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PEAK 2017 Moving beyond Cyber Week

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The way people shop over Black Friday and the extended Christmas period tells us far more than how people are getting on with their present shopping. The changing way that shoppers are buying becomes magnified thanks to the sheer volume of transactions at this time of year. In addition, time-pressured shoppers look for, and adopt, new ways of doing things that they may then continue over the rest of the year. With this in mind, InternetRetailing is devoting a regular twice-weekly slot to peak shopping season 2017, highlighting the stories that struck us as most interesting over the last few days. Today we’re rounding up Black Friday and Cyber Week updates and looking ahead to the rest of the season.

IRUK Top500 research: Leading retailers mostly took part in Black Friday

Some 94% of UK Top100 retailers promoted sales on their website landing pages on Black Friday, IRUK Top500 research has revealed. Many started earlier, with almost half (49%) already having active deals by the previous Wednesday, November 22 and 22% starting promotions a week before. The majority of the seven Elite Top500 retailers (Amazon, Asda, Boots, John Lewis, M&S and Tesco) did not start their sales until Black Friday itself, however – with Amazon a notable exception. Find out more in the InternetRetailing research blog from researcher Fernando Santos.

Online Cyber Week traffic

Hitwise said that visits to retail websites grew to 1.4bn visits, a 6% rise year-on-year, between Monday November 20 and Cyber Monday November 27. Black Friday visits were up by 1%, year-on-year, rising to 200m visits, while Cyber Monday visits were up by 7%, at 195.7m visits.

On both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, visits were dominated by Amazon, with around a quarter of all traffic on both days, eBay (5.5% of traffic on Black Friday), Argos (3.9%), John Lewis (2.6%) and Currys (2%). Amazon had 40.5m visits on the day it launched its Cyber discounting (November 17), 50.3m on Black Friday, and still more on Cyber Monday, at 51.2m.

Is Cyber Monday becoming less important?

It was the official start date for online Christmas shoppers for years but some evidence this year seemed to point to Cyber Monday declining in importance compared to Black Friday, though sales on that day were still ahead of last year.

Revenue from ecommerce grew by 30% on Thursday November 23, which is Thanksgiving in the US, by 32% of Black Friday, and by 15% on Cyber Monday, according to analysis of global shopping trends from Salesforce.

Jamie Merrick, director of strategic solutions at Salesforce Commerce Cloud , said: “This year Cyber Week saw ecommerce revenue rise by 26% overall as more consumers turned to online shopping. For the second year in a row, Black Friday was also the busiest shopping day of the week, outpacing Cyber Monday to become the biggest online shopping event of the year so far. Mobile browsing also took the lead with 60% of traffic to retail sites being driven from mobile, up 4% from last year. Consumers weren’t just browsing from their mobiles either; 41% of Cyber Week orders were actually placed from mobile phones.

“With around one third of digital holiday spending taking place over cyber weekend, personalisation is incredibly important to cut through the noise and reach customers. In fact, over three billion targeted emails were sent to consumers to entice them to shop in that period. Consumers are so heavily targeted during this crucial shopping period that retailers are having to continually innovate to reach their customers in an impactful way.

“Black Friday accounted for an average of 32% of revenue growth in 2017 overall, but interestingly nearly a third of this growth (30%) came from shoppers responding to personalised product recommendations. Artificial intelligence helps retailers set themselves apart from others by delivering targeted content to customers more easily.

Growth of mobile

Analysis from Salesforce Commerce Cloud suggested that 60% of online retail traffic and 41% of orders came from mobile phones during the course of Cyber Week. On Black Friday itself, personal computers accounted for less than half (49%) of orders for the first time.

• Yoox Net-A-Porter group said mobile orders accounted for two-thirds (66%) of its sales on Sunday, while orders peaked at one per second on Black Friday.

It saw a surge in customers making their first order via the group’s apps, with the YOOX iOS app trending in Italy.

Social media impact

Social traffic to retail sites rose to 5% overall, said Salesforce, and accounted for 7% of traffic from mobile devices. Black Friday mentions, meanwhile, were down year over year (YoY) with 3.4m mentions this year, compared to 4m in 2016.

Footfall picked up after Black Friday

“After Black Friday itself, footfall improved during the rest of the weekend, but this is thought to be due to an increasing percentage of online shoppers opting to use Click and Collect as a fulfilment service,” said Craig Summers, UK managing director, Manhattan Associates .

