Post-Black Friday Analysis: What the UK Retail Industry Saw

Read Time: 4 Minutes

The first recorded use of the term “Black Friday” was applied not to a seasonal shopping event, but to a financial crisis: more specifically the 1869 crash of the U.S. gold market. Two Wall-Street financiers attempted to rig the system, which, upon being discovered on Friday 24th September, sent the stock-market into freefall, rendering the whole of Wall-Street bankrupt, and the expression Black Friday was first coined.

150 years later we’ve gone from financial flop to shopping mania, with Black Friday now recognised as a post-Thanksgiving shopping tradition, celebrated across the world and wider digital space. The renovation of Black Friday – from a crisis commemoration to a festive retail bonanza  – started in the late 1980’s.  As the story goes, the first version of the ‘retail focused’ Black Friday was known as the ‘red to black’ concept, as after several months of operating at a loss (“in the red”) retailers would supposedly earn a profit (“went into the black”) on the day after Thanksgiving, as holiday shoppers rush to spend money on discounted merchandise. 

Fast forward to 2020 and both the financial and cultural history of the US Black Friday tradition is eerily similar to what the UK industry is experiencing now during the global Covid-19 pandemic. Retailers are fighting for every eyeball, click and conversion in a rapidly shifting economy – ramping up their eCommerce efforts in bid to out-compete their competitors.

With so much speculation raised ahead of this year’s Black Friday, due to high-street closures and lockdown restrictions, what exactly did the retail industry see over the four day event?

Trends Across the Industry:

With thousands of retailers slashing their prices over the Black Friday weekend (in a bid to attract customers) the industry was awash with discounts throughout the four day event. And leading the charge was the fast fashion industry offering hard discounts between 70-90% off RRP. The introduction of the national lockdown in March was accompanied by a drastic shift in consumer behaviour, with certain fashion interests, and search terms – such as “Heel Shoes” and “Men’s Suits” – plummeting in popularity. The result? Sales dropped and fashion retailers across the UK were sitting on a growing pile of unsold inventory, which led to many leaning on Black Friday promotions as a means by which to clear out their warehouses. Whilst it may be shocking to see such a high figure, it’s hardly unsurprising, especially when shifting excess stock is a high priority for certain retailers. 

Accompanying these hard ‘in-house’ discounts, we also saw an increase in affiliate marketing, with coupon and cashback sites dominating the digital space – especially with the brands who didn’t run a competitive discount. In terms of general discount promotion we saw a substantial increase in Email and SMS, with both massively ramping up in the week before, and four days of Black Friday.

Irrespective of Black Friday, November was a strong month for sales this year as consumer behaviours shifted to support the current economic climate. Due to the vast proportion of individuals working from home, November saw substantial increases in both digital and social media consumption, with consumers spending increasingly more time ‘browsing’ online – factoring in recognition for potential disruptions such as distribution delays and warehouse closures. 

A closer look at Black Friday, Sofa Sunday and Cyber Monday as a whole showed consumers were purchasing their deals earlier than normal this year due to the second lockdown. We saw a large Black Friday online revenue spike of 143% Year-on-Year (YoY), however the overall YoY growth was lower than in previous weeks. This trend was also seen during Cyber Monday – it was the second highest revenue generating day of November 2020 but YoY growth was the lowest of the entire month. 

Data from Barclaycard Payments (which processes £1 in every £3 spent in the UK), showed that overall sales declined 16.7% YoY on Black Friday, and 9.9% on Cyber Monday, as shoppers were forced to buy online during a lockdown Sales event. This is likely an impact from sales starting earlier and the transition from in-store to online purchases.

Overall this year’s online revenue and spend was up YoY, primarily due to your usual offline shoppers taking to the internet. However, the industry certainly saw noticeable pullbacks as the peak hit; due to factors such as delivery capacity restrictions and sheer order volume. In the run up to Black Friday retailers maximised their online presence, offering discounts earlier than normal in a bid to try and regain the revenue lost through store closures and high street restrictions.

A Spotlight on Amazon: Incubeta Analyses Black Friday

Read time: 4 Minutes 30 Seconds

Speculation was in the air ahead of this year’s Black Friday, and Cyber Weekend, with many retailers suggesting that this season would be unlike any other, as coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on the retail industry and consumer shopping habits. 

