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Andy McDonald

It’s that time of year again, when retailers slash their prices for Black Friday, as eager customers seek out the best deals ahead of Christmas.

Lots of us are looking forward to an unforgettable festive period after having to spend last year apart from family and friends. Retailers, too, are hoping for a merry Christmas, and hoping to make up for lost sales and reduced footfall.

In all the excitement, it’s important to remember that finances are stretched for many families in the UK this year. Many customers have experienced furlough or redundancy during the pandemic and may already be struggling to meet their financial commitments.

According to the debt charity StepChange, more than 400,000 people accessed their website for debt advice information in January 2021. Almost seven in ten people who contacted the charity had credit card debt, while 35% also had catalogue debt and 14% had store card debt.

Retailers can help their customers avoid a nasty new year hangover by taking a responsible approach to selling this Black Friday.

Helping people to avoid temptation

Retailers should bear in mind how easy it can be to be tempted into a great offer or payment agreement when you’re trying to make Christmas really special. It’s easy to use customer data and history to create targeted email communications that avoid sending such offers to customers that we know might be vulnerable or who are already experiencing financial problems. Data can also be used to personalise offers and products that are surfaced on websites to ensure they are appropriately targeted based on what we know about customers. In customer service, the same data can be used to create a tailored approach to customer support, with a focus on personalised, empathetic support and appropriate payment plans for vulnerable customers based on their ability to pay.

Responding to problems with empathy

When offers are made, how easy is it for the customer to cancel? Requiring customers to jump through hoops to cancel a subscription or change their mind about a ‘buy now pay later’ deal could make customers feel ‘bullied’ into keeping a subscription or payment arrangement that they can’t afford.

While retailers aren’t required to identify vulnerable customers in the same way as regulated banks or utility companies, this sort of tailored service can help customers to keep on top of their finances. It can also create a better customer experience for all, and long-term loyalty that will last well beyond Black Friday.

Building a better brand

Shoppers are increasingly aware of the ethical standards of the companies they buy from. A recent survey carried out by KPMG found that 90% of customers are willing to pay more to shop with an ethical retailer. Additionally, 42% of customers are more concerned about how their suppliers treat staff – as can be seen by the public reaction to stories of ‘slave labour’ in the fashion retail sector.

Supporting retail workers

Retailers have a responsibility to employees, just as they do to customers. Recent figures suggest that 11.5 million UK adults have less than £100 in savings, making them vulnerable to changes in the financial landscape.

During the Black Friday season, consider using tools that allow for flexible payroll terms, so that shift workers can be paid immediately, rather than waiting for a monthly payroll run. This is particularly important for those who might be living hand-to-mouth or facing immediate financial difficulty.

Providing employees with access to financial wellbeing platforms such as Level is one way to help retail workers to access, save and budget their wages. The platform also provides budgeting tools and access to interest rates 4x higher than might be found on the high street. Not only does this support the welfare of retail workers, but it can also provide an edge in filling shifts and attracting staff during the so-called “Golden Quarter”.

Learn how we can help transform experiences and create a more responsible selling approach

Written by


Andy McDonald

Andy McDonald is a retail industry focused commercial leader with an international perspective helping companies deliver on their growth goals. With over 25 years of experience, Andrew is regarded as a specialist in Digital Customer Engagement, Contact Centre Strategy and Customer Experience Analytics. Having an engineering background, Andrew prides himself on remaining customer-focused while balancing technology and service-based investments on behalf of this clients.

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