“Click and Collect certainly drives shoppers to the store and 46% will buy more when they pick up an item, but retailers should be seizing this opportunity to up-sell and cross-sell by engaging the customer from the outset. If there is one thing to take from this year’s sales, it is that they are very much here to stay and retailers must continue to invest and deliver an omnichannel experience if they are to succeed both online and in-store throughout peak.”

Delivering on Black Friday

East London was the Black Friday and Cyber Monday online shopping hotspot, according to Royal Mail .

It was followed by Kirkwall (Orkney, Scotland), Llandrindod Wells (Wales) and Milton Keynes in an analysis based on the parcels accepted from retailers and businesses into the Royal Mail network between November 20 and November 28.

Nick Landon, managing director of Royal Mail Parcels, said: “We take the planning for the period between Black Friday and New Year’s Day incredibly seriously and start planning for next year the moment the current one is over. This year, on top of the huge number of processing and delivery sites we already operate, we have opened an extra six dedicated parcel sort centres to handle the additional volume we expect to be carrying.”

Royal Mail said it had opened six dedicated parcel sort centres and recruited an additional 20,000 temporary staff to support its seasonal operation.

Beyond Cyber Week

“For retailers who didn’t do as well as they expected over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend, there is still time to catch up,” says Salesforce’s Jamie Merrick. “Our research shows that in the UK specifically, over a third of shoppers plan to do most of their Christmas shopping within the first two weeks of December, allowing retailers to continue to increase sales.”

‘Back Friday’

Today is ‘Back Friday’, according to CollectPlus , which says returns will peak as shoppers have a change of heart about their purchases and return them ahead of the Christmas rush.

CollectPlus compared returns volumes over the cyber weekend in 2015 to 2016 to report an 18% increase in parcel return volumes following the cyber shopping weekend. This year, CollectPlus is estimating a further increase in returns volume today, following higher sales on Black Friday an Cyber Monday.

In a study conducted by CollectPlus, 18% of British shoppers plan to or have already returned items they purchased online over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales weekend. Nearly one quarter (22%) of shoppers confessed to buying more items than they needed because there were so many great deals on offer while more than one in ten (12%) simply claim they bought into the hype surrounding Black Friday.

Almost half (42%) of purchases being returned will be clothing, footwear or accessories; online discounts in the run up to the Christmas party season meant many shoppers could grab a bargain outfit, try it on in the comfort of their own home and return anything that didn’t fit the bill. Half of respondents (49%) claimed they shopped online over the Cyber Weekend to avoid the high street crowds this year, while over a quarter (27%) thought there were better bargains online versus in store. Home electronics including TVs and speakers are the next most popular return item as 18% of people admitted to splashing out on the latest electronics in the sales and then changing their mind once it arrived, followed by homeware (15%).

The study also revealed men are slightly more likely to take the lead in returning items compared to women, while those aged 18-25 were found to be the most likely to return purchases following the four-day shopping bonanza.

Final deadlines

The fact that Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday means last-minute shoppers risk leaving it too late to get their parcels on time, says parcel price comparison specialist ParcelHero is warning that the trend for later and later Christmas final order dates will be reversed this year.

“We’ve all got used putting off Christmas shopping ever later. But Christmas Eve is on a Sunday this year – and that spells trouble,” says ParcelHero head of consumer research David Jinks.

He says that many stores’ fastest available delivery slot is still only the next working day, such as Urban Outfitters and Dell. That means the final date to buy an item online and have it delivered is Thursday December 21. For some, the final order deadline is even earlier, with Harvey Nichols and Liberty promising on-time delivery for orders placed by Wednesday December 20.

“Compounding the problem Royal Mail won’t be delivering on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or Boxing Day, leading to a potential logjam for those retailers who still use Royal Mail to deliver their orders,” said Jinks. “This is why our Christmas final buying and sending dates tool has become invaluable for tardy shoppers – and it’s continually updated and refined to keep up to date with retailers’ own last-minute changes.”

However, retailers such as Argos and Amazon are promising fast delivery for orders placed as late as Christmas Eve.

Jinks said: “Last-minute shoppers – and there’s no getting round it, our research shows they are usually men – will have to face up to the realities of Christmas a little earlier this year. Or be prepared to shell out on pricey same day and one-hour weekend deliveries from those limited number of retailers who have woken up to the demand.’

For a continuously updated list of retailers’ final order deadlines, and final mailing dates for the UK and overseas for all the major delivery companies.”

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