Unhappy Black Friday shoppers sceptical about Cyber Monday

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Cyber Monday sales were expected to get off to a slow start today, after many unhappy shoppers threw flack at local merchants on Friday, labelling this year’s Back Friday specials a “scam”.

As South Africa enters the fourth day of the biggest shopping period of the year – Cyber Monday – industry pundits caution that deals today may be underwhelming after Black Friday sales for the first few minutes after midnight were significantly lower compared to last year, with trading volumes plummeting 33%, according to the ECommerce Forum of South Africa.

Frustrated shoppers took to Twitter on Friday to express their disappointment about deceptive advertising gimmicks from local merchants, saying the discounts offered were either more expensive than the purchase price in the days leading up to Black Friday, or that the deals were not significant enough to qualify as “Black Friday discounts”.

@TumisangMo wrote on Twitter: “South Africa shouldn't participate in Black Friday cos am seeing rubbish only.” [sic]

Another dissatisfied Tweep @_BafanaMthembu wrote: “These jokes write themselves. Game Black Friday special for the Xbox One for this year is R5 699 and last year the special was R3 599. How does this work kanti?” [sic]

@DizzyAfrica said: “South Africa’s Black Friday sales are always underwhelming but this year guys? No ways!”

@FlemishStallion said he could not find any available deals this year: “South Africa's Black Friday is a scam. Show me 1 item that's on a real Black Friday price show me.” [sic]

@Christo Thurston shared his Black Friday disappointment with followers: “Black Friday sales are in most cases a psychological game when the normal prize is merely printed in red and the word ‘Sale’ is added. There is nothing that manipulates like the word sale.”

South Africans’ cynicism comes after industry insiders on Friday told ITWeb that false advertising is expected to escalate this year, with more South Africans expected to shop online than ever before, as they look for safer ways of shopping.

Dries Cronje, CEO of artificial intelligence consulting company Deep Learning Café, told ITWeb that the much-anticipated Black Friday period can also bring ethical concerns around deals and discounts that raise red flags.

“One stunt I observed last year was price inflation in the weeks leading up to Black Friday, so that the subsequent discounts on the actual day appear to be more appealing than the previous price. In other instances, fake deals are advertised to lure the shoppers onto the site, and once they have to pay for the items, they realise the ‘discount’ has been automatically deactivated and the normal price applies,” explained Cronje.

Cyber Monday, a marketing term for the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, was created by retailers to encourage people to shop online.

In terms of Cyber Monday expectations, Karen Nadasen, chairperson of the ECommerce Forum of South Africa, told ITWeb that most people will be looking out specifically for tech deals today; however, there haven’t really been many offered so far.

“I think people are really shopping around for tech deals, but there isn’t really many. We can see that iStore did really well during the month of November, and this is because they started offering their tech deals quiet early,” explained Nadasen.

Karen Nadasen, CEO of PayU South Africa, and chairperson of the E-commerce Forum South Africa.
Karen Nadasen, CEO of PayU South Africa, and chairperson of the E-commerce Forum South Africa.

Slow start to Black Friday

Sharing her sentiments on Black Friday, Nadasen points out that the impact of lockdown and COVID-19 was evident this year, with Black Friday sales starting off at a snail’s pace, with e-commerce spend down 63% in the first hour.

“Unlike last year where South Africa experienced a shopping frenzy in the period between midnight and 2am, sales were also down in the first two hours of shopping, with 40% less transactions than last year, and with a total value 59% lower than 2019.”

However, at 8am online merchants experienced a sharp curve upward and saw a huge spike when SA reached its peak shopping hour – the same hour as last year – with the greatest amount of money spent in that slot, up 39%, at R38 million.

While it is still early days to calculate the total successes of the local e-commerce sector, Nadasen, points out that the good news is that Black Friday online shopping continued in the evening.

“Shopping continued throughout the day, with a second peak being reached in terms of the number of transactions, processed between 7pm and 8pm, as shoppers returned home after work,” explains Nadasen.

Online payment technology firm, PayU, says Black Friday trading volumes from its South African e-commerce merchants grew by 14.1% over the 24-hour Black Friday period, compared to 2019, while the weekdays of Monday to Thursday running up to Black Friday were 9.1% higher than last year.

“While these are an improvement on last year, they are not as dramatic as the previous year-on-year growth. However, it’s worth noting that that these Black Friday volumes are still approximately 400% higher than a normal shopping day,” says PayU.

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