Black Friday is now a shared event on both sides of the Atlantic but advertisers need to be aware of the differences that exist and to focus on what’s next, says Criteo’s Shruthi Chindalur.

When it comes to differences, some things will never change. The British will forever say football, while those across the pond will stick to soccer. Indeed, Brits will continue to pop to the shop rather than the store, and use a lift rather than an elevator.

Despite these differences, a holiday that used to be a purely American affair in the 60s has inched into British culture and is now a shared event.

The figures from last year speak for themselves, with the US seeing a 212% increase in 2020 on Black Friday compared to the average in October. In the UK, sales increased a staggering 283% compared to the October average. As the UK market catches up, retailers on both sides of the Atlantic are also responding to new customer expectations, with shoppers eyeing up deals on average two whole weeks before they make their first Black Friday purchases.

Advertisers can learn a lot from the similarities and the subtle differences that we share with those across the pond. Being privy to these could make all the difference, and ultimately give them the golden ticket in an increasingly saturated market.

Mapping the journey

Although the product discovery process lead time is relatively similar in the UK and US, where these journeys start is an important point of differentiation. Where Target, Walmart and Costco are the first port of call for US shoppers, in Europe, the ‘direct-to-consumer’ (D2C) trend has matured with a third (33%) of consumers now heading straight to a brand’s site to search for products.

This means that UK advertisers need to guide shoppers through their website, all the way to the point of sale, which may well be another retailer’s site on Black Friday. Being there at that final step in the journey is essential to capitalise on all the work being done earlier in the path to purchase.

For advertisers in the US, their strategy must be centred around competitive placement in those well known marketplaces, as two-in-five (40%) consumers most recently discovered deals on retailers’ websites. Businesses must heed these findings, especially those who offer products at a higher price point such as TVs and mobile phones; a third of shoppers (34%) used a retailer’s site to discover their most recent electronic purchase.

Looking forward, businesses in both geographies need to partner with marketplaces to ensure their products are promoted both at the point of discovery and the final point of purchase – getting this right will enable them to have a bigger slice of the cake.

Post-purchase challenges

Understanding what is required to create a successful product discovery process online is one thing, but with ongoing supply chain issues continuing to disrupt, businesses must pay close attention to the post-purchase experience they’re delivering. Especially as 18% of department stores and 11% of apparel retailers in the UK were unable to get the materials, goods and services they needed. The US is also struggling with supply chain issues, with it taking months for electronics to be shipped from China and arrive in the hands of consumers.

With the chips down, it will be interesting to see if electronics see the same surge as 2020 Black Friday, which increased a whopping 360% compared to the average in October in the UK. Now, with lead times longer than usual, and consumer appetite bigger than ever, understanding stock intakes and which products can justify mass discounting will need to be decided well in advance of the consumer discovery process.

If retailers want to play into consumer confidence, which has been rising back to the pre-pandemic level, there will be an expectation placed on retailers to ensure their front and back-end operations are coordinated and prepared to deal with the expected traffic.

‘Tis the season…

With the days of a mad 24-hour rush to grab bargain TVs and other household electrics behind us (for the most part), the more considered and conscientious shopping habits we see today open a host of new possibilities for November’s Peak period in terms of what and who people are buying for.

This November 26 will be the first Black Friday in two years where most retail restrictions are lifted. Of course in the US, there will be state-by-state nuances that must be managed, but consumers across the UK and US will still flock to the high-street to enjoy the tactile, festive experience that holiday shopping offers. In many cases, Black Friday will see the completion of gift purchase journeys.

By mid-December marketers will begin to see demand in certain categories cool as the holidays encroach, and it’s at this time that purchases of gift cards, food hampers and wrapping paper surge. But as ‘Peak’ reaches another milestone in late December, physical stores will create an essential window for last-minute shopping; across the US, in-store sales shot up 160% the week before Christmas last year. Moreover, from December 26, a new phase of consumer demand begins as gift cards are cashed in online and discounted apparel, electronics and homeware are pursued in the early January sales. Always focusing on ‘what’s next’ is crucial.


If you take one thing from these trends, it’s that ‘Peak’ season has already landed in both markets. With hopes of a more sociable Christmas this year, consumers are receptive to earlier holiday messages and ‘getting ahead’ with gift shopping to ensure presents are under the tree in time. While retailers and brands may still be waiting to see their traditional spike in sales, they should feel assured product discovery is already in overdrive across the sector; in future, closer relationships with retail partners will help the flow of information during these busy periods and prove a key advantage for early adopters.