That being said, with 45% of retailers starting their online customer journey on Amazon, the online giant had nothing to worry about as millions of festive shoppers flocked to their site, snapping up bargains left, right and centre – throughout the weekend. The question that bodes asking, is how did the market shift throughout Black Friday, Sofa Sunday and Cyber Monday to support the influx of bargain hunters – in short, how did advertisers change their pricing strategy throughout the four day event to maximise exposure and ROI?Amazon Market Analysis

Over the past year, Incubeta has developed a Market Monitor Tool which allows us to analyse the Amazon marketplace providing valuable performance insights across the platform. Similar to the analysis we did for Prime Day, we used our tool to analyse the subsequent impact that Black Friday, Sofa Sunday and Cyber Monday had in comparison to one another. Based on our Black Friday Weekend Report, we were able to gain the following insights on Product Price, Share of Voice and Advertising .

Product Price:

Product price tells you the individual cost of each product, which over 96% of Amazon consumers say is the most important factor in their purchasing decisions. Product price allows advertisers to directly compare themselves to competitors, tailoring their strategy accordingly. 

Using the Market Monitor tool, Incubeta was able to determine that on average product price was higher on Sofa Sunday in comparison to both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Prices increased on average by 8% from Black Friday to Sofa Sunday, with prices dropping by 8% on Cyber Monday, displaying a similar price to that offered on Black Friday. This trend suggests that Cyber Monday is the day where consumers will get the best deals.

  1. The average product price on Black Friday was 8% lower than Sofa Sunday (£56.62 on Black Friday compared to £61.32 on Sofa Sunday)
  2. The average product price on Black Friday was 0.4% higher than Cyber Monday (£56.62 on Black Friday compared to £56.38 on Cyber Monday)

The exception to this trend is with Fitness Equipment, which saw a 13% decrease in price on Cyber Monday compared to Black Friday. Overall price was highest on Sofa Sunday (£78.14) compared to £65.32 on Black Friday and £67.08 on Cyber Monday .

Share of Voice:

When looking at Share of Voice, we are determining the amount of  space within the Amazon search results your brand owns compared to your competitors.

Looking at brand Share of Voice (SOV), the Market Monitor established that overall SOV was higher on Sofa Sunday than either Black Friday or Cyber Monday. The category which showed the greatest competition on Black Friday (in terms of brand SOV and number of products ranking) was Kitchen – where the overall SOV was 24.64%. Fitness Clothing displayed the lowest share of voice of only 20.67% on Cyber Monday – down 8% from Sofa Sunday

  1. Overall the average SOV on Black Friday was 2% lower than Sofa Sunday (23.88% on Black Friday compared to 24.36% on Sofa Sunday)
  2. Overall the average SOV on Black Friday was 0.4% lower than Cyber Monday (23.88% on Black Friday compared to 23.98% on Cyber Monday

This trend in SOV indicates that it’s more competitive on Sofa Sunday than either Black Friday or Cyber Monday.


Incubeta was also able to determine which sellers were optimising paid advertising, finding that, on average, the use of paid ads was highest on Cyber Monday – being 8% higher than on Black Friday – suggesting an increase in sellers relying on paid advertising later on in the weekend.

  1. Overall the number of sellers using Paid Advertising on Black Friday was 5% lower than Sofa Sunday
  2. Overall the number of sellers using Paid Advertising on Black Friday was 11% lower/higher than Cyber Monday

Amazon Sold Products:

Amazon Sold Products (ASP) are products sold specifically on Amazon, by Amazon – not by third party sellers. They are products within Amazon’s private label brands, and are a benchmark for alternate sellers to compare themselves too. 

Looking specifically at ASP, we saw an increase in price on Sofa Sunday and Cyber Monday compared to Black Friday. This suggests that Amazon raises their prices after Black Friday, whereas third party sellers continue their discounts.

  1. Overall the average ASP price on Black Friday was 18% lower than Sofa Sunday (£61.55 on Black Friday compared to £72.67 on Sofa Sunday)
  2. Overall the average ASP price on Black Friday was 41% lower than on Cyber Monday (£61.55 on Black Friday compared to £86.77 on Cyber Monday)

With 75% of users starting their shopping journey on Amazon, having an optimised Amazon campaign is the key to success going into 2021 – and now is the perfect time to refine your strategy.

Incubeta’s Market Monitor tool can help you achieve full visibility on your product performance, gaining insights into direct competitors, SOV, keyword gaps and position, and for the rest of the holiday season we are offering free personalised audits of your Amazon Activity. 

If you’re interested in directly comparing your performance with competitors and identifying your true Amazon potential, fill in the form today and request your free audit.

This post was originally published on Incubeta.

What Lockdown means for your Q4 Strategy

Read Time: 2 Minutes 30 Seconds

With the announcement of England going into a second lockdown, and the subsequent reintroduction of non-essential retail restrictions, advertisers and consumers alike are going to witness a Christmas like no other before. 

