Black Friday (November 28) and Cyber Monday (December 1) were expected to be bigger than ever this year. Each is a key shopping date in its own right, but since the two fell on the same weekend in 2014, the sales-boosting effect was likely to be amplified. We followed the events as they unfolded and below are our key points.
The retail result
• Amazon said Black Friday was its busiest ever day, with more than 5.5m items ordered – or around 64 items per second. The peak moment was 8.29am. The day was well ahead of Black Friday 2013, when it sold more than 4m items.
“Ever since we introduced Black Friday to the UK in 2010, sales have increased year on year but this year really has surpassed all of our expectations,” said Xavier Garambois, vice president of EU retail at Amazon [IRDX RAMZ]. “The public’s appetite for Black Friday has been bigger than ever, kicking off the Christmas shopping period in earnest and establishing Black Friday as a fixture on the UK Christmas shopping calendar.”
John Lewis [IRDX RJLW] set new sales records in the week that ended in Black Friday. The department store said that on Black Friday alone, sales rose by 21.8% compared to the equivalent day last year, while online sales grew by 42.2%.
Across the full week to Saturday November 29, sales of £179.1m were 21.8% up on last year and 56.8% up on the previous week. The figures were well ahead of the retailer’s previous record week, when shoppers spent £164.4m in the week before Christmas last year. Shops including Oxford Street saw record takings on Black Friday itself.
• Discount golf retailer Direct Golf reported record online sales over its five day Black Friday event: they rose by 203% compared to the same time last year. The rise meants its November figures were 51% ahead of the same period last year. Direct Golf marketing manager Simon Corp said: “We had hoped for a big weekend, but this has far exceeded our expectations. We wanted to ensure that we offered the very best deals on Black Friday. We looked at what the rest of the golf market was offering over Black Friday and we made the conscious decision to better the other offers out there to drive home our message of we will not be beaten on price. We’re delighted so many Direct Golf customers have benefited from these bumper deals.”
How it worked out on the day
• Early figures suggest that Black Friday overtook Cyber Monday as a pre-Christmas shopping day this year. According to Worldpay, ecommerce sales on Black Friday 2014 were 74% ahead of Black Friday in 2013. Cyber Monday sales were 44% ahead of last year. In total, Worldpay processed transactions worth £297,000 more on Black Friday than on Cyber Monday.
• Shoppers may have liked the deals on offer on Cyber Monday and Black Friday, but, according to analytics start-up Formisimo.com, liking did not always equate to buying. Its analysis found that between midnight Thursday and midnight Monday only 24.95% of people who started buying something online completed the purchasing process. On mobile, only one in five got to the end. Formisimo, which specialises in checkout-related analytics, says reasons shoppers don’t complete online purchases include slow, faulty or complicated check-outs.
But when consumers did buy, they did so quickly over the cyber weekend. Shoppers took an average of 48 seconds to buy, compared to 62 seconds average for the month of November as a whole. Some 70% of UK buyers abandoned the online shopping process, while two in five US shoppers did so. In France, only 24% finish checking out online, taking an average one minute and 42 seconds to buy.
Al Mackin, chief executive of Formisimo, said: “After all the browsing and searching to find a great deal you’d be amazed at how many shoppers hate filling in their details in an online checkout – so much so that they go and buy from elsewhere.
“With tempers frayed they’re less patient with processes that ask for too much information, that have errors, or that are simply confusing. On some of the busiest online shopping days of the year online retailers are losing up to 80% of their potential sales right at the end of the buying cycle.”
• Shoppers spent almost $300m in Bitcoin during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, bitcoin payments provider Bitnet found. Its research showed $296m in Bitcoin was spent around the world, making the cryptocurrency the ninth most popular payment choice, behind alternatives including Visa, MasterCard, American Express and PayPal.
Black Friday proved more popular of the two days for Bitcoin payments: $152m was spent compared to $144m on Cyber Monday.
“Like all other payment networks, Bitcoin saw a surge in volume over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with higher than usual payment totals over the two days,” said Akif Khan, VP solutions strategy, Bitnet. “The Bitcoin network handled $296M in two days – that’s impressive when taking into account the currency is only five years old and is still growing with respect to merchant and consumer adoption.”
