We’re gathering all the news, stats and developments around the 2015 Christmas shopping season in a new rolling report. This will be updated as the latest figures reach us, so do come back for the latest developments.
Latest updates: MasterCard figures for Black Friday; MetaPack figures on deliveries; SimilarWeb and BT Expedite figures on Cyber Monday web traffic; Poq figures on use of apps
Black Friday 2015 will be on November 27. That’s the Friday after the US holiday of Thanksgiving, which this year takes place on Thursday November 26.
• Digital commerce consultancy Salmon predicts that UK retailers will collectively take more than £1bn for the first time on Black Friday 2015.
• Webloyalty says sales made over the course of Black Friday and Cyber Monday will come to £1.6bn this year. Through its research partner Conlumino it questioned more than 2,000 consumers and found that 77% of Brits had now heard of Black Friday and 57% intended to shop on the day itself. However, says Webloyalty, retailers must take care that the day is a profitable one for them.
Guy Chiswick, managing director of Webloyalty Northern Europe, said: “Last year 42% of shoppers brought forward purchases that they would have made at a later date, signalling the surge of interest amongst consumers around Black Friday.
“Retailers need to wake up to this displaced spending and be very careful not to cheat themselves of revenue. The consumer is far more likely to be the winner here, but they still need to be careful not to be sucked in by the hype and make sure they’re getting the discount they want to see.”
• Adobe’s 2015 Adobe Digital Index Online Holiday Shopping Prediction report suggests that UK consumers will spend £17.7bn online this Christmas, 7% more than at the same time last year. Black Friday will be peak ecommerce shopping day, with £474m spent that day alone. It says 57% of Christmas shopping this year will be online, and 23% on mobile devices. Some 24% say they will spend less time buying, thanks to ecommerce.
• Clear Returns predicts in its Playing for Keeps report that returns from Black Friday alone will see £160m of stock returned over the Christmas period, costing retailers £180m. As a result, retailers will experience an Out of Stock Saturday on December 12, when the largest amount of their stock will be tied up in returns processing and unavailable to buy.
“On the surface, Black Friday is a successful key trading day, but it’s a gloomier picture once returns are factored in,” said Vicky Brock, chief executive and founder of Clear Returns. “Our data suggests the true cost of acquiring customers during such promotions is likely to be very high; at peak trading periods anything between 15 and 50% of promotional items might be returned at a time when staff will be stretched to fulfil other more profitable orders in the run up to Christmas.”
• FootFall predicts we won’t be heading to the shops in person on Black Friday. Rather, it predicts in-store shopper traffic will be down by as much as 4% year-on-year on Black Friday thanks to longer events run by retailers such as Amazon and Argos who have stretched the event well beyond a single day of discounts, and have therefore removed the ‘buy now’ nature of Black Friday. FootFall also suggests that customers disappointed with crashing websites and queues in 2014 may steer clear this year.
Overall, it expects that footfall will be down over the whole Black Friday weekend, rising slightly (+0.5% year on year) on the Saturday before dipping back down on Sunday (-2% year-on-year) and Cyber Monday (-0.5% year-on year).
Steve Richardson, UK regional director at FootFall, said: “While we’ve seen lots of consumer interest in the build up to Black Friday, this year marks a shift in retailers’ adoption of the promotional event. Some retailers, such as Asda, are scaling back participation entirely, while others are moving away from a single day flash sale, extending the promotion to ease pressure and spread demand out over a long period. For instance, Amazon activated deals five days early on 23 November, whereas Argos and Littlewoods plan to extend Black Friday offers over two weeks.”
Experian predicts that Manic Monday, or December 7, will see UK consumers spend £733m, 10% more than the equivalent day last year. The date, it says, has previously been seen by consumers as their last chance to order goods online for certain pre-Christmas delivery.
Warming up to Black Friday
• John Lewis reported the start of peak season with its first £100m sales week ahead of this Christmas. The retailer says sales in the week ending November 14 were up by 1.5% compared to the same time last year, and 15.8% compared to last week. It has launched a Find Similar iPad app to serve the two-thirds of customers who now visit and shop and johnlewis.com to make a purchase. The new app will help shoppers visiting its website to find clothing items with a similar colour, shape and patttern.
