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Black Friday’s price lure: the perfect con job?

Brands are seemingly switching their trade deal budgets to media spends, sometimes at the expense of the consumer

Tens of millions of shoppers save up for Black Friday weekend deals, spending $69 billion in the US alone. But what if some deals were just an illusion? How have leading brands adapted their Amazon strategies to maximise ROI during the biggest shopping event of the year?

At Seelk, our mission is to help brands make data-driven decisions to achieve growth. This year we decided to deep dive into Black Friday data to try to uncover certain myths about that weekend and best practices we can learn from.

To do so, we harvested over 300 million data points on over 50 categories in France and the UK  to see if Black Friday  was such  a “good deal”. The  short answer is: not always.

On the french market, we compared two categories that had noticeable different behaviours price-wise: multi-cookers and lips makeup. The following graph represents the historical price average of the 100 ASINs (products) which were Best Sellers in their respective categories on Black Friday.

Black Friday's Price lure on Amazon

What we see:

  • Multi cookers have much stronger and frequent price variations than lips makeup products
  • The lowest prices are not on Black Friday or Cyber Monday: 20 days before for multi cookers, early November for lips makeup

What does this say about this event that is supposed to be all about bargains? What if discounts were a lure?

We decided to go deeper and investigate ASIN level pricing data.

We first looked for products which played the Black Friday game: fortunately there are some good deals to be found such as this Garmin Pack of a watch and a running belt.

Black Friday's Price lure on Amazon

However, we also found a number of products whose prices were being manipulated earlier in the month to create fake & illusionary deals. Many of them were best selling products from famous brands, such as this Moulinex cooker.

Black Friday's Price lure on Amazon

Here, even the apparent -30% deal is more expensive than the early November full price.

This led us to wonder: if these brands do not compete on prices, how do they maximize their sales on such an important event?

Marketing as the new sinews of the Black Friday war

Customers on Amazon during Black Friday are determined to buy, which makes them an easy target for advertisers: it’s the perfect moment for brands to maximise their conversion.

We focused on France to take a closer look at the steadiest one: the lips makeup products.

We tracked the top 20 researched keywords of the lips makeup category every 15 minutes to understand which brands were in presence and how it changed over time. Our share of voice analysis is split into three dimensions:

  • Organic share of voice represents the % of top 50 organic positions taken by each brand
  • Sponsored Brands share of voice represents the % of times a brand appears on the top of search sponsored banner (formerly Headline Search  Ads)
  • Sponsored Products share of voice represents the % of top 16 sponsored positions taken by each brand
Amazon Sponsored Brands & Products
Black Friday's Price lure on Amazon

The organic landscape appears to be quite balanced, with famous names like Maybelline New York and L’Oréal Paris sharing the first ranks with DNVBs like Sananas Beauty.

For Sponsored Brands, only a few top players make it through the aggressive bid war:

Black Friday's Price lure on Amazon

Bourjois got caught in the middle of a crossfire by Beauty Glazed and L’Oréal Paris, losing 30% share of voice on top of search banners between the beginning of the month and Black Friday.

On Sponsored Products ads - which are advertised placements inside search results - competition intensifies towards Black Friday: Maybelline New York almost entirely disappears 40% leaving place to Rechoo, Elizabeth Arden and LP Makeup.

Black Friday's Price lure on Amazon

What does all this tell us?

The money which wasn’t invested in discounts & deals is spent  on advertising to benefit from the massive traffic of bargain-hunters. The competition on some markets seems to have shifted from a price war to an impression war to gain the best exposure and hence, ultimately, conversion.

Some brands like Sananas Beauty with good organic rankings do not try to compete on sponsored ads. Their strategy is often based on bringing traffic from outside Amazon such as Instagram to drive sales.

The variations are much more intense In the more mature UK market, we see an aggressive entrance of Revlon and Nyx Professional eating Maybelline’s share of voice around Black Friday.

Black Friday's Price lure on Amazon

A positive signal towards the merge of trade and marketing budgets on Amazon?

Some Brands seem to have matured their Black Friday strategy in order to address the competitive landscape which is increasingly penetrated by DNVBs, with strong social network & growth hacking strategies, and Amazon’s own products which are broadly promoted to customers.

Global Brands seem to be turning their focus to leveraging their brand image by investing in share of voice instead of promotions. The good news is that Amazon Trade & Marketing budgets are being brought closer together and managed in a more holistic & ROI-driven way, as it is seamlessly done by successful DNVBs.

We’ll look into these subjects in more detail in our upcoming white paper on Amazon Black Friday & Christmas Strategies, stay tuned !

And if you want to deep dive into our data or discuss your Amazon media strategies, get in touch on

Justine Saide

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