Akshit Pushkarna and Yash Bhatia

Can brands effectively Indianise the Black Friday Sale?

Brand experts analyse the significance that the American festive marketing concept has for the Indian consumer cohort

A recently released report by the Admitad partner network analysed online sales in India during Black Friday in 2022 and predicted that brands are set to witness a 70% rise in business for e-commerce on November 24, that is, Black Friday.

This anticipation of increased sales traffic has clearly reverberated in online-based business marketing efforts this year. Nykaa painted the Black Friday 'Pink' in their bid to attract customers seeking sizable discounts for beauty products.

On the other hand, e-commerce brand Cred sent influencers hammers or wrenches, accompanied by a peculiar request to break their watches or phones as they will be giving out a replacement on Black Friday. 

Since the traditions of Thanksgiving and Black Friday are inherently American concepts, one might wonder what the incentives are for brands to appropriate these culture-based marketing practices in India. 

Does the practice hold relevance in India?

Toru Jhaveri, founder and strategy lead, The Stuff of Life, believes that brands are trying to transplant an American tradition in India which, comparatively, doesn’t hold much cultural relevance. She believes that a lot of aspirational brands think to pitch to consumers all over the world. Thus, in India, brands are hosting the sale to create a kind of globalised experience. 

“Brands see a halo to be international with this Black Friday. They can portray their cosmopolitan and global ambitions of having an international consumer base and make it look like their product has a global quality. It creates a sense that the brand is international. That’s the only rationale I can think of,” she says. 

Can brands effectively Indianise the Black Friday Sale?

Sai Ganesh, brand consultant and former brand lead, Dunzo, has a different opinion on this. He believes the primary target audience for e-retail brands comprises those seeking to expedite their purchases, that is, those who missed the festive sales and are now planning to shop in December or January.

Black Friday sales accelerate the process, minimising the wait. He believes they have the potential to resonate with a significant number of consumers making timely purchases.

"Any retail platform aims to provide a monthly incentive for consumers to make purchases. It's essentially packaging and saying, “Hey, this month offers another reason to buy.” This mirrors a retail practice of creating occasions for people to make purchases. In November, there aren't many national occasions, making it challenging, but the marketing channels remain the same,” he says. 

While the logic for brands to capitalise on the western concept for sales can be understood, why would consumers pay heed to the event?

Ritesh Ghoshal, co-founder and director, crisp insights, believes that, with the recent OTT boom and exposure to content from markets where Thanksgiving and Black Friday are a big deal, there is a promise of consumer awareness. 

“For instance, Black Friday equals crazy deals. There is also a small but rapidly growing band of repatriated Indians and expatriates in the larger Indian cities; people who have experienced these days as retail events and can familiarise the concept in their social circles. Although the size of this market is small and affluent, it dictates the size of marketing budgets. For small marketing spends, digital is the best medium. Also, the market is limited to just a few catchments in the top towns of India rendering mass-media outreach inefficient.”

Can brands effectively Indianise the Black Friday Sale?

Impact on the brand space

Deepti Karthik, founder, Decision Pinnacle, points out that Black Friday sales tend to be the beginning of winter sales in India. Each category has different offerings in this season and diapering, as a category, sees a huge demand in this season. 

“With liberalisation, international brands are coming to the country. Brands like Marks & Spencer and Zara host Black Friday sales in the international market, and they extend the same to the Indian market. As online shopping has become huge, if a price drop happens on one brand it impacts the sales of all other brands. Then it becomes a norm or else Indian brands will face a sales loss,” she says.

Can brands effectively Indianise the Black Friday Sale?

Perfora, an oral care brand, announced a Black Friday sale on its website. The sales start from November 24, 2023, to November 27, 2023, with a flat 50% off. Jatan Bawa, co-founder, Perfora, shares that the consumers in their category don’t make many purchases during the festive season. 

“With Black Friday, our target audience comprises digital buyers, individuals returning from or aspiring to venture abroad. We aim to capture the interest of those aspiring to be global citizens, particularly potential customers considering the US market. Timing is advantageous, coming after Diwali when the focus shifts from sweets, creating a favourable environment for our offerings,” he explains.

Can brands effectively Indianise the Black Friday Sale?

Marketing challenges

However, it might also be inferred that a large cohort of Indian consumers might still lack the awareness of the concept of Black Friday. However, given that India is a very discount and promotional offers centric market, most would be comfortable with getting heavy discounts irrespective of the reason. 

Sohil Karia, co-founder, Schbang, highlights that the major issue with the Black Friday sale is its timing. In the US, it is marked on the Friday that comes after Thanksgiving. In India, this timeline coincides with the end of the festive season.

Hence, he believes that copy-pasting the same concept in the country may not work seamlessly due to cultural differences. However, with a tech-savvy Indian consumer base, brands can strategically leverage this opportunity. 

"I'm uncertain if India is ready for a Black Friday Sale immediately following the Diwali Sale. A more fitting approach for India might involve creating its unique version of Black Friday in a different month, one less closely tied to major festivities. In November, it could be positioned as an extension of the festive shopping spree, offering a chance to seize deals overlooked during the festive season. The key lies in crafting a well-positioned narrative that encourages consumers to re-explore deals after their initial festive spending,” he opines.

Can brands effectively Indianise the Black Friday Sale?

Ganesh also observes that brands drained out of their marketing resources post the festive season may require a shift in their approach to marketing the sale.

"It's not a high priority for investments as it follows Diwali, a time when brands allocate their maximum marketing budget. You’ll notice Black Friday sales being promoted through organic/paid PR. Given its post-festive timing, the burn for brands will be lower. During smaller value sale periods, brands rely on organic or old media channels. While they leverage PR, they don't go out of their way to spend on brand ambassadors or performance marketing."

Can Black Friday ride the Indian festive wave?

Experts have differing opinions on the future of the Black Friday Sale in India. 

Jhaveri of The Stuff of Life believes that the concept will not find a home with brands and audiences in the near future due to its coinciding timing with India’s packed festive season. Karthik from Decision Pinnacle concurs with Jhaveri. She also points out that Valentine’s Day sales took off for brands only because the month of February doesn’t have another big festive occasion. 

Bawa of Perfora, on the other hand, foresees the trend turning big and evolving. “In the next ten years, this can become thirty times bigger in nature in terms of scale, considering the popularity of the Halloween festival over the years, that can happen with Black Friday as well.”

Ganesh states, “Traditions like Black Friday will take time to find their place in India whereas in the USA it follows Thanksgiving and precedes the Christmas shopping season. It’s called Black Friday because retailers’ profits move from red (losses) to black (profits).”

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