By Sally Monem, Product Marketing Manager at Google MENA & Nathalie Ghattas, Inisghts and Strategy Manager at Google MENA. Original article – Think with Google

Consumers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are among the top shoppers anticipating the arrival of Black Friday. In fact, excitement for the retail moment begins as early as 10 weeks prior to the day in this region.

A survey by global consulting firm Simon-Kutcher and partners shows that 100% of respondents in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and 98% of respondents in Saudi Arabia are familiar with Black Friday. Not only that, people in MENA are spending 30% more during Black Friday than the global average, almost $400 per person.Source: Simon-Kutcher and partners, Global (AU, CN, DK, DE, IT, NL, NZ, SA, ES, SE, TR, AE, UK, US), the Global Black Friday Forecast, Sep. 2020.

Here’s what MENA marketers need to know about accelerating changes in consumer behaviours to prepare for Black Friday 2021:

Mature consumer behaviour in MENA

People in MENA are more specific in their online searches than ever before. For example, they now search for things such as “best” and “discount code”, bringing their behaviour closer to consumers in more established markets like the U.S. They also know better what they want and search for specific brands or items early-on during the shopping season.

As consumer behaviour is maturing and evolving, there is a clear shift from one single moment, Black Friday, to a whole season, starting with Singles’ Day all the way to New Year’s. In fact, people’s searches for Singles’ Day, Cyber Monday, and Christmas have grown by 33% year-on-year (YoY).

The 4 phases of the Black Friday season

Compared to just one year ago, this year the excitement for Black Friday starts even earlier and ends later, spanning over a longer period. The Black Friday 2021 season is happening over the course of four major phases:

  1. The prep: 11 weeks until four weeks before Black Friday
  2. The warm-up: Three weeks until one week before Black Friday
  3. The craze: The week of Black Friday
  4. The wrap-up: Starts the day after Black Friday and lasts for five weeks.


The prep

This is when consumers begin their exploration and research for the Black Friday season. They are not yet tied to a decision on brands or products, so are more open to suggestions and discoveries across the purchasing journey.

This year, video is playing an even more vital role in guiding consumers towards a purchase. This presents a new opportunity for MENA marketers to reach consumers through video platforms, such as YouTube. With shoppers turning to video for inspiration, unboxing videos — a trend where creators showcase products and describe their experiences — is particularly popular during the prep phase. In fact, YouTube searches for “unboxing” videos grew by a whopping 85% during the prep phase.

Consumer interest in big ticket items also saw a major uplift during this phase as people dive into preparations for the upcoming major sales. This shows the increased significance of the prep phase this year. Examples of searches include “home appliance”, which grew by 306%, while “mobile phone” and “tablet computer” saw a 19% and 45% increase respectively.


Source: Google Trends, MENA (UAE, KSA, EG), 27 Sept-10 Oct 2020 vs 11 Oct-24 Oct 2020.

The warm-up

The warm-up phase starts three weeks before Black Friday. Singles’ Day, one of the retail industry’s biggest shopping days worldwide, falls in this period. Searches for “Singles Day” grew by 32% last year compared to the year prior during the same period, showing that the originally-Chinese retail day has grown even more in MENA.

Purchases during the warm-up phase happen especially on Singles Day. In fact, activity on shopping apps grew by 37% around Singles’ Day week compared to the previous phase as consumers prepared to make a purchase.

Consumers are using this time to focus purchases on items related to well-being, with three themes in search interests particularly standing out: feeling good, feeling playful, and feeling comfortable. For example, searches for “perfume” grew by 22% compared to the previous phase, while those for “video game” saw a 50% increase. Shoppers are particularly seeking cosy comfort, with searches for “casual wear” growing by 53% during the warm-up phase compared to two weeks earlier.

The craze

Starting a week before Black Friday and ending a week after, this is where the long-awaited day takes centre stage. The craze phase is all about offers and rebates for purchases as consumers move away from generic searches. Searches for “coupon” increase 66% during this time, compared to the warm-up phase.


Source: Google Trends, MENA (UAE, KSA, EG), 18-24 Nov 2020 vs 25 Nov-1 Dec 2020.

During the craze phase, shoppers also want to make sure they are getting the best option available, so they rely on reviews and popular choices to make a purchasing decision. “Product review” searches grew by 45% during this phase compared to just one week earlier. And during the week of Black Friday, YouTube searches for ”best” videos also jumped by 24%.

The wrap-up

Spanning the period between Cyber Monday and New Year’s, the wrap-up phase is when consumers try to capture the last sales of Black Friday. “Cyber Monday” searches saw an uplift of 71% in the wrap-up phase compared to the craze phase, while searches for “coupon” grew by 31% in comparison to the prior phase.

With the holiday gifting season underway, shoppers pivot from focusing on themselves to focusing on their loved ones. During this period, searches for “gifts” grew by 55% compared to a month earlier, while those for “personalization” saw a 38% rise in comparison to the craze phase.

We also saw consumers turning to YouTube for gift inspiration. Compared to the previous phase, interest in “idea” videos grew by 90% in the two weeks following Black Friday. And it doesn’t stop there — Christmas and New Year’s outfits are also popular during this time. In fact, searches for “Christmas clothes” have been steadily growing during this period over the last few years.



Source: Google Trends, MENA (UAE, KSA, EG),15-28 Nov 2020 vs 29 Nov Dec-12 Dec 2020.

The race to Black Friday 2021

With MENA consumers showing more mature purchasing behaviours during the Black Friday season than ever, the time to prepare for the season is now. This means marketers need to be present for the searching shoppers throughout the four phases, from prep to wrap-up, with a bigger focus on reaching them through video ads. Brands also need to meet consumers’ growing appetite for apps during the warm-up and the craze phases.

As the Black Friday season encompasses more moments, such as Singles Day, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and New Year’s, there are more opportunities for marketers to engage consumers and guide them towards the purchase they are searching for. Prepare ahead for the rising interest in big ticket items, self-care purchases, and outfits.