It’s here, the day all that preparation has been leading up to – the day when UK online retailers are expected to turn over a collective £1bn, and the day when they discover whether their websites will stand up to demand, and if their logistics promises will hold good.
The story so far is in this Christmas 2015 rolling report.
We continue from here with our Cyber Monday live blog.
Today we’re chronicling events as Black Friday unrolls, from the ups and the downs to the drama – and the humour.
9.45am While we slept, my colleague Martin Shaw, Internet Retailing senior researcher, has been keeping tabs on performance so far. Here we link to his updates on site robustness for the IRUK500 Top100 companies, with a focus on load time, at midnight, 1am, 2am, 3am, 4am, 5am, 6am, 7am, 8am, 9am, 10am.
We’ll add further updates as they come. There’s also a round-up of highlights on the leaderboard page here.
Shaw reported a brief spike in activity around 1am as people visited Black Friday websites before heading off to bed. By 5am early risers were putting the same load on Top100 websites as they usually experience on a normal day at peak time.
9.30m Overall, a fifth of ecommerce websites had experienced some downtime by 9am, according to ecommerce agency Ampersand [IRDX VAMC], which singled out Boots [IRDX RBOO], Argos [IRDX RARG] and Game [IRDX RGME] as retailers that had experienced service disruption. Ampersand has its own tracker here, measuring performance of the top 50 retail websites as defined by the IMRG [IRDX VIMR].
Ampersand managing director Darryl Adie says this is a good time to gather data for future use. “For retailers that have been adversely affected by increased Black Friday traffic online, now is the perfect the time to act fast and gather all the data they have available to them,” he said. “Although it’s a long way off, the next few weeks should be used to prepare for Black Friday 2016. Ever-extending sales periods like this are notoriously hard to predict. Retailers should immediately delve deep into hour-by-hour analytics reporting and cross check with how and when systems outages occurred. Starting load and performance testing right away will give retailers the best chance of avoiding outages next year.”
At InternetRetailing, we also spotted that the Toys R Us website was down briefly around 9.30am. Tweet us @etail and @chloe_rigby to let us know what you spot and we’ll share it on this blog.
10am In his 10am update, InternetRetailing’s Martin Shaw reports that average load times are up this morning among the Top100. “By and large retailers are coping with mid-morning shopping levels,” he said. “There are notable exceptions: for a few hours this morning elc.co.uk was unusable and customers have reported Tesco’s website is crawling.”
Looks to us like parents are online buying for children – and that’s certainly my personal experience this morning.
10.15am Leading websites are currently all up, according to a brief look at the Ampersand tracker.
10.45am Here’s a quick round-up of how IRUK500 Elite retailers’ home pages are looking this morning:
House of Fraser [IRDX RHOF]
John Lewis [IRDX RJLW]
Marks & Spencer [IRDX RMAS]
There was some question as to whether retailers would be taking part this year – clearly all our Elite retailers have decided Black Friday is for them.
10.47am: An early update from Currys [IRDX RCUR] PC World [IRDX RPCW], which says it’s seeing eight sales per second – with 30 TVs selling every minute online. Yesterday, website traffic was almost as high as Boxing Day last year. So far this week, it’s seen seven million visitors to the site. Today mobile traffic peaked as deals went live at 6am.
Stuart Ramage, ecommerce director at Currys PC World, says: “Last year was one of our most successful trading days ever so we’ve spent the last year preparing for this year’s event. We’ve seen unprecedented demand online with a 53% increase in hourly web traffic and across the country we’ve seen customers queuing from before the stores open – everyone’s in good spirits and things are running smoothly.”
11am: Ecommerce consultancy Salmon [IRDX VSMN] predicted that this would be the UK’s first £1bn online sales day – and it’s tracking that prediction through the day.
Here are its figures from this morning, reflecting findings between midnight and 8am.
• 106% increase in sales compared to Black Friday 2014
• 100% increase in completed orders from Black Friday 2014
• 59% of traffic is coming via desktop devices
• 41% of traffic is coming via mobile devices
InternetRetailing’s Martin Shaw has posted his 11am update on load time across the IRUK500 Top100. BHS currently heads the leaderboard.
11.10am: Argos says that between 8am and 9am it saw just over 1,000 orders a minute, or 19 orders per second.
