Black Friday surpasses expectations
A roundup of news at the beginning of the festive discount weekend reveals steady store footfall, but soaring online traffic
The discount day traditionally following Thanksgiving in the US has emerged as the biggest single shopping day in the UK in the year, kickstarting the busiest weekend in the run up to Christmas.
With some industry analysts predicting this year would see the UK’s first £1bn shopping day, Salmon, the ecommerce consultancy, reported a general increase in sales and orders throughout the day from a cross section of its retail clients.
Updates from Salmon’s Black Friday analytics hub between midnight and 4pm, included traffic sessions between 8am and 12pm were highest at 37%. Conversion rate uplift was up a massive 94% on 2014, with 64% of traffic coming via desktop devices, and 36% of traffic via mobile devices.
Footfall shows steady increase
In London’s West End, traders association the New West End Company has been working closely with retailers this morning to capture Black Friday footfall data.
Jace Tyrrell, New West End Company chief executive, commented: “We’ve seen a tremendous start to the day in London’s West End this Black Friday – in the first four hours of trading we have seen a 10% uplift in footfall compared to Black Friday last year. There is a terrific atmosphere on the streets, with shoppers enjoying the first discounts of the season in an unashamedly festive setting.
“I have seen people bringing suitcases with them in order to carry their purchases home – and with retailers offering discounts of up to 50% off, it is no surprise that a predicted £100m will be taken in West End tills today and a total of £200m from Friday to Sunday.”
Tyrrell added: “In light of the footfall figures we have seen so far, we look set to be on course for the busiest trading day in London’s West End so far this year.”
Some retailers tested under strain
But it has not always been easy for all retailers to keep pace with demand. For the second year running Argos, alongside others including Boots and GAME, appeared to be struggling under the strain of Black Friday. UK shoppers were reporting slow loading times, webpages timing out, webpage crashes and a warning message from the high street retailer stating that “demand for this part of the site is really high”.
Paul Heywood, managing director and vice president in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) of cloud-based internet performance company Dyn, commented: “After the failure of Argos, Currys and Tesco last year – all of which experienced outages – many retailers will be praying that they do not buckle under the strain of millions of shoppers flooding their pages, causing them to lose out in both sales and reputation.
“Dyn research has revealed that over 85% of consumers admit that the speed and quality of a website’s performance affects their trust in that company. If a page is slow to load or process an order during sale peaks, customers will become increasingly frustrated with the retailer and, as a result, brand trust and loyalty may suffer. It is therefore absolutely crucial that retailers ensure their online customer experience doesn’t suffer because of the traffic peaks caused by days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.”
Fulfilment expectations run high
Patrick Gallagher, CitySprint chief executive, the UK same day distribution company, commented: “It may be quiet on the High Street today, but that does not mean consumers are not buying in force this Black Friday. The majority are likely spending online instead of instore, especially as retailers have tried to avoid the dramatic scenes we saw last year.
“This inevitably puts greater strain on distribution and delivery networks, who must make sure shoppers receive their online purchases in good time. Sensible retailers will have capped the number of same day and next day deliveries they promise in this period to avoid damaging their reputation.”
Nick Fletcher, director of multichannel services at digital marketing company Rakuten Marketing, also referenced the fact that the High Street got off to a slow start this Black Friday. “And, although we’re still likely to see record sales made online, it may actually be Cyber Monday that steals the show over the discount weekend,” he suggested.
Cyber Monday looms large
“Our network data shows that Cyber Monday will see the biggest year on year growth out of the two days, and could even surpass Black Friday in terms of overall sales made,” Fletcher predicted.
“The biggest spenders are clearly online this year so, with shoppers able to flit between brands to find the best deal, a fantastic customer experience will be crucial to ensure conversions. Retailers must connect the experience they offer on mobile, tablet and laptop so that their dialogue with the customer is seamless and above all, not lost to the competition.
“Overall, those retailers that engage customers throughout the whole weekend will remain front of mind,” he concluded. “Brands will need to work especially hard to remind shoppers of items they have expressed interest in to secure sales.”