Youth marketing
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Ultimate Black Friday marketing guide: How to capture Gen Z spend

Four Gen Z women holding drinks as they laugh and smile.
Written by
Izzy Hall
Published on
June 25, 2024
Last updated
June 25, 2024

What this article covers

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There are three big campaigns in a youth marketer’s year: festive, back to school, and Black Friday. We are gathered here today to dive deep, deep into the world of BFCM. 

This blog is your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM). We’ll be taking a look at the holiday shopping season, discussing everything from Gen Z student trends to their spending habits. 

We promise that you’ll be leaving here today, armed with case studies and a lot of data, ready and raring to go for BFCM 2024.

What is BFCM?

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the biggest sales events of the year. Previously day-long affairs, BFCM has now become a week-long shopping bonanza for those looking to save some serious pennies. 

For brands, it’s the perfect opportunity to generate sales, increase revenue, and create a sense of urgency. For Gen Z, it’s heaven. 

As the Friday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday is a popular time for consumers to do their Christmas shopping. Popular items that go on sale during this period include electronics, toys, home furnishings, and apparel. 

The eCommerce bang that follows, Cyber Monday, sees products continue to be boosted at a discounted rate. Traditionally, Black Friday was for in-person sales, whilst Cyber Monday was for digital deals. Nowadays, most things are for both online stores and offline. Plus ça change. 

When is Black Friday in 2024? Friday 29th November 

When is Cyber Monday in 2024? Monday 2nd December 

What types of purchases do Gen Z typically make during BFCM? 

We asked Gen Z: What types of purchases do you typically make during BFCM? 

  • Gifts for the upcoming holiday season (69% UK, 80% US) 
  • Beauty and skincare (45% UK, 51% US) 
  • Technology (41% UK, 47% US) 
  • Big ticket items for the home, e.g. TVs (28% UK, 32% US) 
  • Travel and holidays (25% UK, 22% US) 
  • Gaming (18% UK, 19% US) 

Retro: How much have students spent in previous years?

As is always the way with Gen Z, some of their favorite sectors to spend in are fashion, health and beauty, tech, travel, and food and drink. But how much were they spending in these sectors last year*? 

Fashion

  • UK average order value (AOV):  £60.44
  • US AOV: $77.39

Health & beauty

  • UK AOV: £46.23
  • US AOV: $104.81

Technology

  • UK AOV: £303.87
  • US AOV: $281.37

Travel 

  • UK AOV: £136.17
  • US AOV: $1597.17

Food & drink 

  • UK AOV: £23.59
  • US AOV: $109.82

Total average basket spend during this week:

  • US: $85.47
  • UK: £68.31

What was the total number of transactions during this week? 

  • US: 53,695
  • UK: 83,477

*Data based on spending using Pion’s student discount platform, Student Beans, during BFCM Week (November 20th - 27th 2023).

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BFCM fatigue? Here’s how are Gen Z feeling about Black Friday in 2024

We hate to break it to you, but Gen Z is on to you. To those brands who offer misleading deals and bombard inboxes with sneaky marketing ploys, Gen Z knows your kind. And they don’t trust you. 

Black Friday can be an overwhelming time for shoppers. With an influx of BFCM marketing during the lead-up to the saving season, pressuring countdowns, and an overload of social media content, some Gen Z shoppers are starting to feel apprehensive about BFCM. 

Crucially, it’s not fun anymore. 

“There are so many different sales and discounts these days”, says Gen Zer Sandrah, “so it doesn’t feel as exciting.” Meanwhile, student Taiba describes BFCM as “overwhelming”, citing “too much choice” as the cause of her stress. 

But, hope is not lost: this year, you’ll just have to work harder than ever before to catch shoppers’ attention. In fact, 68% of US Gen Zers (67% UK) typically make a purchase during the Black Friday period - young people are open to the idea of BFCM (after all, a discount’s a discount at the end of the day) and they will be spending money, but as the figures suggest, they’ll be more aware of how much money is leaving their wallets and more skeptical of what’s on offer. 

How can brands stand out and still capture Gen Z spend during a cost-of-living crisis 

Times are tough and money is tight. In fact, 75% of Gen Zers in the UK (72% US) have made changes to their spending habits because of the rising cost-of-living. But this reason enough for Gen Z to tighten their purse strings - instead, they’ll be seeking out the best discounts on the market. From creating engaging Black Friday ads to running exclusive deals, there’s an awful lot marketers can be doing to capture this spend of this young generation… 

1. Student discounts 

‘Tis the season of student discounts, but with every other brand vying for shoppers’ attention, how can you stand out? 

Pion research revealed that 89% of Gen Zers in the UK and 90% in the US want to see special offers and Black Friday promotions during this period, so stackable discounts are an absolute must this year. It’s that extra discount that will set you apart from the crowd… 

But, hold your horses. Creating these discounts is all well and good, but shoppers need to see them in order to spend. Make sure that stackable offers have a prominent position on your brand’s homepage so that your target audience is immediately engaged upon their first site visit. And don’t forget about social and email promotion, too. 

