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IREU Top500 The Customer Report: 2018

IREU Top500 The Customer Report: 2018

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ROLLING REPORT Black Friday as it happens

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The day has arrived at last – but will Black Friday 2016 continue the trend of year-on-year growth? Will consumers buy? Are retailers joining in?

Over the course of today's coverage we'll aim to bring answers to those questions.

Background

Black Friday arrived in the UK in 2010, when Amazon and Asda , part of the US Walmart supermarket group, first imported the US shopping tradition, which in that country falls the day after Thanksgiving. Asda has since become one of the many retailers that opt out of the event – others include Jigsaw and Next – but this year Amazon is holding its longest UK Black Friday event yet, which started on November 14 and finishes tonight. It's not alone: retailers including Argos, PC World and Currys, Tesco and House of Fraser are all holding extended events that were already well underway before today started.

To put this into context, a Hitwise survey of 3m Brits found that last Black Friday, retail websites saw more than 28m online visits an hour last year, with daily visit share up by 75% bettween midnight and 3am on the morning of Black Friday. More than a third (35%) of all visits went to the Amazon website alone. Nigel Wilson, managing director, said: “Months of planning and preparation all boil down to whether brands are actually seen and visited online. Online visit share is critical and fiercely contested across every hour over the Black Friday period. To stay one step ahead, retailers need to track the progress of their competitors and ensure they remain visible to shoppers throughout the day.”

Whether UK shoppers will take part is one big question we're waiting to see answered. Surveys ahead of the event suggested that around half thought Black Friday was a marketing gimmick, while Which? research has suggested that most of the bargains are not particularly good deals. But will the offer of a discount convince shoppers to buy? SAS research, however, suggests that one in five British consumers will buy online today, while IMRG and SimilarWeb predict shoppers will spend £1.27bn on UK online retail sites today, 16% more than last year.

The biggest UK online shopping day of the year, as it happens

We'll be adding to this story throughout the day. If you have an update to add email [email protected]

Midnight: Black Friday trading got underway in earnest online at midnight. Brand performance marketing business HookLogic says retail search activity, drawn from data on sites including Argos, Asda, Currys and PC World, rose by 161% at midnight.

• The Argos website had 0.5m visits in its first hour of trading, between midnight and 1am, according to Catherine Shuttleworth, chief executive at shopper and retail agency Savvy, who is spending the day at the Argos distribution centre in Barton. Video games and consoles were the most popular items.

Shuttleworth said: "This year Black Friday promises to be a shopping bonanza. The event will have huge traction online with shoppers able to shop anywhere and anyhow looking for great deals on Xmas gifts, but also high ticket items in electrical and tech. This year it feels like everyone wants a slice of Black Friday with inboxes jammed full of email marketing campaigns not just from retailers but from car dealers, hotels and even B2B campaigns offering discounts.

"There are some great deals for the shopper but the challenge is what impact this will have on an already fragile retail market. For retailers who have pre-planned this event meticulously over the last 12 months buying special stock , creating a specific assortment and having a supply chain ready and primed for action, Black Friday will be a commercial success but for those who just apply a 25 per cent discount across the board the commercial impact could well be extremely negative.

"There is already downwards pressure on retail margins especially in fashion where unseasonable weather patterns and a reluctance to spend this summer has lead to warnings about performance. What fashion retailers want now is to sell at full margin but the customer expectation to buy at Black Friday prices means that not all retailers will hold their nerve notable exceptions to this are Fat Face who have committed to not reduce prices until Christmas Eve, Jigsaw, Ikea and Asda."

• The final day of Amazon's Black Friday 12-day event got underway at midnight. It will wrap up at midnight tonight. “We’ve had a great response from customers to The Black Friday Sale so far and today we’re sharing lots of brand new deals to help people get a head start on their Christmas shopping,” said Doug Gurr, UK Country Manager, Amazon. “We’re also delighted to have over a thousand Marketplace businesses participating in The Black Friday Sale, helping them to promote their products to more customers.”

The retailer is making some offers available only to Prime members using the Prime app, while Prime members get early access to a range of Lightning Deals.