John Lewis also said its Man on the Moon Christmas advert had had 22m views in the first week, overtaking 2014’s Monty the Penguin campaign. “The countdown to Christmas has begun,” said Paula Nickolds, commercial director at John Lewis. “Customers are now buying gifts and products to prepare their homes for the season ahead.”
• Amazon’s self-styled Biggest Ever Deals Event, leading up to Black Friday, is now in full swing. During the 10-day event the retailer is offering day-long deals including, at the time of writing, 35% off Friends seasons 1-10, and 48% off a Sony Experia C4.
• Superdrug says its deals will start online from a minute after midnight on November 25 (and during normal shopping hours in store), and continue until midnight on December 1 – or as long as stocks last. It predicts Black Friday week will be three times bigger for it this year than last. Over a hundred deals will start on Wednesday 25th November and will continue until the end of Tuesday 1st December (or until stocks last).
Superdrug buying director Simon Comins said: “Last year customers really got into the spirit of Black Friday so this year we’ve got an even bigger selection of price cuts. The range offers some really solid discounts, with many products better than half price. We have really focused on the things we know people will be looking to snap up for Christmas, so lots of fragrance and beauty gift sets and electricals.”
• Halfords will kick off its Black Friday sale online and in-store on November 27, with discounts of up to 50% on children’s bikes, alongside discounts on motoring equipment and technology. The event runs until November 30.
• We’ve written here, here and here about how Argos’ new approach of spreading Black Friday demand over several weeks. We’ve also heard how the site has suffered failures as it approaches Black Friday 2015, one covered here.
But it seems the decision to start Black Friday discounts well before November 27 has paid off in terms of site traffic, which has risen by 22% according to digital analytics specialist SimilarWeb .
The retailer first offered deals between November 20 and 22, and the site achieved a 22% rise in one-day spike in online traffic on November 22, in comparison to the average visits over the previous three Sundays. The UK retailer saw 3% more page visits and a 23% rise in page views. However, SimilarWeb reports, UK consumers only spent 1% more time on the site than on an average Sunday.
This was higher one-day traffic growth than Amazon in the UK which, says SimilarWeb, sees far higher overall visitor numbers. Amazon also began its Black Friday deals a week early and saw a 14% one-day rise in the UK on November 22, higher than its US site (+12%).
Hilla Meller, SimilarWeb digital insights manager, said: “The appetite for deals is strong in the UK with Amazon’s seeing a bigger online spike than even their US site ahead of Black Friday. However Argos is leading the way in the UK, with their decision to provide early discounts for UK consumer paying off.”
• Here’s our coverage of how Elite and Leading IRUK Top500 retailers were gearing up for Black Friday 2015, as far ahead as November 23.
Last year, according to the IMRG , shoppers spent some £810m over the course of Black Friday 2015 – making it the UK’s biggest-ever online spending day. The amount spent on the day itself lifted overall sales in November 2014 by 37% compared to the same month in 2013, IMRG figures suggested.
The day was also marked by site outages and queues to get onto the most popular websites, while it was followed by logistics delays that the IMRG later said amounted to a retail tsunami.
We’re gathering our Black Friday rolling coverage in a single blog post that you can find here.
And here’s a link to the Cyber Monday live blog.
• IMRG/Experian estimate the total online UK turnover on Black Friday at £1.1bn. IMRG says the day has been one of transition, moving away from the store-based events of previous years to an online event running over the course of a week with no queuing – and no need to leave the house. Andy Mulcahy, editor, IMRG, said: “Black Friday appeared to be in a state of transition this year, as many retailers extended their campaigns to run over a week or even longer to ease the pressure on their operations. Nevertheless, it seems there is still a perception that the day itself is the time to get the best deals as it drew record volumes to retail sites – most likely boosted by shoppers who stayed away from the high street in order to avoid a repeat of the scenes from last year. Having so many different ways to browse and shop on retail sites will have played a part as well, with £495m being spent on smartphones and tablets on Black Friday.”