If you’re unsure where to start (we’ve all been there, don’t worry), then get in touch with the Pion team today for more information and ideas on how you can turn browsers into repeat purchasers long after BFCM. 

2. Extra incentives 

 Over the past few years, BFCM has increasingly become known for freebies, gift cards, interaction, and surprises, so brands have a lot to live up to…! 

Stackable discounts are great, but this year, Gen Z wants MORE. This is an exciting time in the Gen Z calendar, and boosting engagement through additional offers will keep them hooked and encourage them to share your brand with friends.

We asked Gen Z: What type of offers would make you more likely to spend with a brand during BFCM?

  • Student discounts (77% UK, 77% US) 
  • Free delivery (68% UK, 66% US) 
  • Discounts across the entire site/store (60% UK, 69% US) 
  • Free gifts with purchase (57% UK, 52% US) 
  • Stackable discounts (50% UK, 71% US) 
  • Exclusive deals for subscribers (34% UK, 28% US) 
  • Spin-to-win offers (29% UK, 18% US) 
  • Extra loyalty points (27% UK, 27% US) 

3. Festive gift giving 

Shoppers are facing a cost-of-living crisis, which means they’re more conscious of their disposable income and are savvy with their spending; in other words, they’ll be using BFCM as an opportunity to think ahead and kickstart the Christmas shopping season. This year, 35% of UK Gen Zers (38% US)  plan to start their festive shopping in November last year to make the most of those great deals. 

And with Cyber Monday falling on December 2nd this year, marketers are provided with an unmissable opportunity to festive-fy BFCM campaigns - it’s a sure way to engage eager young shoppers. 

4. Looking to the future 

August to January is a hectic time to work in marketing. From back to school to Black Friday, it’s just campaign, after campaign, after campaign… no rest for the wicked, ey?!

But once the saving season is in full swing, don’t get bogged down in the here and now - use it as an opportunity to look forward (and make your life easier in the long run!). 

Cyber Week is a great time to begin or build on brand-consumer relationships and start the journey to earning loyal customers. Partnering up with Pion will not only help you verify students and provide a secure and trusted platform, Student Beans, for your discounts to be hosted, but we’ll also help you engage and convert them. Publishers provide a friendly face for young shoppers, reassuring them that their money is in good hands. 

5. Let Gen Z plan their spending 

With competition and high and money in the bank low, Gen Z wants to be able to plan how much they’ll be spending during BFCM… and on what. 

“It would be nice to know [about discounts] in advance so I can plan”, Gen Zer Animesh shared with us. 

By sharing your discounted items (and providing details on how much £ they’ll get off!), your brand will stand out as one that values and respects your customers’ time and money.

Case study: Walmart Black Friday 2023

Cady, Karen, Gretchen, Kevin, and Damian were back for this BFCM special, courtesy of Walmart. 

The hypermarket worked with the some of film’s best-known faces, including Lindsay Lohan, to recreate its most iconic scenes, but with a Black Friday spin

Not only did this tap into Gen Z’s love of nostalgia marketing, but it was also an efficient plug for Walmart’s premium service. 

And FYI, Gretchen was still trying to make ‘fetch’ happen. Regina George however was noticeably absent... Rachel McAdams clearly had bigger things going on! 

Where does Gen Z prefer to see BFCM marketing?

With holiday sales flooding their inboxes and taking over their social media feeds, some Gen Zers are getting Black Friday fatigue. 

To avoid this problem and boost engagement, it’s important to know where they want to receive this marketing and for how long

We asked Gen Z: Where do you want to see BFCM marketing? 

  • Emails from a discount platform, like Student Beans (47% UK, 51% US) 
  • A discount platform’s website (43% UK, 42% US) 
  • A brand’s website (45% UK, 60% US) 
  • A brand’s social media platform (42% UK, 38% US) 
  • Emails from a brand (39% UK, 51% US) 
  • Social media posts from other students (33% UL, 33% US) 
  • An influencer’s social media (20% UK, 7% US) 

How long should BFCM offers run for, according to Gen Z? 

  • Over a week (25% UK, 21% US) 
  • Around two weeks at the end of November (24% UK, 24% US) 
  • During the last full week of November (19% UK, 18% US) 
  • Throughout November (16% UK, 20% US) 
  • Just one day (7% UK, 7% US) 

6 tips to optimize your student discount this BFCM

So you’ve got a student discount on the go. Great! You’re heading in the right direction. 

But how can you ✨supercharge✨your offering to really catch young people’s attention this Black Friday? 

Upgrade your CTA 

A simple but effective one. Using an eye-catching and prominent CTA is vital when it comes to driving conversions, but you need to make sure that it’s also tailored to each consumer group. 