11.15am My colleague Sean Fleming of eDelivery.net has flagged up this interesting tracker from Traffic Defender, which analyses how much money retailers have lost through site unavailability so far this Black Friday. Its running total to date comes to £4.33m, contrasted with predicted total revenues for today of £1.07bn, and it warns the biggest test will come at lunchtime.
There’s more on its methodology here, but essentially it’s testing the availability of 115 retail sites today and on Cyber Monday.
Here are some updates from Paul Skeldon, Internet Retailing m-commerce editor, who is also collating his findings in a post that I’ll link to shortly.
11.20am River Island site is failing to load on mobile and has for the past hour.
11.22am Waitrose Mobile site is telling consumers to go to its online site for seasonal shopping.
11.45am Mark Denton, head of presales consulting at BT Expedite [IRDX VBTE], responds to the reports news that a number of websites were down this morning. “At this time of year, online channels are under increased pressure to cope with a surge in consumer demand. Nothing could be a bigger disaster than digital platforms buckling under increased strain.
“A robust and scalable network is needed to meet the unprecedented demand during this period. And a failure to have this in place could have a detrimental impact on customer experience, loyalty and brand reputation.
“Retailers need to rethink their IT infrastructure and make improvements to their network, cloud platforms and data centre infrastructure to ensure that it is robust and scalable enough to meet consumer expectations during such peak seasonal events.”
12 noon: Here’s the 12 noon IRUK500 Top100 update on site loading times.
12.20pm: Here’s the link I promised earlier to Paul Skeldon’s blog post in which he monitors all things mobile this Black Friday.
12.30pm: The InternetRetailing team have been working hard this morning to monitor how retailers listed in the IRUK500 have approached Black Friday and how they have been bearing up against the onslaught. They’ve monitored the Elite retailers, plus Elite and Leading retailers from the Operations and Logistics Dimension. Here are some of their findings.
Editor-in-chief Ian Jindal reports that the Tesco site is “very slow”. “It spends more time apologising for slow delivery rather than selling anything,” he comments. Topshop, he says, has a nice tone in the way it’s approaching Black Friday, and he says Toys R Us has a nice range of offers.
Sean Fleming, of eDelivery.net, has a queuing page from Argos to share (taken around 10.50am).
He also reports that House of Fraser TVs were showing as sold out by 10.50am.
12.50pm: James Westlake, UK country head for Trustpilot says this will be an important day for reviews. “After a day like Black Friday, shoppers often share their experiences online, both good and bad. Last Black Friday, we saw a 13% increase in reviews left on Trustpilot, and an 11% increase in negative reviews. As a retailer it can be tempting to focus on the quick wins instead of consistently delivering great customer service. However, significant increases in demand over a short period of time can put pressure on various aspects of doing business, from inventory to delivery right to website maintenance and customer support.
“While our data shows that Black Friday places a great strain on businesses, since consumers expect the same high level of customer service no matter what day of the year it is, it also shows that they recover quickly. Over the weekend immediately following Black Friday last year, just 8% of the reviews created were negative compared to an overwhelming 88% positive reviews. It’s clear that the businesses who do best on Black Friday are the ones who prioritise, listen and engage with their customers to build long term, trusting relationships.”
1pm: Our research team’s 1pm update. Game led the way with the fastest HTML home page load time, followed by Superdry and Ikea.
1.10pm: John Rakowski, technical strategy director at application performance management business AppDynamics says the fact that many retailers have seen performance issues as a result of the Black Friday rush. “Now that customers are using multiple devices, multiple operating systems and multiple platforms, companies need to evaluate their exposure to risk and invest in software to manage and optimise their sites and apps. If that doesn’t happen, the same frustration caused by queueing will be provoked by a slow performing app or website crash during checkout. It won’t be expensive hardware that saves the day, but a pre-emptive mind-set that looks to manage performance rather than batten down the hatches and hope for the best”
1.30pm: Bryan Roberts, senior vice-president and knowledge officer, EMEA, at Kantar Retail says shoppers seem to have gone online, rather than to stores, to get their Black Friday discounts. “TV crews outnumbered shoppers on London’s retail destination Oxford Street, while many stores that we visited were virtually deserted,” he said. “Only electricals retailer Currys and a couple of department stores were showing any signs of incremental business.
“If observations on social media are to be believed, it also appears that participating supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s were not exactly rushed off their feet during early trading. A couple of retailers, including Debenhams, have asserted that they are anticipating a decent uptick in shoppers after people finish work, but it remains to be seen if this more of an optimistic wish rather than a scientific forecast.”
