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Big brands vs. smaller retailers: merchants go head-to-head online this Black Friday across Europe

Small businesses are taking on the big brands this Black Friday, according to Ingenico Group, which has partnered with YouGov to study customer behaviours and identify opportunities for smaller retailers this year.

The Pan-European study which examined consumers in the UK, France, Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and Germany, revealed the huge potential for UK merchants to use Black Friday as a sales tactic to promote their brand in diverse markets.

Nearly half (48%) of Belgium Black Friday shoppers opt to shop with online retailers that sell international brands. Meanwhile, 40% of French consumers are willing to shop with foreign retailers online during Black Friday sales. In contrast, UK consumers say they prefer to shop with online retailers that sell established brands (31%) during Black Friday – just 6% prefer shopping with stockists of international brands.

Ingenico warns, though, that security is required when selling to shoppers outside of the UK. In France, online payment security was found to be the top concern when purchasing across borders (24%), while Spanish shoppers list payment security as the most important factor (23% chose this as their top priority) after affordability on the peak sales day (45%).

Less than half of the UK’s 2,000 respondents (45%) cited discounts as the feature they desire most during the Black Friday online sales.

Driving this surprising response is growing widespread scepticism from almost two thirds of respondents that the discounts are artificial (65%). Over a quarter (27%) of us would reportedly prefer other incentives such as unique products, loyalty and referral bonuses, an extended returns/ exchange window period or free next-day shipping.

While Amazon is expected to dominate the Black Friday landscape, the global retail giant won’t have it all its own way. Almost one in every eight (12%) online Black Friday shoppers in the UK prefer to shop with small businesses or niche retailers on Black Friday. Perhaps a sign that the tide is turning in favour of the smaller players who are able to cut through the noise of the mass sales period with targeted products, service and payment options that enable them to reach a growing international audience.

Andy Mulcahy, Strategy and Insight Director at the UK’s online retail association, IMRG, said: “Black Friday is very closely associated with discounting in the minds of UK shoppers, so most retailers tend to keep their message quite simple and focused on that theme. However, it may be difficult for a small retailer to compete in that way with larger retailers, so they could consider trying an alternative approach; perhaps donating a percentage of each sale to a charity for example instead of discounting, or running community-specific events if they have stores. Another option may be to include some degree of free consultation on the products they sell – which might suit beauty, exercise or electronics – for items purchased during their Black Friday campaign period.”

Use of technology will also impact strategy, with 42% of 18-24 year-olds usually using a retailer’s app to shop during Black Friday.

Benoit Boudier, Managing Director, EMEA, Small and Medium Businesses at Ingenico, advises smaller retailers to use this to their advantage when taking on the larger brands this year: “Technology is levelling the playing field in ecommerce. Those that enable international sales, in local language, currencies and payment methods, as well as optimising their sites for mobile commerce, will be the big winners this year as customers browse for the best deals, products and incentives throughout the sales period.”

As we approach the year’s busiest retail period, Ingenico is providing guidance and support to online retailers of all sizes:

  • Offer unique value-adds to retain discount hunters in the long term

  • Make sure payment provider has a stable platform to handle the extra surge of visitors trying to checkout

  • Tune fraud rules to maximise conversion

  • Offer local currencies and payment methods for key European markets

  • Step up capacity to handle an influx of returns and refunds between Black Friday and Christmas

Fun (Black) Friday Facts

  • I am the one and only: Almost half (42%) of UK respondents mainly buy for themselves on Black Friday. Only 13% mainly buy for their partner and just 4% for their friends.

  • Love the one you’re with: Only 15% of married shoppers buy something for their partner on Black Friday.

  • Me(n), me(n), me(n): In the UK, over half of men (53%) buy for themselves, yet only a third (33%) of women buy for themselves.

  • Ain’t nobody got time for that: 66% of over-55 year-olds would not wait for an item they wanted to be discounted in Black Friday sales. Younger shoppers (18-24) on the other hand are more spend savvy – over a quarter (26%) of 18-24 year-olds would wait up to three months for a deal.

  • Goodbye family guy: Only 24% of men buy for their families, versus 41% of women.


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