• Overall, says IMRG/Experian, shoppers spent £3.3bn over the Cyber Weekend, starting on Black Friday and running up to Cyber Monday.
• Adobe says UK consumers spent £591m online over the 24 hours of Black Friday shopping deals, 24% more than the same time last year. Of that, 21% of sales were made via tablet computers, and £242m was spent on mobile devices, up from £217m last time. Black Friday shoppers, according to Adobe’s analysis of 36m online visits in this country, spent an average of £10.06 each, compared to £6.66 in the US.
• MasterCard SpendingPulse data suggests shoppers spent 8.7% more on Black Friday than they did last year. But that figure is down from 23.6% growth recorded last Black Friday. Its findings, which include cash as well as card payments, estimate that UK consumers spent £1.8bn across all sales channels during the course of the day. Growth was strongest online, with ecommerce sales up by 37% both in the run up to Black Friday and on the day itself. At department stores, where traders frontloaded deals, ecommerce grew by 42% in the run up to Black Friday but by 22% on the day itself.
Mark Barnett, president of MasterCard UK & Ireland, said: “The growth in sales in the days preceding Black Friday and days immediately after indicates a concerted effort by retailers to spread sales and avoid some of the logistical headaches experienced last year. As a whole, the week showed solid growth but the question remains whether we will now see a slowdown in December’s retail figures. If the combined sales remain strong, then this year’s strategy by retailers for Black Friday must be considered successful.”
App platform Poq analysed how 570,000 app shoppers behaved in the week from Monday November 23 to Monday November 30. It found that Black Friday came out ahead of Cyber Monday, with revenue on November 27 nearly 200% higher than for the average time during the week, while traffic was 147% higher.
Revenues were highest at 7am and 11pm, meaning most shoppers were probably placing orders from their beds. These times of the day drove revenues that were 184% and 188% higher than the average revenue per hour during Black Friday. App conversion rates were generally 60% higher than desktop traffic. One of Poq’s clients’ apps peaked at 12,000 concurrent users. That’s twice as many users as their mobile website at the time.
• IMRG/Experian says shoppers spent an estimated £968m on Cyber Monday.
• Digital analytics company SimilarWeb says Cyber Monday UK web retail traffic was down by 6% compared to the same day last year. But mobile growth helped to make up some ground. It singles out Etsy.com , with the largest growth of 42% in mobile web traffic in 2015 compared to 2014, Boots (+32%), Sainsburys.co.uk (+25%), Johnlewis.com (+24%), and Newlook.com (+23%). Desktop traffic, it says, grew at only two UK desktop websites that it measured: HM.com (+15.2%) and Homebase.co.uk (+6.9%).
• BT Expedite said Cyber Monday orders were 5.5% up on last year, with 21% more revenue taken. However, traffic still fell short of peak traffic which came at 8pm on the night before Black Friday, while peak orders came at 10pm on Black Friday evening, with average order values 10% up on the same time last year.
This year’s key trends
Logistics will matter
The John Lewis Partnership said in half-year results out in September that logistics would be the issue to it to get right for this year’s Black Friday. “Black Friday and Christmas will again be defined by the importance of logistics and operational excellence, coupled with ensuring our shops remain the ‘must visit’ destination on the high street,” it said. “We go into the second half with confidence in both our ability to deliver outstanding customer service and in our strongest-ever product assortment.”
On the Black Friday itself and the subsequent Saturday and Sunday, says John Lewis, its distribution team processed 18% more orders than at the same time last year – or five a second. It enjoyed a record sales week, totalling £187.7m across channels while online traffic was 15.5% up on last time.
• MetaPack said that, by its analysis, 92% of parcels were delivered on time over the Black Friday weekend. That was up from 73% at the same time last year, and compares favourably with on-time deliveries averaging 93% over the previous six months. MetaPack says that overall, orders were up by 45% over the course of the weekend, with 26% of orders going to overseas destinations. The largest number of overseas orders were shipped to the United States.
• Argos has put its money into its developing own Fast Track same-day home delivery service, unveiled in October. It’s taken on 3,300 drivers, who will also act as a friendly doorstep point of customer contact, to staff the service. That figure includes 1,000 for the Christmas season alone. The service is built around the retailer’s command of the single view of its inventory, across channels, and the hub-and-spoke store fulfillment logistics model it’s built up in recent years.