Some fun facts: Pion brands that improve their CTA positioning have seen 309% more student sales, a 20% increase in AOV, and 67% of student shopping again in 30 days. 

Need more convincing? 89% of student spending is with brands that promote their own discount. Chop, chop!

Keep imagery fresh 

With Cyber Monday falling in December this year, your target audience will be consuming festive content at an alarming rate. From TikTok wishlists to Pinterest mood boards, the Christmas spirit is well and truly alive amongst young people.

35% of UK Gen Zers typically start their festive shopping in November; in other words, just in time for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Make sure your imagery is seasonally relevant to entice these young spenders.

Create specific offers for specific products

Offering deals across several products is great, but you need to be specific: creating separate offers for the most popular products to help shoppers understand the full value. 

Include student-focused words in the search bar 

A huge 92% of students check for brand discounts while they shop, so make the most of it! 

Start with words like ‘student’, ‘black friday’, ‘student discount’, and ‘black friday discount’, and build out your keyword research from there. 

Offer percentage discounts rather than monetary 

Like the rest of us, students don’t want to be tied into spending; they’re more likely to commit to spending this BFCM if they feel like they’re getting a percentage discount proportional to their spend. Basically, the more they spend, the bigger the discount. 

And don’t forget to boost the discount; 77% of students want to see special offers and discounts this BFCM, so make sure they get some extra bang for their buck!

And it doesn’t end there… how to drive repeat purchases from your BFCM success

1. Email ain’t dead. Build on that BFCM momentum 

A significant 51% of US Gen Zers (39% of UK) said they want to hear from brands via email this BFCM. 

By creating personalized and targeted email campaigns, you can segment your content based on the data collected during your BFCM campaign. Gen Zers are known to love personalization, so sending out tailor-made content will naturally lead to increased engagement. Plus, everyone likes to feel special, so be sure to use these email lists to send exclusive offers and early access to upcoming promotions. 

2. Extend the celebration beyond BFCM 

Just because Black Friday is over doesn’t mean the fun has to end! In fact, the post-BFCM period is the perfect time to supercharge your festive campaigns. Creating Christmas hubs on your sites and apps and showing off your popular products is a great way to capitalize on that BFCM traffic. 

And, don’t forget the pinch on their purses: creating offer pages, such as ‘£20 and under’, wouldn’t go amiss. Budget sections prevent shoppers from overspending, and prove to them that you respect their tighter budgets. 

3. Listen to post-purchase feedback, and act on it

The customer journey doesn’t end with a sale! 

Actively seek out pose-purchase feedback in order to best understand customer experiences. Using surveys, reviews, and social media interactions will help you to gather insights into what went well and where there’s room for improvement. 

Then, it’s back on the horse for BFCM 2025… 

4. Extend your discounts beyond Black Friday to capture Gen Z spend 

Gen Z are suckers for a bargain. But then, aren’t we all. 

BFCM may be known as the time of slashed prices and great deals, but have you ever considered offering some kind of discount beyond this period? 

Need some persuasion? 45% of students search for a discount every time they make a purchase. 

With less cash to spend on non-essential items, when they do make a purchase, it’s doubtless one they’ve been drawn to thanks to exclusive student discounts. And, as a bonus, once you’ve captured Gen Z’s loyalty, you’ve secured some very powerful brand advocates, they’ll naturally and authentically spread the word about your brand… 

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Key takeaways 

  • Black Friday can be an overwhelming time for shoppers. With an influx of BFCM marketing during the lead-up to the saving season, pressuring countdowns, and an overload of social media content, some Gen Z shoppers are starting to feel apprehensive about BFCM. The key is to make it fun again. 
  • 89% of Gen Zers in the UK and 90% in the US want to see special offers and Black Friday promotions during this period, so stackable discounts are an absolute must this year.
  • With Cyber Monday falling on December 2nd this year, marketers are provided with an unmissable opportunity to festive-fy BFCM campaigns - it’s a sure way to engage eager young shoppers

We are Pion: your ticket to next-level growth 

At Pion, we help brands harness the growth-driving power of 
 consumer groups with full-funnel insights, advertising and verification. Our ecosystem of solutions helps expand your brand’s customer base 
 and supercharge sales.

Since 2005, we’ve uniquely built our expertise to help brands better understand, engage and grow loyalty with students, Gen Z, and other strategic consumer groups. From initial insight through to targeted promotion, our solutions drive growth on the right platforms, in the 
 right ways - all to take your business to new heights.

Understand, engage and grow with a single partner. You’re in good company. We’re trusted by over 1,000 brands in more than 100 countries. 

Want to know more? Get in touch with the Pion team today to discuss your student marketing goals and find the solution to fit your brand. 

Want to know more about Gen Z's spending habits?

Check out our BFCM spending infographic for more

Want to know more about Gen Z's spending habits?

Check out our BFCM spending infographic for more

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