Welcome to InternetRetailing’s Black Friday coverage. This piece will change throughout the day as we add fresh insights and updates, so do check back in for more detail as the day progresses.
Headlines so far include:
• More than half of all retail products are on sale today, with 72% more retailers taking part this year than last year, according to LovetheSales.com.
• Black Friday started strongly with 55% more shoppers buying in the early morning than last year, found Loqate.
• Mobile proved popular with those buying in the early hours, but shoppers switched to desktop as the day went on, according to Currys PC World.
• Social made more of an impact than in previous years, according to Salmon.
Online transactions rose by 55% between midnight and 10am on Black Friday, compared with Black Friday 2017, according to address verification specialist Loqate. It says the pace of spending is increasing, with more transactions taking place between 9am and 10am than earlier in the day. Online shopping picked up in earnest from 5am onwards, with transactions 45% faster than last year. It says spending on mobile continues to dominate as a device of choice across all purchases. However, desktop spending peaked between 9am and 10am as consumers browsed at their desks.
Matthew Furneaux, global commercial director at Loqate said: “Despite fears around Black Friday fatigue, it’s clear from the data that there is still appetite for good deals if they can be done on shoppers’ terms, and from the comfort of their own home.
“We expect majority of spending continue to be done on mobile, with few peaks for desktop as consumers log in to keep an eye on offers from work.”
• According to analytics gathered by digital agency Salmon, part of the Wunderman group, from its Black Friday analytics hub, 85% of traffic between midnight and 9am was from mobile devices, with 15% from desktop devices. More than three quarters (76%) of transactions were made via mobile and 24% from desktop. The first hour of the sale was the busiest – 40% of visits between midnight and 6am took place between midnight and 1am, when 87% of visits were from mobile. Traffic peaked again at 6am.
A further update from Salmon found that between midnight and midday, Black Friday, 77% of traffic was from mobile, and 64% of transactions, with the balance from desktop devices. The highest levels of traffic were between 9am and 12 noon. More shopping was driven by social (+13%) then at Black Friday 2017. The largest group of shoppers is between the ages of 25 and 34, while female shoppers make up 68% of the total.
Salmon’s final update, for the hours from midnight to 3pm, showed 73% of traffic and 59% of transactions coming via mobile, according to its Black Friday analytics hub. (The balance was on desktop). Traffic was highest between 9am and 12 noon. Social-driven shopping rose by 15.4% compared to Black Friday 2017, with social traffic peaking between 12 and 3pm when it was 39% up on the morning.
• Currys PC World this morning reported three orders being made every second. Its Black Friday sale event started last night, when it saw 61% of orders being made from mobile devices, up from 46% last year, and overtaking desktop for the first time.
The average online shopping basket contained 2.08 products, almost half ordered to be collected in store. Popular products included the Nintendo Switch Neon Red and Samsung Galaxy Tab A.
Dixons Carphone ecommerce director Stuart Ramage said: "We’ve already seen a high volume of orders being made with shoppers taking full advantage of the big savings on offer across a whole range of categories including computing, refrigeration and TVs. As predicted earlier this month, our customers have taken to their mobile devices to place their orders whilst on-the-go, as well as opting for click and collect services so they can collect their purchases at their convenience. Our brilliant options of ways to pay, purchase and deliver mean that customers will be enjoying amazing new technology in time for Christmas.”
An afternoon update showed 14 orders being made every second at 9.15am on the Currys PC World website. As the working day started, traffic moved online: while 73% browsed via mobile at 6am, during the morning 49% of traffic switched to desktops. Some 46% of online orders were for click and collect during the course of the morning, while home delivery was 54% up on last year.
Zeena Hill, customer go-to-market planning director, said: “Shoppers are continuing to take advantage of the Black Friday sale as the day unfolds. In particular, we’ve seen a spike in demand for computing products over the course of the morning as customers enjoy deals across amazing technology from tablets to gaming.”
• UKFast, which hosts thousands of ecommerce websites and booking platforms including Footasylum and Better Bathrooms, says traffic to its network was 30% increase in web traffic this Black Friday, compared to Black Friday last year.
It says the stats may indicate a significant shift in buying habits as shoppers turn away from the potential carnage of high street sales in favour of bagging deals from the comfort of their own homes or on their lunch break.
UKFast chief executive Lawrence Jones said: “Black Friday is an incredible opportunity for online retailers to offer their best deals, but preparation is key. There’s nothing more frustrating than spotting a product that you like at an amazing price on social media, clicking through to the website and getting stuck in a queue or on a website that’s too slow to load."
It seems more retailers have concluded this year that’s there’s just no escaping Black Friday. Retail sales aggregator LovetheSales.com says that 72% more retailers are taking part in the event this year, compared to last year (see graphic below), including some that avoided the event in previous years. Whistles and Homebase are both taking part this year after not doing so last year.
It has found that retailers added more than 130,00 products to their Black Friday sales overnight, and that there are, as of Friday mid-morning, 26% more Black Friday deals on offer than last year. More than half of all retail products are discounted, it says. Stuart McClure, founder and retail analyst of LovetheSales.com, says this year has been one of the toughest for retailers for a long time. "Uncertainty around Brexit and reduced spending confidence from consumers have been significant issues, and the long hot summer has hindered sales of autumn and winter wear," he said.
"Black Friday offers an opportune time for stores to try and claw back some of the transactions they have missed out on, as well as moving the slower selling winter lines, especially as it is very cold right now!"
"Retailers who are known for eschewing the Black Friday furore are returning to it in 2018. This is testament to the fact that its been a tough year, and that many need the seasonal boost to their sales.”