• In the event, Argos issued an apology via its Facebook page to customers inconvenienced as a result of its Fast Track service. “We’re really sorry for the delays in getting through to customer services,” it said. “Our Black Friday event and new Fast Track delivery service have been hugely popular and are keeping the team really busy; we have added extra staff and they are working through calls, emails and social posts as fast as possible. Thanks for your patience.”
Meanwhile CollectPlus warns that Black Friday returns will peak today, on ‘Back Friday’ as shoppers change their minds about up to 31% of their online buys this Christmas. It says returns are likely to be 20% ahead of the average of the previous four Fridays and that the most returned items will be fashion items, accounting for 46% of returns, followed by electronics and technology (20%).
Neil Ashworth, chief executive of CollectPlus, said: “This year retailers worked across the entire supply chain to plan effectively for the fulfilment of orders made on Black Friday. With the volume of items being sent back it’s important that they have planned a strategy to deal with returns in the same way. Shoppers expect to be quickly and easily reimbursed for online shopping and any delays in the process can lead to delays in repurchase and avoidable stress for the customer and the retailer’s staff.”
• IMRG/MetaPack says retailers are expecting fourth quarter growth of 20%, with sales on peak days up by 30% on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Doddle also forecast it would handle as many as 600% more parcels in the peak Christmas period, compared to a normal week.
The scale of staffing up
The Argos investment in seasonal drivers comes as the general merchandise retailer takes on 9,000 staff for the Christmas shopping season. Others will provide a boost in staffing at its stores, including its 20 digital-format stores found in locations including Cannon Street tube station and branches of Sainsbury’s supermarket.
Meanwhile, Amazon says it has taken on 700 permanent staff at its UK fulfillment centres this year and will take on thousands more Christmas.
• Fulfillment specialist iForce is quadrupling its workforce ahead of the Christmas rush. It is going from a permanent staff of 750 colleagues to around 2600, adding about 1,850 temporary warehouse staff to handle the rush from Black Friday through to Christmas. iForce expects to despatch around 146,000 items on Black Friday alone – 23.5% more than the same day last year. It also expects to handle 450,000 returned items as a result of that one day.
Innovations for Christmas 2015
• Retailers in London’s West End are signing up ahead of the Christmas rush to a new Dropit shopping service that enables store shoppers to drop their bags for home delivery anywhere in the UK. Dropit teams up with stores and streets and combines bags from different stores to create one delivery for a shopper. Shoppers sign up to the Dropit app and buy a single drop for £8, a day of drops for £15, or a three-day pass for £30. As they buy they leave their shopping bags in the store or at a Dropit street kiosk from where they are collected and delivered to a shopper’s home or hotel at the requested delivery time. A Dropit study suggested 57% of West End shoppers would spend more if their shopping could be delivered to them. Retailers can benefit from data that tracks shoppers’ spending patterns from store to store. This delivers, says Dropit, the same insights into offline shopping that online retailers have on the web.
Karin Cabili, Dropit founder, said: “The ease of online shopping is moving consumers away from the high street. Dropit revitalises the offline retail experience to entice shoppers back in stores, allowing them to see, try and buy items from multiple stores without having to carry their bags, knowing their purchases will be delivered safely to their home or hotel. We offer retailers a store-to-door delivery solution which doesn’t see them lose out on subsiding delivery costs.”
Ian Hunt, head of logistics and services at Liberty , says: “Working with Dropit has allowed us to offer visitors to our store the type of delivery options previously only available to our online customers. The instore implementation was very quick and easy and, thanks to some great training sessions from the team at Dropit, the Liberty sales team was right behind it from day one. Following great success offering Dropit through our Customer Service Point, we are now expanding to offer Dropit across the whole store.”
Not just Black Friday
eBay Enterprise says retailers should be ready for a second online shopping peak two weeks after Black Friday. According to its Peak Preparedness report, there was a second peak week after Cyber week in the run up to Christmas 2014. Its data shows a 30% average growth year-on-year between October and December over the past three years. Cyber Week sales peaked dramatically, but in a second peak week two weeks later, online conversion rates were 74% higher than the average Christmas period rate in 2014.