Whilst the industry may seem digitally well-versed after the previous retail restrictions implemented in March, it’s important to consider that this imminent lockdown will be hugely different to the one we experienced earlier in the year. It goes without saying that Q4 is the busiest time for the majority of retailers, and many brands may be questioning the effect a secondary lockdown will have on their marketing strategy for the holiday season. 

Although some may feel like their Q4 strategy has been flipped upside down, it’s important for advertisers to return to the mindset that they were in earlier this year and be reactive to the market. The shape of Christmas will be different to what we know, and we will undoubtedly be seeing a huge uplift in online revenue as the uncertainty surrounding physical retail restrictions intensifies. Both Wales and Ireland (after the announcement of a secondary lockdown), saw a 55% increase in site traffic and 49% rise in revenue. Looking at the near 30% difference in revenue growth compared to England (20% rise) during that time, we can gain an indication of the further uplift in demand that we’ll likely see towards the end of the week and further into November. Businesses can respond to these insights by strengthening and cementing their digital presence, whilst optimising their content across all channels.

Whilst we may only be four days into November, the number of consumers panicking about Christmas delivery has risen fourfold. The increase in pressure being put on distribution centres – as a result of the restrictions to physical retail – is undeniably an element of concern for many customers, who have already started getting their gift and decoration orders in at the start of this month to avoid the risk of late delivery. This sudden shift in consumer spending adversely affects the holiday season as we know it, and advertisers will likely see a more spaced out Q4 than ever before.

As festive shoppers flock online, advertisers need to review and refine their planned assets, ensuring that all mentions of physical stores are removed and that their content is appropriate and sympathetic to the current situation. People are going to have more time on their hands this year, and with the current unrest in the jobs industry, price and value need to be key focal points within one’s strategy. Zoom quizzes are out, and competition is on the rise as we begin to see an uplift in consumers benchmarking products against competitors to find the best deal.

Although a second lockdown will have come as a tough blow to many retailers and small business owners, it’s important to note that this isn’t the end of the road for physical retail – far from it. Whilst this lockdown is already so different from the first, we will undoubtedly continue to see a magnitude of community spirit as we charge into the holiday season, with people continuing to support small businesses and charities throughout this uncertain period of time. 

This blog was originally posted on Incubeta

Google Ads reduction of Search Term Data

Read Time: 4 Minutes

It came as a somewhat unwanted update when, at the start of September, Google Announced that, with immediate effect, it would be reducing the number of search terms that appear in any advertisers paid search query report.

Search Query Reports have long been at the centre of keyword refinement processes – from relevant term identification and reducing wasted spend to the analysis of long tailed seed terms via Ngram scripts. They are one of the oldest tools in any paid search advertisers arsenal, not only providing insight into what keywords you’re bidding on, but the actual queries that are driving traffic to your site.

It therefore raises the question – why the change?


Whilst it will likely result in a loss of visibility for advertisers, Google have cited privacy as the main reason for the unwelcome update. In a statement released in early September to Search Engine Land, Google mentioned that in order to maintain their ‘standards of privacy’ and ensure rigorous user data protection, Search Term reports will only include terms and keywords that a ‘significant number of users’ have searched for.  

The impact of these said changes will solely depend upon what Google means when they say the word ‘significant’ – we’re still experiencing a certain amount of ambiguity surrounding the term, and advertisers will likely be grasping at their purse strings as we ride through Q4.

So What’s the Impact?

On average across our Paid Search accounts we’ve seen the percent of total traffic accounted for at the search term level drop from around 95% in August down to 75% in September.

This means that with Google’s new update, we have lost visibility of the Search Terms that accounted for approximately 25% of total traffic – similar percentages are also generated when looking at spend.

Whilst this percentage seems to vary by account and vertical, one clear trend – across our accounts – is that the percentage of traffic from unknown search terms tends to be higher on Google Shopping campaigns compared to text ads. 

Logically, this makes sense as – due to their nature – shopping campaigns tend to receive a higher percentage of traffic from lower volume long tail product terms (when compared to text ad campaigns).

Similarly when we look at the breakdown of text ad campaigns by match type, we see that Broad match (BMM) keywords and Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) are again seeing a much higher percentage of traffic from unknown search terms.

This can also be attributed to the campaign’s nature of picking up long tail lower volume search queries, with the percentage of unknown search terms on exact match keywords sitting at only 7%.

So which search terms have Google removed from the report?

