After #BlackFriday: Perspective on social media sentiment, popularity, transaction volumes
JOHANNESBURG – Available data indicates that Black Friday electronic payment (card and ETF) volumes increased by 35 percent compared with the same day in 2018. Google Trends data indicates that South Africa was the top country globally for ‘Black Friday’ searches during November 2019.
KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng were the provinces where consumers were most obsessed with searching for Black Friday deals online. Social media analysis shows that an average of 75 percent of South African tweets about Black Friday were positive in November 1-16 followed by several days of more negative sentiment.
A majority positive sentiment was seen during the November 20 to December 3 period although a declining trend was seen due to disappointing discounts. Economists from PwC Strategy& give the following insight.
Electronic transactions increase 35% from 2018
There is no comprehensive data collected in South Africa about total spending volumes and values for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. First National Bank (one of the country’s commercial banks) commented early on that merchants using its facilities had processed 40% more transaction by 14:00 on Black Friday compared to the same day in 2018. Payments service provider DPO South Africa and automated clearing house BankservAfrica both reported a 35% increase in transaction volume during the eight-day period ending on Monday, December 2.
Admittedly, these numbers represent electronic (card and EFT) transactions only and excludes cash purchases, layby arrangements, and contracts signed for instalment payments (e.g. mobile phone services). As a result, it is not possible yet to get a firm estimate of the rise in total value in rands spent over the shopping period – apart from suggesting a big increase. PwC’s survey of South African adults’ intentions to spend suggested consumers would be spending 36% more this year in Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng top Google Trends for ‘Black Friday’ searches
PwC used data from Google Trends to understand where – in what cities and towns – ‘Black Friday’ was more prominent in internet searches. Google Trends is a website by Alphabet that analyses the popularity of top search queries across various regions and languages. This data should be very rich for South Africa: Figure 1 shows that in the month of November, the country was the top search domain in the world for the term ‘Black Friday’. (Neighbouring Lesotho and Eswatini were also high up on the list.)
Figure 1: South Africans spent the largest share of their Google time in November searching for ‘Black Friday’ information
Source: Google Trends
Google Trends data is scored between 0 and 100. A score of 100 indicates that the specific location had the highest instances of Google searches for a specific term as a fraction of all searches in the area. A lower score indicates a lower fraction - not a higher absolute query count. A score of 50, for example, indicates that the fraction of searches in this specific location was half the size of the fraction calculated for the location scored 100.
Figure 2 shows that KwaZulu-Natal residents were the most obsessed with Black Friday. The top seven locations for ‘Black Friday’ searches were all located on the east coast: Umhlanga, Phoenix, Pinetown, Bluff, and various areas in Durban. (Westville was placed 12th.) Gauteng was the second-placed province with seven instances in the top 15: Sandton, Midrand, Lethabong, Brakpan, Germiston, Akasia and Centurion. Urban areas in the Western Cape – the province was placed third – only featured outside the top 30.
Figure 2: KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng residents were the most prominent Googlers for ‘Black Friday’ deals in November
Source: Google Trends
Gauteng and the KwaZulu Natal east coast have many affluent areas where households had money to spend on Black Friday. (Umhlanga, for example, is an affluent residential, commercial and resort town north of Durban, and placed first on the Google Trends data. It is home to the Gateway Theatre of Shopping – the largest shopping mall in the southern hemisphere.) PwC’s pre-Black Friday/Cyber Monday survey indicated that 87% of respondents in Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal intended to spend money over the shopping period compared to a national average of 85%.
Fluctuations in consumer sentiment leading up to November 29
PwC warned ahead of Black Friday/Cyber Monday that customer experience is everything – and retailers need to get it right. PwC’s expert knowledge and synthesis of Opinium Research data on customer experience in 2018 yielded four key customer experience priorities for this year, namely: 1) addressing crowds, physical and virtual queueing; 2) offering great deals and big discounts; 3) providing safety and security; as well as 4) avoiding stock shortages.
We previously found that on Black Friday (November 23) 2018, more than a quarter of related Twitter commentary in South Africa was negative. This was notably higher than just 6% seen just a few days earlier. The negative feedback on social media reflected what consumers viewed as disappointing price discounts and underwhelming offerings. Following disappointing sales discounts on Cyber Monday as well, some 53% of recorded social sentiment was negative on the day after the shopping bonanza ended (November 27). What was sentiment like in 2019?
As reflected in Figure 3, PwC’s analysis of Twitter activity around the hashtag #Black Friday shows three distinct periods since the start of November:
November 1-16: South African Twitter users were positive about Black Friday, with an average 75% positive sentiment measured during this period. Excitement was building across social media in the lead up to the shopping Bonanza. Also, many retailers started their discounts weeks in advance of the official day – a phenomenon that PwC has referred to before as ‘Black November’. Local media were stoking the enthusiasm with repots like “Black Friday 2019: here's how to get the most bang for your buck”.
November 17-19: A sudden drop in positive sentiment is noted during this three-day period – negative sentiment was observed in 45% of tweets compared to just 25% in the preceding two weeks. Twitter users began showing disapproval and discontentment with initial sale outlines presented by retailers. Tweets included: “There is no black Friday in South Africa. It’s all just a marketing scam and it’s sad that people are still falling for it,” in reference to disappointing discounts. With just ten days ahead of the shopping holiday, consumer credit agency TransUnion also released a statement in this period cautioning shoppers to remain aware and responsible during Black Friday and not to rely too heavily on credit.
November 20-December 3: Despite a return to mostly positive sentiment (85% on average) from the 20th of the month until the day of Black Friday itself, the shopping holiday did highlight some residual unhappiness among customers on social media. Feedback regarding poor discounts and credit usage were some of the main themes highlighted on Twitter: “20% is not a Black Friday sale, like it’s actually rude”; “No it’s not really a good deal because you’ve bought something you didn’t really need”. Some local media sites also indicated that they struggled to find many branded fashion items that are worth getting excited about.
Figure 3: Overall positive sentiment but with periods of heightened negativity
Lullu Krugel is PwC Strategy& chief economist for Africa, and Dr Christie Viljoen is PwC Strategy& economist