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September Comtent Club Roundup: Black Friday And Beyond in London

Posted 2 weeks ago by Angus

In the words of one of our panellists at last night’s Comtent Club, the holiday season is the one “everyone’s waiting for”. Growing up that meant presents, but for our publisher and merchant clients people await the arrival of the holiday season and Black Friday with trepidation. It’s an ecommerce monster and that can cause problems if you aren’t prepared, which is why we thought it’d be perfect subject matter for a Comtent Club.

For the first time our panel included merchants, as well as publishers. Often we find both sides of our client base are working to different schedules, with different priorities, so thought bringing together would help clarify these perspectives and hopefully prove more insightful.

There were two speakers from each side, making a total panel of four, chaired by our CEO Alicia Navarro. For the publishers they were Jon Hicks from Gamer Network and Henry Burrell from IDG UK and for the merchants we had Chris Worthy from eBay and Filip Janczak from Bluebella speak.

Here’s some of our key takeaways:

It really is getting earlier every year

“Christmas creep” is real. For Gamer Network Jon said people start thinking about Black Friday in July and August and Filip said Black Friday kicks things off in November and keeps them high through till the January sales.

Chris from eBay had an interesting perspective, which we see in our network, that the holiday season is lasting later. As logistics have improved, people have been able to put off their shopping deeper into December, waiting until around December 15th for the last guaranteed shipping date for Christmas.

How does Black Friday affect the holiday season?

There’s been a lot of talk about whether Black Friday is a good or a bad thing, in the sense that winning on Black Friday can mean losing overall by taking focus away from the holiday season and losing it all. The panel didn’t feel winning on Black Friday has to mean losing out overall.

Filip said January sales can actually be better than Christmas because people take advantage of offers. Henry pointed out that for tech products, deals aren’t necessarily that great on Black Friday and people are savvy enough to see through it, so despite seeing a spike on Black Friday that doesn’t mean that you fall off a cliff in the earlier part of the year. Chris said eBay now see it as a catalyst that drives velocity up for the whole period and drew attention to the fact eBay now views it as an extended sales period rather than a single specific peak.

Winning on Black Friday means stepping things up and making more of an effort

Henry said that at IDG they don’t change their content creation process, instead they just have to up their game, because it’s a more challenging time of year than normal. Sharing metaphrases with merchants for particular products, especially when creating content that features deals, makes competition especially fierce.

Filip felt for merchants they have to be reactive. They’ll have offers ahead of time that they send to publishers under embargo, but sometimes they’ll be leaked and that means being reactive. If particular products begin performing well merchants also need to respond to that too.

What happened in 2016 and what do they think will happen in 2017?

Predictably the panel were slightly wary of trying to predict too much about the year ahead.

Jon suggested things are just becoming more competitive. Traditionally niche publications have been able to benefit much more from their editorial expertise, leveraging that to provide excellent service to readers and customers, but Jon suggested 2016 was the first year broadsheet newspapers became engaged. So Gamer Network will be focused on ranking well for on search engines to get all the attention.

Henry agreed that competition was and will be intense. IDG’s guiding principle will be recommending products the team believe in, because they recognise that while there might be short term incentives to recommending some products, if they don’t believe them and readers get a poor experience then they’ll see through recommendations and stop paying attention.

Chris suggested he’ll be happy so long as it’s bigger and better. Consoles were huge in 2016, but eBay’s intention is to broaden out the verticals that have deals in 2017, although tech will always be the first one people focus on.

Filip pointed to the increasingly prominent role of social media and suggested merchants will be looking to amplify their reach across all channels to compete on Black Friday.

We’d like to thank all our guests for coming and our panel for their insights.

If you didn’t manage to make it, fear not as the next Comtent Club will take place in Q4 and you can register your interest here.

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