Comparing the percentage of total search terms during the last week of August with the first week of September, we can see that the largest drop has been from search terms that report only 1 impression. These terms accounted for a 6% drop in total search terms (31% in August down to 25% in September), with  a smaller decline in search terms being reported with 2-3 impressions. This is largely in line with the expectation that the majority of search terms being removed will be long tail low volume terms.

However, when looking at the total traffic generated by these keywords we can see that even in September we are still seeing 9% of traffic coming from search terms with only 1 impression in a week.

So, what actions can we take?

There are multiple ways advertisers can adapt to the new limitations:

  • Utilise Google Ads scripts such as the one listed on Search Engine Land, to track what percentage of your accounts traffic & spend is coming via unknown search terms.
  • Developing an understanding of what the aggregate performance of these unknown search terms is based on your target KPIs compared to those search terms that are reported upon –  based on our account data (since the changes were implemented), average conversion rates on these unknown search terms tend to be around 10% lower than the totals from known search terms.
  • Closely monitor the impact of performance on certain campaigns where the percentage of unknown search term traffic is likely to be higher compared to exact match campaigns – adjusting bids, budgets, audience targeting & negative keywords where required.
  • Utilise the detailed search term reports prior to September, using Ngram analysis scripts to identify low performing seed terms within the long tail for negative keyword identification.
  • Utilise Google’s Smart bidding strategies. Their Machine learning algorithms – that power bid strategies – take into account the user’s search query as well as numerous other auctions signals. Over time, irrelevant queries matching your keywords should reduce –  even on low volume search terms that are no longer reported upon.

This post was originally published on Incubeta’s Blog

Incubeta launches Seamless Search 

Read Time: 2 mins 30 seconds

Yesterday was an exciting day for the Incubeta family, as for the first time ever, we showcased our award-winning technology, Seamless Search.

This brand new software, is the first search management platform of its kind, enabling marketers to manage paid and organic search holistically.

Paid search advertising expenditure currently accounts for 41% of total digital media spend globally, yet the relationship between organic and paid search is complex. Until now, there has never been a way to see the true value of search.

Seamless Search, allows advertisers to identify their true organic coverage, thereby reducing the risk of unnecessary bid spend and allowing them to answer questions such as;

  • Should I pay to bid for keywords I already have a high organic coverage for?
  • How much does my current paid strategy cannibalise my organic strategy?
  • Should I pay for my brand and brand generic terms?
  • What paid position should I take based on my current organic coverage?

So, how does it work?

Using machine learning, Seamless Search assesses thousands of internal and external factors that impact the correlation between paid and organic search, determining the true value of each channel.

Post-assessment, the platform generates a clear report, outlining the actual contribution of paid and organic search to your business performance metrics (such as sales).  Seamless Search also has its own bid automation engine, enabling advertisers to make paid search bid adjustments based on current true search performance.

Having a sound understanding of true search performance drives game-changing results and on average our clients see a 25% revenue uplift at an average increase in efficiency of 20%.

How is it different?

As our Director of Strategy, Damien Bennett comments: “There are many great search tools that look at paid and organic search in isolation, however there are very few that are able to help advertisers manage across both search channels.  Seamless Search will help advertisers get the most from their overall search marketing by giving them confidence in how the two channels impact on one another.”Most search marketers are forced to adopt an approach where their paid and organic search channels are managed separately, meaning optimisation decisions aren’t considering the true value of each channel, and investment decisions are therefore sub-optimal.

Our Head of Product Development, Fred Maude discussed how Incubeta saw “that there was an opportunity to use machine learning to help search marketers fully understand how their organic coverage affects paid performance and vice versa”.

Incubeta’s Seamless Search will allow advertisers to manage their search activity holistically, enabling them to optimise their paid search activity based on the channel’s true value.

Join the waiting list, to see how you can benefit from true Seamless Search.

For more information, visit:

Incubeta invites you to the unveiling of Seamless Search

September is upon us and with it brings an exciting new arrival. We are thrilled to announce the newest addition to the Incubeta family: Seamless Search.

Seamless Search TechnologyBe one of the first to get an exclusive look at this award-winning technology at our virtual unveiling on the 22nd September 2020.

This is the first time we’ll be showcasing the Seamless Search platform to the wider public; showing you first-hand how our one-of-a-kind software can enhance and improve your search strategy. Let Incubeta show you the true value of your paid and organic search and how to  use this data to achieve the best results for your business. Register today for our launch event and experience firsthand the true power of Seamless Search.

To learn more about our Seamless Search Software, check out our new Seamless website,


Incubeta DQ&A Named a Google Marketing Platform Sales Partner in the Americas

We are excited to share that our sister company, Incubeta DQ&A, has been named a Google Marketing Platform Sales Partner in the Americas, adding to our group’s long-standing Partnership status across APAC and EMEA, and cementing our global Google Marketing Platform Sales Partner status.

