How to run a Black Friday prize promotion

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Halloween flew past scarily quickly, Divali has briefly lit up the sky, Guy Fawkes Night has been and gone with a bang, and if you listen carefully the Christmas bells are already jingling, but before we get to the back end of the year, Black Friday looms large.

Naturally, I accept that Black Friday doesn’t have the same folklore or history as the other celebrations I’ve mentioned. In fact, although some quick research tells me that it’s been around in the US, where it originated as a post-Thanksgiving shopping splurge, since the 1940s, it only arrived in the UK in 2010, courtesy of Amazon.

At first, no one really noticed, but after Asda, owned by the giant US retailer Walmart, made 2013 headlines (there were scuffles at the checkouts by offering massive one-day-only discounts and deals, it fast established itself as a traditional fixture on the calendar.

This year Black Friday falls on 29 November, and will, of course, be swiftly followed by Cyber Monday on 2 December. Incidentally, the term Cyber Monday was apparently first coined in 2005, when marketers created the concept to encourage consumers to shop online – and that seems to have worked out quite well!

PcW says consumer sentiment in the UK has been remarkably resilient over the last five years, but a survey it carried out in September showed a modest decline in how confident people feel about spending money, with just over one in five consumers believing they would be better off in the coming year and over a quarter convinced they would be worse off.

It’s certainly pretty tough out there and any company’s performance on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, in fact across the whole Golden Quarter, as the run-up to Christmas is known in the retail trade, could be make or break.

Of course, some retailers make the decision not to enter the fray on Black Friday, reasoning that they can’t maintain their margins and are unlikely to hold on to fickle customers who are only there for a one-off saving, but many of the businesses and brands which do participate use prize promotions to help their offers stand out from the crowd and pull in the punters.

Make no mistake, you need to shout pretty loud to make yourself heard above the din and, particularly if there’s a limit to how low you can go, a prize promotion can genuinely make the difference between a potential customer choosing to buy a TV from you or the opposition.

Whether it’s a standard giveaway or a classic competition, a prize promotion could really give you that crucial edge over your competitors, but don’t get caught up in the whirl and throw due diligence to the winds. You still need to think through the structure and mechanism of your prize promotion carefully and make sure you have everything in place before the big day.

It’s also really important to do an accurate assessment of what the demand will be – remember the devastating consequences when Build-A-Bear got this wrong? – and to ensure your terms and conditions contain all the right caveats.

If, for example, you’re offering a discount code or voucher with every Black Friday purchase, can it be used on a same-day subsequent Black Friday order or as part of a multiple discount? (By the way, giving away discount codes and vouchers that must be used at a later date are a good way of ensuring those Black Friday customers come back to you.)

Prize fulfilment is also an issue you need to consider, particularly at a time when you hope, the Black Friday gods being willing, to be fulfilling a larger than usual number of orders. Will you or your supply chain be able to handle the increased demand? This is especially pertinent if you’re giving away your own products, and a successful Black Friday can impact on all areas of a business so make sure you’re geared up, but it’s equally relevant if you’re sourcing and fulfilling your prizes via a third party.

If you need help with any aspect of running a Black Friday prize promotion, Prizeology can oblige, and if you’re in the market for some Black Friday deals yourself, Which? has some very sensible advice.

Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist and is currently on a self-imposed spending ban so will not be purchasing anything this Black Friday. 

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