Whether you view Black Friday as a single day, week, month, or an unofficial extra quarter in the business calendar, it can be just as stressful for marketers as it is for shoppers. It’s a pressure cooker of high expectations, loads of data, and decisions that have to be made at lightning speed.
And for many retailers, Black Friday sales can make or break your entire year. That means your entire marketing team needs to be on top of their game. But how?
In order to better understand what goes into pulling off a successful Black Friday campaign, we sat down with the team at Happy Socks, Sweden’s iconically quirky sock brand. Representing the brand were Robin Ahrnéll, the head of e-commerce; Jorge Montoya, the global digital marketing manager; and Charan Mandapati, an SEO and go-to-market specialist.
Left to right: Robin Ahrnéll, Jorge Montoya, and Charan Mandapati
Finding balance is critical
We first wanted to get their thoughts on what it takes to thrive this holiday shopping season.
In their view, it’s all about balance. Take your planning, for instance. You need to come to the table with a solid strategy for how you will promote and position your products, but you have to be ready to adapt at a moment’s notice.
“We carefully examine data from last year to set the stage,” said Jorge. “But once Black Friday kicks off, we’re performing hourly optimizations to meet the market.”
Additionally, the team must carefully balance promoting existing products, showcasing limited-run holiday-themed goods, and breaking through against any and all competitors.
“Determining your top-line offer is so difficult and so critical,” said Robin. “We are a premium brand, so we don’t want to dilute that with too deep of a discount for Black Friday. But we also are competing in a market full of retailers slashing prices. Getting to that sweet spot in your offer requires great insights as well as a leap of faith.”
Your brand versus all comers
Finding the perfect discount point can be challenging, partly due to the odd nature of the holiday shopping season. As Robin pointed out, your brand doesn’t just compete with your regular set of competitors.
“Black Friday is that one time of year when you compete against every other brand in the market,” said Robin. “Your customers have one holiday budget, so your product needs to push something else off their list.”
That means, in the case of Happy Socks, they are suddenly competing with cosmetic brands, smaller apparel and accessories, aromatherapy goods, and more.
The perfect discount rate can help your brand keep its place on the holiday wish list. But that alone won’t mean a winning holiday season. You need to have the foresight to anticipate what consumers will be looking for.
Welcome to a better Black Friday
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Predicting shopper desires
In order to predict future behaviors, you need to look to the past. And the only way to understand past results effectively is through the data.
“In the build up to Black Friday, we analyze year-over-year data as well as performance from our mid-year activities," said Charan. “Our summer sale, for instance, is used as a sort of stress test for the holiday shopping season.”
By launching a window of discounted prices in a traditionally slower sales season, Happy Socks can gain a perspective into what promotions and tactics help to move the needle. It also helps them to understand where there might be misalignment in the data.
“In addition to our online and physical stores, we also have our B2B channels that represent our third-party retailers,” said Charan. “ The problem is that, at peak sales volume, there can be discrepancies between our revenue numbers in third-party tools (like Google Analytics) and our internal systems. Those discrepancies can be as much as 30 percent.”
By running a mid-year promotion, the Happy Socks team can more accurately measure and predict these discrepancies so they are factored into the hour-by-hour optimizations during peak season.
The Happy Socks advent calendar is already one of their top selling items in mid-September.
View your brand as an omnichannel store
Black Friday is much more than a single-day holiday shopping spree these days. It’s spread over weeks. It’s not limited to physical stores either. Rather, peak holiday shopping occurs across e-commerce and third-party retailers, too.
That’s why the Happy Socks team doesn’t view the performance of each sales channel in silos. They employ an omnichannel approach that considers all sales channels as simply different access points to your brand.
Additionally, according to Robin, an omnichannel approach can give you more flexibility to play online and brick-and-mortar stores off each other.
“We often see demand trends emerge first through our e-commerce platform,” said Robin. “Then, those same trends start appearing at our physical stores. In that way, our e-commerce can help inform and improve in-store performance to ensure appropriate inventory levels are maintained.”
An omnichannel trend also helps them realize the greatest possible benefit from their marketing investment.
“When analyzing our media performance, we look at the whole picture,” said Robin. “Since our investment isn’t allocated solely to e-commerce or in-store, we can view the incremental value our spend brings to both channels.”
What’s on their wish list?
After sharing their strategies on how to maximize Black Friday, we asked the Happy Socks team what they wished they could have to help soothe the stress of the season.
For Charan, it was all about data.
“With iOS 17 coming, third-party data tracking will become even more difficult,” said Charan. “I’m looking to always improve our data stack to adapt to this future reality.”
Meanwhile, Jorge wanted to better understand the impact of their investments.
“I want to be able to measure incrementality everywhere,” said Jorge. “I want to have the information from every single channel in order to see the real value of all of our investments. I want to know exactly what’s driving our performance.”
Robin was still dreaming of a way to find the perfect Black Friday promotional offer.
“I want to be able to look into the future,” said Robin. “I want to know what that sweet-spot offer is. I mean, we’ve done our homework so far, but we still need to do a bit of guessing on how big the discount needs to be.”
At the end of the day, they are all seeking something that makes it incredibly easy to understand the real value of their investments and hone in on the sweet spot of optimal return against spend.
While that may sometimes feel elusive, we now know the perfect stocking stuffer for the Happy Socks team.
Disclaimer: The featured image for this article was created using generative AI.