• Mobile came to the fore on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, according to IBM analysis. On Friday online sales were up by 91.6%, compared to 2013, with average order values up by 1.4% at £88.86. Mobile traffic accounted for 59.8% of all online traffic in the UK on Friday, said IBM, 30.32% more than last year, while mobile sales accounted for 47.3% of all sales, 35.5% up on last year.
On Monday, shoppers using mobile spent less on each order – as an average – than last year, but mobile devices were used for a greater proportion of sales. Across devices, average order value was down by 4.05%, rising to 6.03% on mobile devices. But the proportion of sales made via mobile devices was up by 29.31% on last year, with smartphone usage up by 42.88% and tablet usage up by 12%, both as a percentage of overall sales.
James Lovell, European retail solution leader at IBM said: “Although the average value of mobile spend on Cyber Monday actually fell from 2013, it is telling to note that the percentage of overall sales made on mobile devices grew by almost a third (29%).”
• Cyber Monday site traffic grew strongly in the UK, according to personalisation specialist Monetate [IRDX VMOT], which measured 49.3m individual shopping sessions in the UK and around the world. It found that in the UK Cyber Monday traffic grew by 20.8%, compared to the equivalent day last year, and well ahead of US growth of 11.8%, with UK page views up by 39.8% (38.1% in the US). In the UK conversion rates were up by 7% on last year, while in the US they came in at 8.3%.
Monetate’s analysis also found fast growth in the use of mobile devices, with smartphone traffic up by 59.1% on last year, tablet traffic by 41.9%, while traffic from laptops and PCs was up by 2.9%. Smartphone conversion grew significantly: up by 59.1% on last year, while conversion from tablet was up by 3.5% from tablet and desktop and laptop by 10.2%.
• Speaking around lunchtime on Cyber Monday, Matthew Wood of vouchercloud.com said online shoppers were proving enthusiastic on Cyber Monday. “Although it is barely lunchtime, we have already experienced an enormous spike in traffic to our site, with many reporting that early morning is the busiest time as consumers jump online before taking the kids to school or starting their morning commute.
“We do, however, expect to see further spikes during the remaining lunch period and this evening as parents put the little ones to bed and put their feet up with their tablets, smartphones and laptops. By updating the deals at regular intervals throughout the day, high street brands are able to keep consumers clicking back hour after hour to check what’s new. As per previous years, the highest peak in our activity is usually during the evening, with many consumers sweeping the biggest and brightest last-minute deals before the clock strikes twelve and normal discounts are resumed! Considering last year’s figures, we predict that 8pm will be the key time for internet sales this year, but our team will be working into the night to make sure all our customers benefit from great deals right up until the last second.”
• A Pay4Later study showed 53% of Britons, or 24.9 m people, expected to do some of their Christmas shopping on Cyber Monday. 940,000 people intend to do 50% or more of their shopping today.
It also found 43% of over-65s intend to do some of their Christmas shopping today. However younger shoppers were most likely to buy online today with 61% of 18 to 24-year-olds hunting bargains.
The study also suggested 30% of people would do 10% or more of their Christmas shopping on Cyber Monday.
• There was growing social media buzz around Black Friday over the course of the last week. In figures released this afternoon, social media monitoring company Brandwatch said there had more than 6.3m mentions of Black Friday between November 22 and 28. ‘Price’ was the most mentioned topic, with 1.3m mentions, while the most popular hashtag was #BlackFriday, with more than 963,000 mentions on Twitter. The data was based on a 10% sampling taken using the Brandwatch Analytics platform, and multiplied to represent the full volume. Conversations were consistent throughout the week, and then increasing between November 27 and 28 (Black Friday).
Most mentions (83%) were in the US, while 6% were in the UK, and women were more likely to discuss the subject with a 57% share of voice.
• Black Friday: according to real-time analysis from Monetate [IRDX VMOT], the number of online purchases on Black Friday is up by 106% compared to the equivalent date last year. Its final figures for the day showed that smartphone purchases were down by 34.4% on last year, while buying with tablets was up by 12.2%. Sales across both smartphone and tablet accounted for 26.71% of all online sales, and were up by 12.99%, year-on-year. Average order values were also up, by 2.80% since 2013. Overall page views were up by 24.70% on last time.
• ChannelAdvisor [IRDX VCHA] tracked Black Friday shopping across online marketplaces, including eBay, Amazon and Google. It said Black Friday numbers were up significantly compared to the same day last year. So far, it reports Google Shopping up by 57.98% on the same time last year, Amazon up by 16.61% and eBay up by 6.97%. Paid search, however, was down by 5.88%, said ChannelAdvisor.