In becoming a certified sales partner in the Americas, Incubeta brings a 17-year heritage of defining, deploying, and optimising the digital marketing technology infrastructures of hundreds of brands across the globe. 

Michael Ossendrijver, Incubeta DQ&A Brand CEO and Chief Strategy Officer at Incubeta, comments: “This partnership in the Americas enables us to provide our sophisticated service levels and proprietary products at a global level. Incubeta has been a proud and effective partner of Google Marketing Platform in APAC and EMEA for many years, so it’s exciting to be able to deploy this offering in the Americas with some fantastic brands joining us from the beginning.”

With the power of Google Marketing Platform combined with Google Cloud Platform, brands will have the ability to implement privacy-centric digital marketing infrastructures. Brands will also be able to achieve data-driven dynamic creative solutions at scale and speed, delivered through highly optimised paid media campaigns. Our proprietary technology further augments Google Marketing Platform’s functionality, providing clients with a unique proposition.

Luke Judge, CEO of Incubeta US and UK, adds: “We expect big things with Incubeta becoming a GMP sales partner in the US, and strengthening the service value of our specialist creative and media solutions in North America through Incubeta Joystick and Incubeta NMPi respectively. Our teams are geared up and ready to meet the needs in the US region from our offices in New York and Los Angeles. I’m excited to see us amplify and grow the success we have already seen in the US region in recent years.”

We’re looking forward to new opportunities to combine our group expertise across media, tech, and creative in the Americas.

NMPi & Liverpool FC 2019 BIMA Award Winners

We are excited to announce that NMPi has won our 10th award this year, at the 2019 BIMA Awards.

The BIMA Awards are the “longest-standing and most prestigious digital awards in the UK”, designed to recognise and reward those organisations who are moving the game on and the digital economy forward.

With that being said, it is an incredible honour to have won the Data & Performance Marketing – Under 70K award for our work with Liverpool Football Club. 

The campaign looks at the strategy behind the rich media banners designed and built by the NMPi Display team, which utilised narrative sequences, fan engagement and relevance to promote Liverpool FC’s 2018/2019 New Balance Kit. To learn more about the campaign, check out Anna Jorysz’s presentation from our seminar earlier this year where she discusses the data strategy behind her banners.

As always, a huge thank you and congratulations goes out to the teams and our client who have worked on these campaigns.

The Sky’s the Limit for Incubeta’s New Office

We’re excited to announce that Incubeta have moved to a new home in Old Street.

NMPi, Joystick and DQ&A have moved into the 16th floor of the Bower, marking the first time Incubeta UK can all be found under one roof. 

On Tuesday, CEO of Incubeta UK and US, Luke Judge welcomed staff to the brand new office, expressing his pride and excitement in the “15 years, 250 staff, and the history of the business [that] has brought us here.”

James Sleaford, MD of DQ&A UK & IE is equally enthusiastic about the move. “We have been on such an exhilarating journey since launching in the UK two years ago. This new space is the physical representation of the hard work that we have put in; I can’t wait to see what we can achieve next”.

Media, Data and Creative all under one roof.

The custom built space features 360° panoramic views of London’s iconic skyline, and is a perfect match for the size and identity of Incubeta UK today, and where it is going. The office also boasts the latest video collaboration technology, 120 person auditorium, as well as a library, and creative breakout spaces. Old Street is known as the ‘cultural crossroad’ of London, suiting our vision and placing us in the prime location for partnership visits and events. 

We look forward to welcoming our clients and partners in to take a look over the coming months, and have a dedicated client and partner collaboration and hot-desking space, to help provide an office-from-office facility.

Company Values in the Custom Built office space.

If you want to see more from Incubeta, Register Here to sign up to our upcoming September Seminar, Incubeta Ignite: A Decade in Focus. Held at Google Kings Cross on the 26th September 2019. 


You can find us here:


16th Floor

207 Old Street




NMPi Take Home the Health Campaign of the Year Award

We hope we aren’t boring you with all of our award announcements, but we just can’t keep them to ourselves!

It is our absolute pleasure to announce that the NMPi team have taken home the award for Health Campaign of the Year at this year’s Drum Marketing Awards.

The award was won for our work with Superdrug Online Doctor, where we helped them develop a Paid Search strategy to take advantage of the launch of Viagra Connect, the first time Viagra has been available over the counter.

This is our second award win of 2019, after bringing home the gold at the UK Biddable Media Awards for Best Use of Data in March.