Enda Breslin, European head of business development at eBay Enterprise, said: “Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now firmly established on the UK calendar and every retailer plans for them, but our study shows another lucrative opportunity for retailers in mid-December. Conversion rates are higher at this point in the Christmas cycle because shoppers are much more focused; they have already researched their likely purchases and shopped around. Savvy retailers should be primed to cash in on this.” The study also pinpoints two particularly busy times from 2014: 7am to 10am on Black Friday, and 7pm to 10pm on Cyber Monday.
In two minds
• Consumers are split as to what they think of Black Friday and similar discount events. While 31% ‘like’ or ‘love’ these chances for a bargain, and 30% of online shoppers are ‘likely’ or ‘very likely’ to shop during this year’s Black Friday, 30% ‘don’t like’ or ‘hate’ them, according to IMRG and eDigitalResearch analysis.
Some 20% of 2,030 online shoppers questioned said they had shopped on Black Friday last year, with 55% shopping online. Some 85% of previous Black Friday shoppers said they were likely to return this year.
Andy Mulcahy, editor at IMRG, said: “Black Friday caused a seismic shift in the established Christmas shopping trends last year, even for those who didn’t participate in discounting at all. It has changed the complexion of the peak period, putting a far greater emphasis on discounting, which shopper attitudes currently seem to be very evenly split on. All the indications are that it’s going to get even bigger this year, so there are some key issues that need to be addressed – such as the availability and rate of discounts on offer, the delivery promise to customers, site performance etc – as this will likely be a pivotal year in terms of shaping how Black Friday works and, crucially, how shoppers feel about it.”
Experian now predicts
• Retailers have the same love-hate attitude towards Black Friday, according to a LCP Consulting study that we report on here. A third say it’s unsustainable and profitable, while 38% disagree with that proposition.
• Shoppers may take a cautious approach to online shopping this Cyber Monday, according to predictive analytics business Blue Yonder. Its research found that 84.1% of Cyber Monday 2015 shoppers had a bad experience. Nearly half found websites were too slow or crashed, a third found the experience too much of a headache, and a fifth felt the discounts were not enough. Some 42% of the 2,000 shoppers it questioned suggested they would be put off looking for Cyber Monday deals by recent news on cyber threats such as that suffered by Talk Talk, while 38% would be put off by their bad experiences last year.
Markus Juhr-De Benedetti, Blue Yonder chief revenue officer, said: “The online shopping experience is vitally important to ensure shoppers take part in the busiest shopping period of the year. To understand and predict demand retailers need to look at all aspects of their business and ensure their websites and stock levels are appropriate to cope with that demand.
How shoppers will buy
Almost half of Christmas shoppers say they’ll mostly buy online this year, a new study suggests. Some 45% of shoppers favour researching and buying their gifts online, according to research from programmatic marketing technology specialists RadiumOne.
It questioned 1,000 people aged 16 and over in a survey run by research agency Mindmover, and found that online buying and research was the most popular option for 58% of buyers aged between 45 and 54 in particular. In contrast, only 13% of all those questioned said they’d prefer to research and shop in-store. That’s most likely to be the case for shoppers aged 55 or older, where 23% prefer to visit shops.
In a recent Internet Retailing webinar, Bronto Software’s Kestrel Lemen shared her advice on planning festive email marketing campaigns. Read our webinar overview here, or watch the webinar for yourself here.
Craig Teich of Connexity on 10 key marketing tips to increase Christmas sales.
Paul Doble of DX on delivering on Black Friday and Christmas expectations
Matt McGrory of Carrenza on why retailers shouldn’t make excuses for avoiding Black Friday.
Mark Thornton of Maginus Software Solutions: Is Black Friday destined to become Groundhog Day?
Gerald Heath of OLR on The Secret of Festive Succcess
Capgemini has released advice on how retailers can best avoid a fulfillment black hole on November 27 in a blog post. It argues that retailers should think about their people, their customers and their logistics and gives planning suggestions including understanding and working within your limitations.