• Personalisation company Peerius [IRDX RPEE] showed traffic on mobile devices surpassed desktop traffic for the first time as shoppers took advantage of the Black Friday deals during their working hours.
Using data drawn from Peerius’ client transactions on Black Friday, including retailers such as Topshop, Topman, The White Company, notonthehighstreet.com and Superdry, it found:
• 9am was the peak time for traffic as shoppers browsed the bargains at the start of the working day – an 87% increase on Black Friday 2013.
• Retailers heavily promoted their upcoming deals that went live 00:01am resulting in a 121 per cent increase in traffic at the start of the sales compared to Black Friday 2013.
• Mobile device traffic (55%) overtook desktop (45%) for the first time
• Breaking down the mobile device traffic, smartphone (34%) traffic was higher than tablet (21%) demonstrating the importance of mobile as consumers are ‘always on’.
• 50% increase in online traffic compared to Black Friday 2013
• 133% increase in revenue compared to Black Friday 2013 as shoppers took advantage of the increase in promotions and deals offered.
“As Black Friday coincides with the last paycheck before Christmas, shoppers want to ensure that they buy their presents at the right time, on the right device and for the right price,” said Yusuf Rahman, head of analytics and optimisation at Peerius. “There were several reports of website outages from leading high street retailers, with the spike in mobile traffic listed as a reason. Despite this, our data shows smartphone users are then most likely to complete their purchase on a different device. However, as they enable consumers to be ‘always connected’, retailers need to take this opportunity to become ‘mobile first’ to keep up with consumers’ growing appetite for searching, shopping and sharing.”
Predictions: when shoppers buy
• UK shoppers are expected to spend £281m on Cyber Monday, the first Monday in December, which, according to Adobe’s Digital Index 2014 Online Holiday Shopping Forecast, will be the peak shopping day ahead of this Christmas.
• Shoppers will be online buying as early as 6am on Black Friday, says Rakuten Marketing. Based on its experiences in previous years, the performance marketing business says shoppers are going online early to snap up offers, though sales on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday tend to peak around 6pm to 9pm. It says that 15% of sales on Black Friday have taken place before 9am in previous years, while buyers also search out early Cyber Monday deals the night before.
• Cyber, sometimes called Mega Monday, is traditionally America’s busiest online shopping day – but it’s a tradition that’s also been experienced in the UK in recent years. Some 96% of all retailers questioned in a Barclays survey predicted they’d see traffic to their site increase that day.
• IMRG [IRDX VIMR] and Experian predicted Black Friday traffic would rise by 17% compared to the equivalent day last year, to hit 124m retail website visits during the course of the day. Traffic, they said, would peak higher on Cyber Monday, with 145m visits, 26% up on last year. But they also envisaged a second Christmas peak, a week later, on the day they’ve dubbed Manic Monday – the second Monday in December – when traffic would reach 151m visits, 26% up on the equivalent day last year.
After the event, IMRG and Experian calculated there were more visitors and higher spending than predicted. On Black Friday, actual visits reached 181m, with £810m spent in total. On Cyber Monday, they estimate, 160.8m visits were paid, with £720m spent.
• A study from consultants Accenture suggested most UK consumers planned to shop on Black Friday (82%) and Cyber Monday (62%).
• eBay [IRDX REBY] says neither Black Friday nor Cyber Monday will be the biggest spending days for its customers. Rather, it predicts Sunday November 30 will be its busiest shopping day in the UK ever. It’s dubbed the day ‘Super Sunday’ and expects shoppers will buy 1,800 gifts per minute from a worldwide choice of more than 800m items. It’s bracing for a peak hour of 8pm to 9pm that Sunday night.
• Research from Pay4Later suggests 68% of people expect to do some of their Christmas shopping on Black Friday. It predicts 46% of people will do 10% or more of their Christmas shopping on Friday, and one in ten plans to complete more than half of their shopping. Around 940,000 shoppers plan to do 90% or more of their festive buying.
How much they’ll spend
• The IMRG and Experian suggest shoppers will spend £555.5m on Black Friday, with more than £385,000 changing hands each minute. Of that, it predicts £196.6m will be spent online.
• On Cyber Monday (December 1), say the two, spending will hit £649.6m, equivalent to £451,000 a minute.
