offer customers. The report found that 27 percent of UK consumers stated that they would prefer other incentives such as unique products, loyalty and referral bonuses, extended returns or free next-day shipping, over discounts.

2. Support the community of sustainable brands.

Initiatives like Earth Collective’s Green Out Black Friday encourage sustainable brands to support each other by encouraging their customers and audiences to spend their hard-earned money only with eco-friendly brands during the Black Friday and Christmas period. The initiative also inspires shoppers to share their pledge with their own networks, by posting a green square on their social media feeds on 26th November.

3. Reward loyalty with a slow sale.

Digital agency for brands committed to change, Hello Earth says if businesses want to offer their loyal customers discounts over prominent sales periods, a slow sale is a great way to ensure considered purchases.

“Running a week-long (or longer) sale with a discount rewards their custom, without promoting excessive purchases, and in our experience results in higher value orders and long customer loyalty,” says Hello Earth Commercial & Strategy Director, Stephanie Fisher.

In addition, a website ‘wish list’ allows customers to slowly browse collections in the weeks leading up to the sale, adding the items they are intending to purchase once the sale is open to their own wish list.

4. Walk your talk, and tell the world about it.

Above all else, a brand that does what it says it will when it comes to its ethical and sustainable values, as well as its product quality and functionality, and customer service, will always get cut through-with its existing audience – because they will be coming to you already; but also with new audiences via referrals and word of mouth.

If you’re doing good things for humans and the planet, don’t be afraid shout about it! Your community is out there waiting to hear from you.

Earth Collective has partnered with Hello Earth – the digital agency for brands committed to change – to spread the word across the world about the Green Out Black Friday movement.
If you would like your planet-positive brand to be listed as an Earth Collective recommended destination for conscious shopping across Black Friday and throughout the festive season, and receive all the benefits that come with that, please get in touch with Charli at cferrand@weareearthcollective.com before 15th November 2021.

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Charli Ferrand Higgins

After a decade working for global and boutique PR and Marketing agencies in Sydney, with clients that included some of the biggest consumer brands in the world, Charli returned to her homeland of the UK in 2017 and decided the time had come to use her professional skills and experience for good. She has since split her time between supporting passionate, purpose-driven small and medium-sized businesses to grow through conscious content marketing, managing and editing the planet-positive content hub Earth Collective (weareearthcollective.com), and hosting the podcast Easy Being Green? Lessons in sustainable business for SMEs.

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