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With November 27 set to break all UK records for online shopping, Designate’s Jason Triandafyllou wonders whether travel can use this new peak selling period to its advantage

Black Friday is this year set to break all records.

Last year, shoppers in the UK spent a staggering £810 million online, and experts are predicting that Friday 27th November 2015 will be the first time online UK consumer spending tops £1 billion in one day.

It is an enormous opportunity for retailers, but what of other sectors?

According to IMRG, Black Friday was responsible for a 38% uplift in online sales in November 2014, compared to a year before, but it was very focused on certain categories.

As Adgild Hop, head of retail consulting at Capgemini, put it at the time: “The mania around Black Friday has clearly driven profound sales results in November, in particular in typical ‘Christmas gift’ categories such as gifts, beauty and electronics.”

Is there an opportunity here for travel firms to tap into? After all, according to Abta 49% of Britons now buy their holidays online. And that is on top of the online research that most of us now do before booking.

So, will we see travel firms capitalising on consumers’ propensity to spend at this time by offering big discounts and hard-to-refuse deals?

Could they look beyond their existing databases by running ads on retail sites and so look to take advantage of the traffic spike there at this time?

We know that the travel sector is already prone to big sales, and that consumers respond well to this trend, so harnessing a new ‘discount season’ can surely only be a good move for the sector.

That said, brands should be careful to balance price discounting with a commitment to brand values.

Long-lasting emotional connections and a memorable, stand-out brand will always have more staying power than discounting.

But, if you do decide to discount, it should at least be at a time when customers will be most receptive, and likely to be surrounded by deals and offers from brands in other sectors.
Black Friday is a relatively recent American import, and over there we are already seeing travel firms active around the event.

For example, the Trump Hotel Collection offered 30% off all suites booked between 28th November and 1st December for stays in the first two months of 2015.

Gate 1 Travel offered discounts of at least 10% on purchases between $500 and $10,000 made with a promotion code online between 27th and 28th November.

Others have been more creative: for stays on Black Friday night mobile app Hotel Tonight offered rooms for $7 in properties near shopping malls across the US.

As the deals were limited, the catch phrase was ‘that they would go faster than a slice of Mom’s pumpkin pie’. 

Many offers stipulated travel in the early months of the year, and indeed travel firms might be eying this up as an opportunity not to only to drive overall sales, but also to boost occupancy during the traditional quiet season.

Indeed, could Black Friday be the catalyst to shift the sector’s peak sales period from January?
The potential for the UK’s travel sector around Black Friday is clearly significant. But travel firms need to get it right.

After all, the euphoria around last year’s online sales figures was swiftly replaced by damaging stories of undelivered products and images of parcels strewn around shop floors. There was damage to the retail brands involved.

Delivery for travel firms is less of an issue, but still the marketing itself must remain true to the core brand. Offers should be carefully evaluated to ensure they fit the ethos and personality of the brand.

Ultimately, the best offers will be driven not merely by the price imperative, but also by a creative spark which creates positive brand associations and reinforces those all-important brand values that form the foundation of every travel business.

It is those emotional and brand-led associations that will live in the memory long after the excitement of Black Friday has subsided, tempting consumers to come back for more even when there’s no discount to be seen.