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What did we learn from Black Friday? There’s no stopping mobile

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As predicted last week, there can be little doubt of mobile’s dominance in retail, post Black Friday. While stores may not have seen the queues and mayhem they expected, mobile traffic was huge over the whole ‘cyber period’, taking the largest share of online traffic and growing year on year.

According to IMRG figures, 39% of online sales were completed over mobile, while vouchercloud found that 63% of its traffic came from smartphones over the weekend – compared to 27% through desktop and 10% through tablet.

This is unusual because Friday is a work day and, typically, Black Friday shopping happens sneakily on desktop while people are at work. Not so this year. This year, there was steady mobile sales throughout the working day.

But that belies what is really going on. In actuality, shoppers are creating new peaks within the peak period, when they will pick up their mobile and shop. According to vouchercloud, Pre-6am traffic for was up 300% on a typical day and 40% higher than Black Friday 2016. Midnight also showed the biggest spike, with twice as many shoppers (+103.95%) hitting the vouchercloud website between midnight and 1am as last Black Friday, and 277% more than a typical day.

People also wake up earlier for Black Friday deals, with traffic between 6am and 7am up a massive 442% on a typical day. Shoppers tend to stay up later the night before too for the ‘last night before check’ – traffic between 10pm and midnight was up 55% compared to 2016.

This shows us just how far mobile has come as the shopping channel of choice: people’s behaviour is shifting based on their acceptance of mobile as the place to convert. Very late and very early shopping smacks of reaching for the bedside phone – probably prompted by the phone being used as an alarm clock, clearly set for early on Black Friday – allowing people to buy when they want.

The rise of use of mobile during the day also shows that mobile use while sitting at work is now ubiquitous and nothing to alarm the boss.

Part of mobile’s triumphant Black Friday – and, as I am sure we shall see in the coming weeks, its triumph across the whole holiday period – is down to apps. As we have seen in the past few weeks, apps have started to garner a lot of attention from shoppers. More apps than ever are being downloaded and used, while predictions for 2018 already suggest that apps are going to play a big role in retail. Debenhams has famously rebooted its multichannel offering around apps – well Google’s predictive web apps (PWAs), but apps nonetheless – and shoppers are starting to see the advantages: preloaded payment details, richer and more personalised experience and, thanks to things like PWA, constant and flexible content.

Black Friday has shown that this move to apps is happening. According to Poq, £1.9million went through its app hosting platform alone on Black Friday at a rate of more than £1300 per minute.

Apps are attractive because they close the gap between low mobile web conversions and shoppers wanting to shop on mobile. The better experience leads to more engagement and, thanks to easier payments through apps, better conversions.

This has been showcased over the weekend with sales rocketing on mobile. Consumers want the convenience and apps give them that. Apps also give them personalisation of the experience, which around Black Friday centres on specific bargain updates.

All this tells us what our future mobile strategy should be: apps that can offer simple payments and that can be tailored by the user to be what they want to be. This is where the conversion on mobile will come from. The demand for mobile commerce is clearly there. The conversion has always been the drag. Now that looks to have been beaten is there going to be any stopping of mobile in retail?

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