Blog Post - James Webster, Apr 27 2018

​Lessons to be learned from Black Friday 2017

​Lessons to be learned from Black Friday 2017

Black Friday has rapidly developed from being just another retail event to the calendar retail event of the year. No longer just a day, Black Friday marks the start of the Christmas shopping frenzy. Earlier this year, we analysed the impact of Black Friday and found that consumers were spending more during the Black Friday period (22nd – 28th November) than Christmas period (21st – 27th December).

But, what does this mean for retailers? Simply put, those that do not have their operations in place well-before November will instantly lose the custom and loyalty of the customer. Black Friday is an opportunity to secure a larger slice of the retail market and build a relationship with shoppers, as they continue to shift online. Retailers need to understand that success isn’t built in one day; it is earned through careful planning and preparation.

Amazon Vs the industry

It’s no surprise to find that Amazon came out as the ‘winner’ in last year’s Black Friday. It’s even less surprising as our research discovered that 39% of online spend in the UK is now done via Amazon. For any retailer, the task can often boil down to beating Amazon by matching Amazon. In 2017, high-street retailers, such as Argos, Tesco and many others, introduced their deals much earlier in the month, as a reaction to Amazon starting its deals a week before the actual date.

There’s no shame in mirroring a leading eCommerce brand like Amazon. However, introducing deals early isn’t enough. Retailers need to make sure they have a robust back-end infrastructure that can deal with the heavy load times during Black Friday. An online system will also be key to succeeding, as consumers look to purchase in the comfort of their own home. If Amazon is to lead on price, delivery and convenience, retailers need to be asking themselves how they compete on site experience and content, and ensure that online and offline channels are integrated to allow for click-and-collect and mobile shopping.

The mobile tipping point

For the first time in the UK market, we saw a significant tipping point – 53% of orders came from mobile devices. As a result, brands need to realise that having a robust mobile strategy that delivers a superior experience, ensures the content on mobile is served quickly, and links to the back-end system, will be crucial to their success.

A three-pronged approach

By taking a simple, three-pronged approach, retailers can ensure they are well prepared for the Black Friday peak:

  1. Mobile-first – Having a mobile-first Black Friday strategy in place is a must because customers will demand a mobile and agile approach. IMRG reported that 39% of shoppers made purchases on their smartphones, while our data team found that the early morning rush, between 6am and 9am, saw an uptake of 14% in traffic as people browsed during their commute
  2. Speed and efficiency will triumph – Think about the various mobile points. If customers are browsing and seeing a mobile version of the retailer’s website, it is important it is fast and responsive. Retailers need to make sure their mobile systems load as fast as on desktop. The average consumer attention span is around 8 seconds, and if a mobile site does not load in that time, they most likely will have lost the customer
  3. Regular performance testing – Retailers should carry out tests on their website and on their mobile apps well in advance of Black Friday. The necessary capacity tests will show if a retailers’ site can function with increased levels of traffic over long periods. Rigorous testing, as well as predictive analytics, will certify that a system is ready for Black Friday peak
Preparing for peak formations

The biggest error a retailer can make is to forget the significant increase in traffic during Black Friday. Having an omni-channel strategy in today’s market is necessary, but that in itself has its own challenges. For example, retailers need to ensure they are managing offline stock levels so shoppers online can view products that are actually available. Customers will be left frustrated if they find the perfect shoes or dress, but cannot purchase items because stock levels have depleted.

Those that have thrived over previous years have built a much stronger coordination between marketing, operations, online and offline.

Ultimately, the retailers that come up with a strategy for the whole of the peak period perform the best. We saw retailers keep their promotions going into December with good, well thought out campaigns, and they’re the ones who did very well from a trading perspective. They understood the adrenalin rush of Black Friday, prepared accordingly and saw success.

If you’re interested in finding out more, read eConsultancy’s Lessons from Black Friday Best Practice Guide, which featured Salmon, a Wunderman Commerce Company, throughout.

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