BUS 191130 BLACK FRIDAY-1575117008759
UAE's brick-and-mortar retailers are getting the hang of omni-channel options for their shoppers. Image Credit: REUTERS

The US tradition of Black Friday has become one of the most anticipated days for dedicated bargain hunters. The Middle East has developed its own bigger - and better - version of this event.

These sales go the extra mile by running for up to four days each November. Black Friday represents the best (and final) opportunity of the year for Gulf shoppers to bag a deal ahead of the holiday season – especially in the UAE. Given the impact on percentage of their annual sales, brands need to develop specific content and e-trade marketing strategies for this period and really understand what tactics to employ to cut through the ‘white noise’.

Whether sales are black, white, yellow, cyber or single, the importance of planning and executing for these events to our clients cannot be underestimated. These days very few categories are excluded from impact of online shopping festivals, From food and clothing to electronics and beauty, and everything in between, increased spending activity at these times has not only become the norm in the UAE and Middle East, but transforming in-store purchasing habits and as such occasions have rightly become a focus of brands marketing activity.

In Saudi Arabia, Amazon emerged as the sector leader, where 41 per cent of those surveyed by Twitter said they intend to use the platform on White Friday, followed closely by noon, at 38 per cent. And, with options such as next-day delivery and flexible payment plans offered by brick-and-mortar and large cyber platforms alike, technology has succeeded in enticing even the most seasoned shoppers.

We are seeing shoppers adopt a hybrid mentality in their purchase preferences. In the not-so-distant past, Black Friday centred around in-store discounts, while Cyber Monday was, well… cyber.

Buy from anywhere

These days shoppers are used to buying anywhere just as long as they get quality, convenience and value. Today. neither sales day is segment-exclusive – a trend that has been accelerated in no small part by advances in marketplace e-commerce, especially with the adoption of q-commerce strategies by many of the big players.

With the ‘q’ standing for ‘quick’, this growing industry has enticed many bargain hunters away from traditional in-store models, providing major discounts online, without the need to wait days for their purchases to arrive.

Indeed, when Twitter asked Saudi shoppers about their preferences ahead of Black Friday, 21 per cent planned to shop solely online. With three-quarters of UAE consumers now preferring to shop online, and the UAE’s e-commerce sector alone forecast to increase to more than $8 billion during 2021-25, it’s no surprise the savviest retailers and marketplaces are embracing this model in a bid to distinguish themselves from their rivals.

Despite a huge shift online, there are still huge opportunities to grow online sales. The region still lags the UK, US and China on in terms of ecommerce sales as a percentage of total sales in pretty much every category. So there’s still much to play for.

Shopping festivals do their job

It’s true the pandemic accelerated the shift of online in the region, but it’s also true that shopping festivals are hugely responsible for maintaining that momentum here. From a regional perspective, Black Friday and its multicolour constituents are most popular among customers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Last year, for example, Black Friday saw shopping app installation increase by 24 per cent in the UAE.

However, with 41 per cent of UAE residents choosing to shop both in-store and online during these events, physical outlets are continuing to hold their own. For brands and retailers, there really in no choice but to show up at your best and with consistency wherever you sell.

It’s for this reason that many retailers are investing significant time and resources into ensuring their online deals match in-store offerings, not only when it comes to price but also in terms of delivery speed.

This Yellow Friday, televisions have been very popular. To add to the excitement of this year's mega-sale, our selling partners have come through with deals on top-selling TVs. For instance, the Samsung 60-inch QLED 4K Smart TV, which was priced Dh4,999, is now just Dh2,299

- Neha Choudhary, Growth & Digital Strategy, noon

Make that experience seamless

Because shoppers expectations have changed, we are all much more demanding. A study conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Google found that regional consumers expect a seamless shopping experience, regardless of whether it takes place in-store, online or through a combination of the two. The growing preference for hybrid shopping is demonstrated by the fact that 80 per cent of consumers now watch videos to inform themselves before making purchases and more and more of us are using marketplaces as our primary search engine.

Given the ever-rising expectations of Middle East shoppers, it’s no wonder that retailers are striving to supplement first-rate sales deals – both physical and online – with the convenience offered by q-commerce.

It’s never been more important to plan for a seamless shopping experience that combines incredible deals with superior levels of convenience. While many shoppers will still prefer to visit brick-and-mortar stores during the region’s biggest sales period, retailers and brands must act now to supplement their offerings with compelling online buying options across a range of marketplaces to gain a truly competitive advantage.