• InternetRetailing researchers monitoring activity between midnight and 6.30am found that Office, Boohoo.com and JD Sports delivered the best performance on mobile between midnight and 6am, while the best desktop experience came from Zara, Office and Mothercare. The best-performing retail sectors over mobile included the footwear sector, children's goods, business goods, while over desktop leading sectors were business goods, footwear and children's goods. Click here for more detail and the full update.

• Digital agency Salmon sees a strong performance for mobile over desktop shopping. It draws on its own analytics hub to say that between midnight and 9am, 75% of traffic came via mobile devices, and 25% via desktop. It also sees a spike in the number of overseas shoppers, which it puts down to the weaker pound following political turbulence and the EU Referendum decision.

5am: • Tesco opened its larger stores as early as 5am. By 9am today the retailer said that it had seen more than 6m visits to the Tesco website so far this week – 40% up on a typical week, with almost 100 items a minute selling on the Tesco Direct website. One toy was told every two seconds.

Matt Davies, UK&ROI CEO of Tesco, said: “We’re doing all we can to take the hard work out of Christmas and help our customers get everything they need in one place. We're already offering customers market leading prices on the most loved toys this Christmas, and now we’re launching even more Black Friday deals.”

This year is Tesco’s biggest ever Black Friday event with the retailer offering 11 days of deals online, and in store from today until December 1.

• Currys PC World is reporting its highest ever number of orders, up 40% on 2015, with over half a million visitors to the website before 6am alone.

At 5am, the electricals retailer, which trades via the Currys and PC World websites, saw 65% of online traffic visiting via mobile, some 13% ahead of Black Friday 2015.

The retailer has been running a 10-day Black Tag event for several days, but says that since its Black Friday-specific deals went live at midnight, the Google Chromecast and the JVC 32C660 32” Smart LED TV have proved to be the two most popular products.x

Yesterday its busiest hour was between 9pm and 10pm, when it sold 23 large screen TVs a second and received 102 online orders a minute.

Stuart Ramage, ecommerce director at Dixons Carphone , says: “We’ve been preparing for today for almost a year now to ensure the best deals for our customers. We continue to break records with orders already up 40% year-on-year since 2015, and as we predicted, shoppers are making the most of our stores being open early, but also placing orders by mobile devices with our highest ever mobile traffic share since Black Friday began.”

Its busiest store has been Leeds Crownpoint.

7am: Appliances Direct says it saw a breakfast-time boom between 7am and 9am. Website visits were up 80% compared to Black Friday last year, while visits from mobile devices were up by 225%. Shoppers have grabbed blenders, washing machines and 4K HD TVs.

Mark Kelly, marketing manager at AppliancesDirect.co.uk, said: “We anticipated strong sales, but the popularity in cut-price home appliances this year has surpassed our expectations. Shoppers have taken full advantage of thousands of pounds of savings on big ticket items in anticipation of price rises in technology early next year as a result of the exchange rate changes following the referendum result.”

“We have also added hundreds of new branded deals on washing machines, dishwashers, fridges, freezers and 4K HD televisions to our Black Friday sales, with big ticket items at genuine discounts at the lowest prices shoppers will find in the UK.”

• Brand performance marketing company HookLogic says retail searches peaked between between 7am and 9am, in the morning as shoppers bought on the way to work.

8am: • John Lewis expects today to be the one of its busiest shopping days of the year. It opened the doors of all its shops at 8am, and says the hour was also its busiest so far online. People bought on the way to work between 8am and 8.30am, with five orders a second taken on johnlewis.com. Sales over mobile phones were 21% up on usual between 8am and 9am. Its event now runs until midnight on November 28.

So far popular products have included the Sonos Play 1, the Lego Simpsons house, Marc Jacobs perfume and Sophie Conran crockery.

Dino Rocos, lead director and operations director, John Lewis said: “Sales on johnlewis.com exceeded expectations overnight as customers logged on to take advantage of our great Black Friday deals. We expect traffic to continue to the website today but for customers who prefer to visit one of our shops they will open earlier than usual at 8am. Over the weekend we expect to see the usual pattern of trade resume as customers head to our 48 shops.

Rocos continued: "We have carefully planned for this year’s Black Friday event to ensure orders can be fulfilled without compromising the customer service and seamless delivery we’re famous for. I'd like to thank our partners in shops, distribution centres and head office for all of their hard work as we kick-off the countdown to Christmas."

