Brick-and-mortar stores are sweetening the deal for customers this year by taking most deals online and extending their specials. They have to, in order to prevent Covid-19 super-spreaders. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)
Brick-and-mortar stores are sweetening the deal for customers this year by taking most deals online and extending their specials. They have to, in order to prevent Covid-19 super-spreaders. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Consumer Watch: In it for the longer haul, Black Friday goes online

By Georgina Crouth Time of article published Oct 19, 2020

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Deals for more days, greater choice and other enticements, just to keep customers out of brick-and-mortar stores – that’s how retailers are responding to a pandemic Black Friday because Covid or no Covid, the sales bonanza is here to stay.

E-commerce is estimated to have surged by at least 16% this year in South Africa and Covid-19 has changed the game for retailers.

In May, Nielsen found 65% of South Africans shopped less at supermarkets due to Covid-19, while those who already shopped online shopped more (29%) and 21% continued as before.

Marketing agency HaveYouHeard head of insights Claudia Schonitz says: “Many, many South Africans have emerged from the pandemic with considerably less spending power. Not only will this put pressure on brands and businesses to fight for less, they will need to work harder to convince consumers to support them.

Schonitz says the most noticeable shifts have been in three “domains”: social, home and e-commerce.

“When it comes to social, many people have realised just how much they need others and, over the next 12 months, connecting socially will be central to much of our activity and behaviour.

“We have become better at not doing much (while also doing more in the home) and enjoying it. This, I predict, is a behaviour that will persist for much longer.”

HaveYouHeard’s recent survey found 81% of respondents who shopped for groceries online stated that safety from Covid-19 was the biggest benefit to online grocery shopping, but only 27% said they were likely to continue once Covid-19 was no longer a threat.

Remember, remember the sales of November

Last week, announcements came in thick and fast about how brick-and-mortar stores would be offering Black Friday for the entire month of November.

Pick n Pay has extended Black Friday to two weeks, with more deals in store and online. John Bradshaw, retail executive for marketing at PnP, says, “Black Friday is a very busy trading period so we’re extending Black Friday to two weeks to keep our customers safe and able to shop for great deals at their leisure. We will also be limiting the number of customers in our stores at any one time to keep everyone safe, with highly organised queueing.”

The retailer says its stores are better prepared this year, after extensive planning with suppliers, and they’ll be opening as many tills as possible to keep customers from queueing as much as possible.

In-store deals will also be available online, but the retailer will run online only deals before launching its in-store deals, with new deals being added every few days.

Massmart stores Game and Makro are running Black Friday deals for all of November. Game has increased staffing levels and expanded its Uber Eats partnership for Black Friday to ensure it is able to meet customer expectations. It is also offering its 1 Cent Price Surprise on all Black Friday purchases. Both retailers will be spreading their deals out over different weeks. Game’s first set of deals will be announced and launched online at midnight on November 1 and be available exclusively for that week.

Uber Eats is the exclusive delivery partner for small electronics and home office essentials. Consumers are promised a delivery time line of 10 to 14 days on all Black Friday orders, with the delivery fee being capped at R90 – except for large appliances such as fridges and chest freezers, which will carry a R70 surcharge per item, per order. Newsletter subscribers will have early viewing access to all Black Friday deals.

But don’t expect door-busting deals in-store: Game stores will only trade between 9am and 6pm during the week, Saturdays from 9am to 5pm and Sundays from 9am to 4pm.

Cyber Monday will run exclusively online.

Makro similarly says it will be offering “unbeatable specials” for a week at a time, which are not to be repeated.

There’s also 10% back in mRewards for the opening week (November 2 to 8) on all non-promo general merchandise in store and online; the delivery fee is capped at R90 (excluding extended range items and commercial orders); free locker delivery on qualifying orders; same-day delivery on grocery and liquor orders through the One Cart app; 50 new deals every week.

Warrick Kernes from the Insaka eCommerce Academy says brick-andmortar stores have been forced to prepare for an online surge to avoid the risk of Black Friday becoming a super-spreader.

“E-commerce has been growing 25% year-on-year over the past decade but its growth this year has been stepped up: consumers were forced to adopt processes and tech that they should have used before, because of the joy and ease of having things delivered at home or office.”

Kernes says while many industries were negatively affected by Covid, e-commerce has benefited greatly because consumers have cottoned on to the convenience.

The spectre of Black Friday, though, raised concern about super-spreaders: “Even if we don’t see a second wave in South Africa, retailers would not want to encourage shoppers to come in droves to stores for big-screen televisions, etc.”

Spreading out the sale makes sense for any seller because there’s less “noise” around the day, customers get to pick their deals calmly and they aren’t bombarded by marketing material.

Massmart’s strategy is “genius”, he says: “Consumers aren’t going to shop around as much, so the retailers can close sales quicker. Their teams can handle the influx of deals and the processing and dispatching of orders. Spreading it out allows for a quieter team, which means retailers can deal with more sales and not overload the couriers.”

Towards the end of a year scarred by a pandemic and economic devastation, online retailers can expect a bumper sales period because shoppers would want to avoid physical retail stores and shopping malls over Covid19 fears – and capitalise on deals, more than ever.

Kernes believes this is a massive opportunity for online sellers in South Africa to benefit.

* Georgina Crouth is a consumer watchdog with serious bite. Write to her at [email protected], tweet her @georginacrouth and follow her on Facebook.

** Receive IOL's top stories via Whatsapp by sending your name to 0745573535

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