• But they also point to even higher spending on Manic Monday (December 8), when spending will rise again to £676.5m, or £470,000 a minute.
• Adobe predicts £281m will be spent on Cyber Monday.
• The Centre for Retail Research, in a study commissioned by vouchercodes.co.uk owner RetailMeNot, predicts shoppers will spend £6,435 a second on Cyber Monday, adding up to £556bn during the course of the day, 11.4% more than on the equivalent day last year.
How they buy
• In previous years, desktop sales have dominated both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, accounting for more than 75% of sales. But tablets show the highest conversion rates: in 2013 this stood at 6%, according to Rakuten Marketing, and in 2012 it was 5.7%. Smartphones are also gaining ground, the same figures show, with conversion rates rising from 1% in 2012 to 1.6% in 2013.
• Mobile online spend will peak on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, says researcher eComm UK. Last year it measured spikes of 30% or more in sales from smartphones and tablet computers during the course of the day. It also saw shoppers spending more via their mobile devices – smartphone users each spent 38% more, on average, than the previous week, while tablet users spent 53% more.
• Black Friday and Cyber Monday consistently see shoppers head to read online reviews, says Bazaarvoice. It says that traffic to reviews across the Bazaarvoice network beats the November daily average on these days by 77%, on Black Friday, and 84%, on Cyber Monday.
Interestingly, in the UK alone, review traffic peaks on Boxing Day. In all other countries measured, Cyber Monday is the peak. Bazaarvoice says Boxing Day page views were 9% higher than on Cyber Monday in 2013, and 46% higher than the December average.
• Two thirds (63%) of consumers pay more attention to online advertising during days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, says media buyer Rocket Fuel, which predicts online advertising technology will be a key driver of sales this year.
Where they buy
• Shopping centre owner Intu is planning offline events around Black Friday. The company, whose sites include The Mall at Cribbs Causeway, Lakeside, Thurrock, and the Manchester Arndale centre, is organising promotions and other events in order to attract customers into its centres over the weekend. It will launch a pre-Christmas marketing campaign on Black Friday, while events will include launches of the new Sony Xperia Z3, Microsoft’s new Xbox One, and Sky with personalised Christmas images to share on social media. It is also highlighting discounts to its customers through its transactional shopping centre website, intu.co.uk. “intu has some of the UK’s best shopping centres in the strongest locations, which means we’re anticipating a busy weekend,” said Trevor Pereira, commercial and digital director of intu. “We’re focused on attracting footfall for our retailers so their businesses can flourish, while providing every customer with a great Black Friday shopping experience.”
• When shoppers use affiliate marketing sites, loyalty and cashback sites see the highest conversion rates across the Christmas period driving over a quarter (25.9%) of sales, says Rakuten Marketing. Retargeting after basket abandonment also creates nearly a fifth of conversions (17.1%). These publishers are particularly effective in driving luxury sales, suggesting that these shoppers are tempted to buy when reminded of an item, and are attracted by a cashback offer.
Who they buy from
• Some 65% of UK retailers plan Black Friday promotions, according to a Barclays survey, while 69% of those surveyed said they expected Black Friday to become more important over the coming year.
• Amazon [IRDX RAMZ], which originally popularised Black Friday in the UK, is planning a week of Black Friday promotions, while Boots [IRDX RBOO] started offering Black Friday deals as early as November 21.
• Tesco [IRDX RTSC] has said it expects Black Friday to be bigger than Boxing Day for it. This year it plans its biggest ever Black Friday event, with discounts of up to 70%. It predicts the event will surpass Boxing Day sales for the first time ever. Rob Hattrell, general merchandise director for Tesco, said: “Black Friday now marks the real start of Christmas shopping and Tesco is recognising this with its Black Friday sale in-store and online. With our recent extension of our free Click & Collect service for non-food items to all 2,600 Tesco stores, customers can shop whenever they want, however they want and we expect that over two thirds of those snapping up a Black Friday bargain online will choose a Click & Collect option for delivery.” As well as shopping online, customers can also access deals in supermarkets.
• US retailers selling in the UK have had a head start on the UK competition, says Jasper Lawler, market analyst at CMC Markets, thanks to their experience of pricing deals. “The British retailers that will fare the best are the ones that will price their Black Friday deals correctly in order to attract shoppers without giving away too much ahead of the main Christmas shopping season,” he said. “Any retailer with too many good deals on November 28 will have potentially got their Black Friday strategy wrong; the result may be higher revenues at the expense or profit margins.”
