Just over a week ago, the shopping phenomenon which is Black Friday hit the UK. A couple of years ago, this event was only confined to America as a post-Thanksgiving sale event, but it has quickly gained momentum in the UK and become a key date in the retailers calendar. In fact, on Black Friday this year, online sales broke through the £1bn barrier for the first time and over the entirety of Cyber Weekend, a staggering £3.3bn was spent by UK consumers.
With the dust finally settled, we thought we’d look at some of the overall trends we spotted across our clients and the retail sector in general.
Consumers spent more
According to The IBM Watson Trend Hub, this year consumers in the UK spent 50% more online than in 2014. The average basket was a full £7.50 higher at just over £82, making it one of the highest ever posted. If you compare this to an average Friday which is £71, then it’s clear to see the impact of Black Friday and how it has gained traction in the UK.
Shoppers prefer their smartphones
This year, nearly half of all online sales came from mobile devices on Black Friday. Adobe says that 21% of sales were made via tablet computers, and £242m was spent on mobile devices, up from £217m last year.
This data shows that retailers’ investment in mobile commerce is definitely paying off as consumers are becoming increasingly happy to research and make purchases on their mobile phones. We imagine that many consumers would have done their research prior to Black Friday, and are ready to make purchases on their mobiles first thing or during their commute to work.
Black Friday is an online event
According to figures from the IMRG, online sales broke through the £1bn barrier for a single day for the first time on Black Friday, but high streets and shopping centres failed to entice shoppers despite their heavy promotions.
Black Friday footfall was significantly down on last year, despite more awareness of the event and retailers communicating their discounts well in advance. It appears that horror stories from previous years had an effect on shoppers and the average Brit opted to stay inside, avoid the crowds and shop online.
Consumers still shop in-store for various reasons; namely being the convenience and the experience of shopping as a leisure activity. If this is compromised, then shoppers may well choose to shop online instead. Bricks and mortar stores need to think beyond discounts and focus on the experience they are providing their customers – what can they offer in-store shoppers that you can’t get online? Being more creative about the shopping experience will help motivate people to leave their screens and head in-store.
Retailers are still unprepared
As shoppers surged online, we saw more website casualties this year. Our friends at Ampersand created a live dashboard to track retailers’ websites and reported that a fifth of ecommerce websites had experienced some downtime by 9am and singled out Boots, Argos and Game as retailers that had experienced disruption.
Argos were forced to give customers a countdown as long as nine minutes before transactions could be completed and their customers took to social media in their droves to voice their complaints. This was highly unfortunate for the retailer since they had been creating hype around their discounts for a week before the event.
Downtime can cause huge problems for retailers. It stops those all-important sales and can cause long term damage on a brands reputation from customers who expect sites to be fast and reliable at all times. If they are not, they will most certainly head off to a competitor and probably won’t come back. Retailers need to look at their data from this year and ensure that they have the right technology in place for 2016.
As well as their website, retailers need to also ensure they can always deliver on their delivery promises with the increase in sales that Black Friday brings.
You don’t have to discount
This year we saw retailers such as Oasis, Next, Reiss and Asda chose opt out of Black Friday. Over in the U.S, outdoor retailer REI even decided to close their stores on Black Friday and encourage shoppers to enjoy the outdoors as part of a huge campaign to boycott the day. Here in the UK premium fashion retailer Jigsaw didn’t discount to tie in with their pricing manifesto and ended up having their highest ever week at full price. Based on the chaos of previous years, Asda also decided to focus on offering great value products throughout the whole Christmas period rather than focus on one day of discounting to improve the experience for their customers.
Retailers are divided over whether Black Friday is a good thing seeing as it forces them to lose margin at the most important time of the year. They need to make a commercial decision about whether Black Friday will be a beneficial promotion for their business.
If retailers did discount, their challenge is now to encourage those customers to keep shopping with them at full price throughout 2016.
What have we learnt?
Rosie Freshwater – Managing Director
“Don’t put all of your promotional eggs in one basket. Instead of focusing on high discounts on Black Friday, run seasonal offers from late October and ensure consistent stock levels and efficient delivery throughout the entire season. Use Christmas to acquire new customers with future profit potential, rather than discount shoppers who will only buy once.”
Monika Varzinskaite – Paid Search Consultant
“Prepare your promotions well in advance. Create landing pages, use special site-link extensions (this year Google offered extensions for Black Friday and Cyber Monday only) and set aside a budget specifically for cyber weekend as cost-per-clicks go up, meaning that you would see an increased media spend compared other weekends.”
Alex Oxborough – Social Media and Content Manager
“I share a similar view to Rosie, Black Friday has arrived on the UK retail scene, but it needn’t be just about discounting. The negative press around the day is an opportunity to gain positive publicity for your brand. By stating that you are not taking part in Black Friday and making the reason why about the quality of your customer experience, you can build your brand and win customer loyalty.”