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5 Insights to learn from Black Friday 2015

With the hype of a £1bn sales day ringing in the ears of shoppers and retailers alike, Black Friday 2015 proved to be the busiest UK online shopping day on record.

As impressive as this figure is, there are some key lessons that can, and should be learnt for the future; as well as insights into consumer behaviour to improve the shopping experience year round.

It seems that Black Friday has now become the epicentre of a week-long sales season, which merges almost unnoticed into Cyber Monday, rather than the stand-alone sale it began life as. The distinctiveness of Black Friday has definitely gone. But will it stay that way?

Much has changed since Black Friday hysteria came to the UK, and retailers are seeing new trends emerge, with crucial lessons to learn along the way.

1. Consumers are avoiding the manic high-street experience of past years in favour of shopping online. The 2014 scenes of chaos and over crowed stores, seemed to deter many from leaving the safety of their screens. Out of the total spent on Black Friday, £1.1bn was spent online (up 36% on 2014 according to Experian and IMRG) rather than in store. This initial fear proved to be unfounded as the sale started with considerably less voracity than expected.

2. Website stability is key to maximising sales, and boosting user experience. US retailer Target, as well as Tesco, Schuh and Zara in the UK were hit by system faults due to the high volume of visitors to their websites. As consumer confidence grows in online shopping year on year, so do the threats. Cyber security, and credit card fraud are very real daily battles for online retailers. Therefore consumers need trust, and believe the sites they shop on are robust enough to handle the expected demands for stability and security. Online retailers were still unprepared, despite the widely publicised volume predictions.

3. Presales lowered Black Friday sales growth. For some retailers the spike in sales predicted by many pundits, proved to be a little less spectacular, due to their early presale price slashing. This conversely may then see Christmas sales suffer for the same retailers due to consumer binge shopping over Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Shoppers were able to benefit from discounted prices from as early as Tuesday for Black Friday, and Sunday for Cyber Monday.

4. Action change and improvements. The implementation of customer insight data, and analysis will be the differentiators between those brands who just do well during the sale next year, and those who sustain sales growth throughout the fiscal year. As healthy as many of the revenue figures have been over the Black Friday period, some retailers may see a dip in overall revenue, as shoppers settle back into normal shopping patterns. Using raw data to improve offerings is a trick too good to miss.

5. There are always pretenders to the throne. eCommerce strategies, and post campaign analyse are now more important than ever, to gain competitive edge. Customer insight into how, and why the trend for shopping online is growing in the UK as the next retail space is key. It has shown itself to be a space where new, and established retailers can be extremely niche with their offerings. Performing well, away from the bricks and mortar of the high street. Right now Amazon, Walmart, and other larger retailers have staked a firm claim to the mass market online. The advantage for those that still have a strong high street presence should, and must be to maximise the aesthetic advantage of customers being able to physically touch and feel products in store, as well as return to a store; verses the shopping experience of an Amazon for example.

One brand who has taken all these points and more into consideration this Black Friday is Argos. Who attracted more visitors than the online behemoth Amazon!

The key takeaways from this years’ sale are that if you participate, it is essential that you have a robust end to end strategy to complement your sales campaign, with a road map that extends to after the sale is over. 

As well as Argos have done in engaging consumers, they are now victims of their own success, as they have been unable to meet delivery deadlines, and subsequent customer service demands. Perpetuating brand reputation must be as important as the sale.