He predicts that traditional electronics retailers such as Argos [IRDX RARG] and Dixons-Carphone [IRDX RCAR] stand to benefit from Black Friday, while Next [IRDX RNXT] and Tesco could follow Asda’s lead of last year and use the day to put themselves front of mind in Christmas shoppers’ minds. Lawler says Black Friday will also be “a defining moment” for Marks and Spencer’s website.
• But retailers of all sizes stand to benefit from Black Friday, according to Ometria. It says UK retailers using its ecommerce intelligence platform last year showed a clear spike in revenue over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend of November 29 to December 2. Revenue was 15% up on the previous weekend, and 11% up on the following weekend.
How UK spending compares
The Centre for Retail Research study for RetailMeNot suggests Cyber Monday spending will be highest in the tradition’s country of origin, the US, where shoppers are expected to spend more than £1.3bn, 16% more than at the same time last year.
But the tradition is also catching on in other European countries. Sales are expected to grow fastest in Spain (59.3%) and Italy (47.2%), but overall revenues will be highest in the UK (£556m), Germany (£250m) and France (£194m).
• Most shoppers now recognise the term ‘Black Friday,’ according to research from Savvy Marketing. It found 74% of members of its 1,002 strong shopper panel were aware of the significance of the term in he run up to this Christmas. Awareness peaked among women at 77%, compared to men (68%), while 77% of 25-44-year-olds also knew the term, ahead of other age groups.
• Another study, from eDigitalResearch and consumer knowledge centre IORMA, found 72% of shoppers had heard of Black Friday, and that most shoppers would make a purchase on or around Cyber Monday. Some 22% of the 1,000 UK shoppers it questioned had bought something on Black Friday in previous years, and 35% said retailer promotions did help shape their Christmas spending plans.
The origins of the terms ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’
• According to ParcelHero, the term Black Friday has “sombre” origins. “Philadelphia police named the day after Thanksgiving ‘Black Friday’ because people climbed into their cars a little the worse for wear after the celebrations to go to work or the shops,” says a spokesperson for the delivery software business. “There were considerably more accidents as a result. Somehow the name stuck, despite several attempts by the retail industry to introduce something a little jollier.”
• However, analyst Jasper Lawler, of CMC Markets, says retailers traditionally made enough sales on Black Friday to put them ‘in the black’ for the year.
• Cyber Monday, says ParcelHero, also achieved its prominence thanks to its proximity to Thanksgiving. “Cyber Monday originated around 2005, as ecommerce sites noticed a spike in online purchases,” adds the ParcelHero spokesperson. “Industry pundits believe that – at that time – offices probably had better internet connections than most homes. People returning to work after Thanksgiving dived on to computers on the first Monday after the holiday to get their Christmas shopping done. By 2009 retailers here in the UK saw that Cyber Monday had become the biggest internet shopping day of the year.
“The UK hasn’t seen Black Friday and Mega Monday fall on the same weekend since 2008 so retailers will be pulling out all the stops to make it a great shopping experience with some dazzling offers. However, some consumers will opt to leave their Christmas shopping later than this, thanks to improved delivery and Click and Collect options.”
Richard Lowe, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays
“Many retailer discounts over Black Friday weekend are made on a time-limited, ‘flash’ basis, so people who are on the move are using their phones or tablets to catch them.”
Richard Somerville of eCommUK
“Over the past decade we have consistently seen a trend towards shoppers leaving their Christmas shopping later, in anticipation of pre-Christmas discounting. Retailers see growing shopper interest in Black Friday as a much needed opportunity to encourage shoppers to start their Christmas shopping that little bit earlier. The challenge for retailers will be to maintain momentum after the event has finished and prices return to full price.”
Alastair Lockhart, insight director at Savvy Marketing
“The truth is that while there are definitely some great bargains to be had on Black Friday these are few and far between. The successful US retailers use ‘door-buster’ deals to get people into the stores or online. Most of the offers exaggerate savings by comparing the sale price to the manufacturer’s suggested retail price; the saving when compared with the every-day price of the item is often modest. But this aside, it is a very successful driver of footfall.”
Jasper Lawler, market analyst, CMC Markets
We’ll be updating this story throughout the Christmas shopping season, so check back for updates.