Black Friday is here. Retailers, many of whom started offering Black Friday-themed deals a week ago, are today unleashing what they promise are their biggest and best deals yet. Goods are on offer both online and in-store as retailers tempt shoppers to snap up pre-Christmas bargains. Traders will be hoping for buoyant spending as shoppers, who appeared to be holding back from shopping in October, decide to buy.
Argos launched its Black Friday deals at 9pm last night and Carphone Warehouse followed soon after with its final Black Friday Weekend deals at 9.30pm last night. Amazon went live at midnight, while Tesco stores opened at 5am for visitors looking for an early bargain.
Amazon is upping the ante through its time-limited ‘lightning deals’ that can last for just a few hours.“From big ticket items to stocking fillers, customers are set to save millions of pounds as Amazon’s Black Friday Sale kickstarts the Christmas shopping season,” said a spokesperson. The event is an opportunity for retailers to promote fast delivery and collection offers. Amazon is flagging up free trials of its Prime Now service, while Argos is pointing to free click and collect available at more than 1,000 sites. Its Fast Track delivery slots, which cost £3.95 for home delivery by 10pm, are available on a first-come, first-served basis today.
“Shoppers are increasingly taking advantage of the great deals that Black Friday Weekend offers,” said Zeena Hill, customer-go-to-market planning director at Dixons Carphone, which owns Currys PC World and Carphone Warehouse. “We’re helping everyone to enjoy some of the year’s most amazing technology whether for themselves or for others this Christmas.”
Some warn that by taking part in Black Friday, retailers simply book their sales a month early, and at lower prices than they would otherwise have seen in December Christmas shopping. But other retailers opt to take part in order to make sure they see their share of what spending there is, at a time of political and economic uncertainty.
Struan Wood, CX experience designer, at international digital agency Wunderman UK, says: “Black Friday and its digital sibling Cyber Monday show little sign of disappearing. However, audiences have typically come to expect great discounts rather than a great experience. And equally some retailers view Black Friday as a necessary evil.
"The fact is, the digital landscape has changed significantly over the past 12 months. Black Friday presents retailers with a clear opportunity to rekindle relationships that may have fallen by the wayside post GDPR. There’s a clear value exchange on offer, customers are in foreign or favourite stores, and retailers can engage – or indeed reengage – lines of communication."
Retailers holding out against Black Friday this year include Marks & Spencer and, as in previous years, Jigsaw. But although both retailers aren’t running specific Black Friday events, their home pages do promote more limited discounts. Others not following the Black Friday line include Asda, which is running a series of Green is the New Black themed discounts this week, and FatFace, which is appealing to shoppers’ better nature by promising to donate a share of today’s spending to charity.
Now retailers are looking ahead to Cyber Monday, when Argos will launch a round of homewares and furniture deals that extend over Monday and Tuesday.
In the run up to Black Friday a number of reports have suggested shoppers don’t believe that Black Friday deals are all that they’re cracked up to be. Which? research published earlier this week, tracked the prices of goods in last year’s Black Friday event and found many items had previously and/or subsequently been on sale for the same or less. Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services, says: “While retailers are bombarding us with promises of great discounts and time-limited sales, it’s clear that not all deals are as good as they might appear." Which? is advising consumers to do their research and not get carried away by the hype.
To that, retailers respond that Black Friday is the time when all of offers are live at once, offering shopping opportunities to customers ahead of Christmas.
Today Mention Me releases its annual report into Black Friday shopping trends, which suggests that more than half (53%) of the 2,000 consumers it questioned weren’t planning to shop on Black Friday at all. Of those who were planning to shop, almost a fifth (16%), based their purchase choices on the brands with the biggest discounts on the day, up from 9% last year. Of these the younger shoppers appear to be most ruled by price with a fifth (20%) of the 18-24 year olds focussing on the biggest discount, compared to 12% of those over 55. This suggests that any spike in traffic to a retailer’s website on Black Friday wouldn’t necessarily translate into loyal customers and increased profits, especially for those brands targeting the under 24 age bracket.
The report also found that only 9% of consumers said they hold off making purchases until two months before, down from 11% in 2017. Eight per cent said they would buy from brands that had promoted their Black Friday sales on their social channels, up from 4% last year. Younger shoppers are more influenced however with 14% of 18 - 24 year olds purchasing from brands who have promoted their Black Friday sales through their social channels, compared to only 4% of those aged 45 and older. The study suggests the biggest influence for Black Friday shoppers overall are reviews and personal recommendations. 17% of consumers use online reviews before shopping on Black Friday, and 11% take recommendations from friends and family.
It has been reported that Amazon had suffered a data breach just days before Black Friday. Ensighten CRO Ian Woolley warns that companies handling large volumes of Black Friday traffic should be on their guard against cyberattacks. "Last year was the ’worst ever for data breaches and cyber incidents around the world according to the Online Trust Alliance," said Woolley.
"While businesses should be equipped to handle the digital pressure that comes with these seasonal periods, our research shows they aren’t in a position to do so adequately or safely. In fact, nearly half of enterprises (46%), many of which are retailers, are on the brink of a website breach – meaning shoppers’ payment details and personal information could be in danger."
Woolley says it’s particularly important to secure consumers’ data on marketing platforms by testing and reporting to find out what third-party technologies are operating on its websites and apps. "By whitelisting vendors, only specified third-party technologies can access customer data, ensuring that it won’t be exposed," said Woolley.
"In this era of heightened focus on data privacy, not to mention stringent regulation, businesses can’t afford to be cavalier with their data protection. Let’s hope retailers make headlines for high sales this season, rather than becoming the next data breach victim."
NOTE: We’ll be updating our Black Friday coverage through the day, so do check back later.