• Savvy's Catherine Shuttleworth has an update from the Argos distribution centre in Barton. She says (at 11.30am) that the biggest hour so far was between 8am and 9am, when there were just under 700,000 web visits to the site. Just under 80% of these were from mobiles and tablets. Hot products so far have included iPads, PS4 and Xbox games consoles, Dyson vacuum cleaners and Beats headphones. TVs, toys and wearable tech are expect to sell well across the day. The company is expecting to see another peak at lunchtime and then between 5pm and 7pm as people make their way home from work.

11am: Parcel management company NetDespatch has seen a strong increase in the number of parcels being sent so far in the extended Black Friday season. As far ago as Monday it saw 2,500 orders being processed a minute, while volumes were 50% up on the average Monday.

"We are at the beginning of the peak shopping period of 2016 and we’re already seeing hugely increased figures on the previous year. This year, similar to last, the Black Friday deals are being rolled out over a longer period of time, extending to a fortnight rather than one or two days which enables retailers and carriers to better cope with demand and ensure that consumers aren’t left disappointed.

"With Christmas 2016 falling on a Sunday and given the increased consumer confidence with ecommerce and delivery we may well see consumers continue to shop heavily online well into the final week."

• Most sales are likely to take place online this year, according to Patrick Gallagher chief executive of On the dot, a CitySprint brand.

“We may not be seeing the chaotic scenes of previous Black Fridays on the high street today, but that doesn’t mean shoppers aren't out in full force," he said. "With many retailers starting their sales earlier than ever before, we expect a bigger overall spend this Black Friday. Customers are also voting with their feet; rather seeing shoppers battle through the crowds, retailers such as Argos and Currys PC World are preparing for the bulk of their sales to happen online instead.

“This creates a different kind of challenge for retailers; and they need to think carefully about the delivery and fulfilment of these online orders. It’s crucial they work closely with delivery partners to keep up with demand between now and Christmas and make customers’ lives easier with more convenient deliveries.”

• Jon Copestake, retail analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, also sees Black Friday moving online – and has a warning for retailers about discounting. "While stores can be accused of being unprepared for the Black Friday chaos that took place two years ago it seems that the opposite is true of Black Friday today," he said. "Although the date itself is becoming entrenched in the consumer psyche it has already evolved into a largely online affair, and one that spans weeks rather than a single day. As a result, despite strong online sales, today may be something of an anticlimax for retailers who may have spent months preparing.

"Black Friday deals began running weeks ago and it seems likely that, in one form or another, we will see sales of this kind throughout the run up to Christmas. By bringing sales forward to November retailers have created a rod for their back for the entire festive period and shoppers will increasingly experience sales fatigue as they come to expect discounts as the norm rather than the exception. The endgame to this is a continuous sales period stretching from early November into January in which retailer margins suffer and discounts offer less value for money which will ultimately benefit neither retailers or shoppers."

Midday: • InternetRetailing researchers tracking site performance of the Top100 UK retailers, as measured in IRUK Top500 research, over the course of the morning, in collaboration with knowledge partner NCC Group has found that between 6am and midday, Office, JD Sports and Boohoo.com delivered the best mobile website experience, while Zara, Office, and French Connection did so for desktop.

The best performing sectors were, on mobile, footwear, business goods and children’s goods, while sports and leisure, department stores and jewellery sites did better on desktop. For more details and to see the full line-up, click here. There's also more detail, and graphs, here.

• Salmon has its second update of the day on online shopping traffic. It has found, from its own analytics hub, that between 9am and 12 noon, 53% of ecommerce traffic came via mobile devices, and 47% from desktop. Traffic has so far been busiest between 9am and 12 noon.

It says its findings back its predictions that mobile will outstrip desktop traffic over the course of the day – even though shoppers seem to have switched to desktop as they arrived at work.

Salmon illustrates this is another handy chart (below).

• Affiliate Window has been tracking the effectiveness of performance marketing through its own data visualisation website, where data is updated hourly. By midday it had tracked revenue of more than £19m. Some 27% of sales were initiated by iPhones, 6% by Android handsets, and a third of sales by traditional Windows devices.

"With Black Friday being a day of heavy discounting, it is no surprise to see 53% of transactions being driven by incentivised traffic sources," it said. "Discount code sites are leading the way, closely followed by cashback sites.