He put the lack of in-store demand down to public apathy, rainy weather, and the way that some retailers have extended their Black Friday offers through a number of days. “It seems certain that ‘Black Friday’ will largely be an online event this year, with shoppers opting for the convenience of home delivery or click & collect rather than braving a trip to the high street, retail park or shopping centre,” he said. “Dixons Carphone has confirmed that it has been doing very brisk trade indeed so far today and has noted that it is expecting three million online visits today and 10 purchases per second at peak periods.
“Overall, there is little doubt that Black Friday (or the elongated version of it) will be a huge sales event for the UK retail sector, with Experian-IMRG predicting that sales will be up 32% to £1.07 billion. It just seems that stores will not be where most of this occurs.”
2pm: The 2pm update from our research team, ranking page load times. Zara has overtaken Game, now in second place, since 1pm.
3pm: The 3pm update from our research team: the fastest loading pages are led by Boden, Homebase and Superdry.
3.30pm The latest figures from Salmon suggest an increase in sales and orders throughout this Black Friday, compared to Black Friday 2014. Its Black Friday analytics hub examined traffic on UK shopping sites, including a cross section of its retail clients, and found conversion rates 133% ahead of the same time last year. Some 61% of traffic came through desktop sites, and 39% through mobile devices.
4pm: Update at 4pm from our research team.
4.30pm: Worldpay says Black Friday sales are on course to overtake those of previous years. Its analysis of this morning’s sales suggests UK online sales were already 52% ahead of the same time last year, while around the world it processed 40% more sales than last year. Shane Happach, chief commercial officer, global ecommerce at Worldpay, said: “With Black Friday now more than halfway gone, it’s safe to assume this year’s online sales in the UK will eclipse those of previous years, despite the backlash around the event that has dominated headlines over the past few weeks.”
The busiest period, it said, was between 8.15am and 9.15am, when Worldpay processed 320 transactions a second.
“If there were any doubts Black Friday will remain a staple of the global retail calendar, today’s spending has surely quelled them. We’re on track for yet another record-breaking day of sales, sending a clear message to retailers that shoppers’ appetite for major events like this remains strong.”
4.35pm: Currys PC World reports more than 400,000 visitors an hour to its website during peak trading, up 70% on last year’s event, with five online orders coming per second, 56% up on last year. Home delivery orders are up by 54% and Reserve and Collect reservations up by 18%, year on year. So far there have been 3.5m visits to the site.
Stuart Ramage, ecommerce director at Currys PC World, said: “In the last few hours of trading we’ve seen a 36% increase in online orders compared to Black Friday 2014 with 3.5 million visits to the site today alone. Our reservations for Reserve and Collect are up 18% on last year so as the day progresses, we expect customers to head in-store to collect their deals. We continue to see record-breaking traffic and look forward to seeing how the next few hours progress.”
5pm: Update at 5pm from our research team, with Next, Schuh and Ikea now the fastest loading retailers in the IRUK500 Top100.
5.10pm: Delivery management software specialist MetaPack [IRDX VMEP] says the number of orders it has processed during Black Friday is, so far, 25% up on last year, and it predicts total orders for the day will be 38% ahead.
6pm: Salmon’s latest update in its Black Friday analytics series found a 94% uplift in conversion rates between midnight and 4pm. Some 64% of traffic was via desktop devices and 36% via mobile devices.
7pm: Home pages of the IRUK Top25 retailers, evaluated over the course of Black Friday by our editor-in-chief Ian Jindal.
Saturday 28 November
7.30am: Post on the websites that didn’t cope by senior researcher Martin Shaw
7.45am: The average page load times of ecommerce platforms over Black Friday by senior researcher Martin Shaw
Here’s Sean Fleming’s account of Black Friday deliveries, over at eDelivery.net.
We continue on our Cyber Monday live blog.
Mentioned in this piece…
Ampersand Commerce is an ecommerce agency that helps major retailers build better online stores using open source technology. Founded in 2009 Ampersand Commerce specialises in advanced back-end integration, helping international multichannel retailers increase conversion and efficiency through the strategic use of open source technology. (more…)
We provide retail solutions. We combine technology with best practice and will take care of everything from planning and implementation to staff training and ongoing maintenance. Everything we do is focused on exceeding the expectation of your customers. Our solutions are behind some of the largest, busiest and most successful retail organisations in the UK. (more…)