Black Friday, festive season and all ecommerce in between

by Yaron Assabi. We are also seeing a shift in how deals are culminating where online-only or app-only specials are taking front and centre stage.

by Yaron Assabi. Each year consumers wait in anticipation for Black Friday to get maximum discounts on products and services which are marked down to boost end of year sales and get rid of old stock so consumers can really enjoy ‘retail therapy’. Early bird deals were the norm with retailers in 2019 using the month of November, or more than one day, to drive sales. In 2020 due to the pandemic and lockdown, many consumers are not travelling and therefore have more disposable income. Retailers hope to lure them to spend in what has been termed “Black November”.

Deals have been running from as early as November 1, wtih some even ending in December. Of course, this defeats the intention of Black Friday, but is a very clear sign of an economy trying to restart, refocus and harness the power of consumer-driven spend over the key retailing months. We are also seeing a shift in how deals are culminating where online-only or app-only specials are taking front and centre stage – catapulted by the pandemic and likely to last long into the future.

According to DPO insights, earlier this year ecommerce transactions (per minute) hit four times that of the busiest minute during Black Friday in 2019 – with a projection of a 40% higher volume by the end of 2020. This indicates that not only will Black Friday and the festive season see a shift in the way people shop, but provides a clear case for how important ecommerce is from a business perspective; and why businesses which haven’t shifted their marketing budgets to digital and mobile marketing, nor optimised their integrated online shopper experience, need to do so, and soon. It is clear that consumer behaviour has changed, and businesses need to adapt.

Bringing ecommerce, bricks and mortar under the same roof

In a traditional mall environment, shoppers can find it difficult to find the products they want to buy in a large store. They are also very often unaware of relevant promotions and events, resulting in missed opportunities and a negative customer experience. Location aware app development and an omnichannel approach to marketing and digital presence can simplify the customer journey and stimulate higher conversion for brands and shopping mall owners. Imagine the possibilities of precise accurate indoor navigation – allowing shoppers to not only find the products they are looking for in one click; but keep them updated on sales and promotion that are nearby as they walk through the mall on their mobile.

New patented technology offering dot-by-dot navigation with 1-3 m accuracy, has created a new opportunity for retailers to literally walk the shopper from the parking lot to the product they are looking for on the shelf. The integration of search on mobile for physical products, location based mobile marketing and digital payments with a physical shopping experience; and omnichannel capability, which creates new opportunities to monetise the mall space and ensure superior customer experience, is key. The change in consumer behaviour demands a different integrated customer experience that is convenient, seamless and consistent across all channels.

SME and informal sectors – are they losing out?

The value of ecommerce in South Africa is said to reach around R225bn – driven by higher adoption of smartphones and increase in internet penetration and lower cost of data. The SME sector is the largest contributor to GDP growth and therefore requires support and focus. Informal trade, which plays a fundamental role in the ‘hidden economy’ includes stockvels and spaza shops. The informal sector is rapidly driving up revenue, coming in higher than the formal sector, which implies that there is incredible opportunity for ecommerce and online entrepreneurs. It makes sense that government and private enterprises will look to enable and become a catalyst for small business  growth. We need to support local small businesses and activate online services quickly and efficiently – assisting those without the technological know-how and resources and lower the barrier to entry.

It is essential to provide a platform for businesses to get online quickly and optimise their marketing, customer service and fulfillment for their customers which is why DSG decided to re-launch  For example, the underlying technology platforms provided enable businesses of all sizes to get online rapidly without necessarily investing large amounts in infrastructure, developing critical business processes and services, or upskilling their teams on digital and mobile marketing, which is a key success factor.

Tapping into consumer preference

As an ecommerce business, you have to meet the customer where they are – tapping into their preferences. An omnichannel approach to commerce enablement and payments are paramount as well as ensuring successful, efficient and timely order fulfillment. In a very competitive retail sector, customer experience is the gamechanger and unique selling point. Careful consideration to customer journey design and personalisation is critical. The ability to understand the customer and provide recommendations based on their preferences and localisation will differentiate the customer value proposition and ensure maximum lifetime value of customers.

Although ecommerce is positioned for global reach, the complexity around lead times for fulfilment, taxes, exchange of goods when there is a fault and customer service, makes local players more favourable for consumers. There is an awesome opportunity for a truly afrocentric approach: providing online shoppers with localised services and products will be a key trend in the years to come as the consumer mindset around ecommerce and retail shifts, and they expect more immediacy, uniqueness and tailored offers. What will be important, is omnichannel local customer services via Chat Bot (with local vernacular language support), via What’s app or USSD (the most popular channel in Africa for non-smartphone users) for those customers that don’t have internet access, as well as value added services that they are not able to get anywhere else.

In fact, if we consider that 98% of South Africa adults currently pay for value added services, then there is no doubt a differentiated and localised value proposition will create win-win for consumers and brands. One of the books that had a huge impact on our online strategy from inception has been Permission Marketing by Seth Godin. The essence of permission marketing is giving consumers what they want, based on their permission and consistently personalising the experience more as they increase their level of permission – and as you get to know them better. We believe that this strategy will definitely result in profitable and long-term relationships.

So, as we approach Black Friday and the festive season, we have to remember that customer relationships are not transactional, and it is not just about price, but are based on long term value. The businesses – big or small – that want to create a sustainable future, need to focus on a great integrated customer experience.


Yaron Assabi is CEO of, na online retailer. With a track record spanning 20 years, his Digital Solutions Group (DSG) has become one of Africa’s leading providers of on-demand customer experience and digital solutions, serving some of Africa’s premier consumer-facing and corporate brands.



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