"So far today, we’ve seen smartphones’ share of converting devices increase from 29% in 2015 to 34%. Handsets are so far driving one third of all sales on the network."

2pm: InternetRetailing researchers (see 12 noon for more details and links to their research) have been looking at how brands are performing today, in comparison with retailers. They've seen a distinct uplift in visits to direct brand websites in very early morning browsing, and again at lunchtime, compared to their performance on Friday November 4. Click here for more details and graphs, one of which we show below.

In this post, researchers show their analysis by sector.

3pm: Helen Slaven, chief commercial officer at digital promotions specialist Eagle Eye, says that to make the most of peak trading, retailers need to learn from the data that such events generate.

"The common perception of Black Friday is a period of blanket promotions and heavy discounting, with shoppers competing and literally tripping over each other to get a deal," she says. "It's little wonder that consumer attitudes are becoming more negative. If retailers offer the same level of discount to all, loyal customers receive equal benefits to floating consumers just looking around for the best deal on the day. Why would you give away your best offers to this category who may never return to the brand? Purchases by the blanket technique therefore represent a quick-win with no real long-term benefits.

"The wealth of data generated by the increasing use of mobile devices means retailers know where their customers are, who they are and how they are engaging with Black Friday. An intelligent strategy for securing loyalty is to offer tiered promotions with most loyal customers receiving premium rewards. The key to this strategy is personalisation. Loyalty applications help retailers to gain the data to understand what represents a valuable reward for their customer."

• In its final update of the day, digital agency Salmon says that between 12 noon and 3pm today, 57% of traffic came via mobile devices, while 43% was over the desktop. So far, it says, relying on its own analytics hub, the busiest time of the day was between 9am and 12 noon.

4pm: InternetRetailing researchers have their latest update on website performance. Between 12 noon and 4pm, the best mobile website experience was on Office, Zara, and Boohoo.com, while desktop visitors were well advised to head for Zara, Office, and French Connection. By category, mobile footwear, children's good and general fashion performed best over mobile, while footwear, children’s goods and food and wine were best on desktop. For more detail, and the rest of the line-up, click here.

5pm:

Here's a late update from Currys PC World:

"Following a strong start to Black Friday, Currys PC World has seen a further boost to online orders since its Black Friday deals kicked off, reporting a 13% increase (year-on-year) by 3pm this afternoon.

"There has also been 13% more visitors to the site each hour compared to Black Friday 2015, as shoppers have been taking the opportunity to get their hands on more deals.

"TVs continue to prove popular with customers, with a 28% increase in orders compared to last year. The JVC 32C660 32” Smart LED TV remains the hottest product throughout the day with the Dyson V6 Cordless Vacuum Cleaner also seeing a peak in popularity.

"Smart fitness and wearables have also seen a surge of 241% year on year as customers give their fitness regime a tech upgrade whilst both drones and dashcam have performed really well, up 60% and 250% respectively.

"Stores have also been busy throughout the day with Birmingham proving to be the busiest store so far, followed by Teeside and Glasgow. As the orders come through, the team at the Newark distribution centre has been busy processing these with a 540% increase in orders processed by midday, compared to a normal trading day."

6pm: Brand performance marketing company HookLogic says retail search activity peaked between 6pm and 9pm, as shoppers buying on the way home from work. On average, it said, shoppers spent £91.30 on 1.8 items, averaging £50.55 per item.

8pm: Here's the 8.30pm update from InternetRetailing researchers on how websites stood up to demand on Black Friday.

Cyber Weekend: How did retail websites perform over the Cyber Weekend? Here's the update from the InternetRetailing research team.

Cyber Monday

Looking ahead, ParcelHero says that Cyber Monday is likely to be a big sales day as well. The ecommerce delivery specialist predicts that some £1bn of sales will take place on Cyber Monday.

"The online-only Monday sales event may have been overshadowed by Black Friday; but many online retailers have decided that resistance is far from futile and are keeping some hot deals up their sleeve," says David Jinks, head of consumer research at the company.

"Last year, UK shoppers splashed £968m on Cyber Monday deals. That’s not quite as much as the £1.1bn spent on Black Friday – but it’s considerably more than the £720m spent on Cyber Monday 2014; and is set to rise significantly this year."

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