Embrace the dark side: Black Friday online spending in UK to break £1bn

The awareness of Black Friday in Britain has gathered pace over the past few years, among both businesses and consumers alike.

Traditionally, Black Friday signalled the start of the Christmas shopping season in the US as the infamously wild commerce event, which is known to trigger arguments and brawls, follows on from Thanksgiving.

However, UK giants like Tesco, John Lewis, Currys and Argos can all be found embarking on a discounting bonanza to rack up sales from deal-hungry seasonal shoppers.

Someone in a solid place to know what consumers want on each day of the year is Claire Davenport, MD of deals website Vouchercodes.co.uk. So in time for Black Friday 2014 on 28 November, Real Business spoke her to find out how and why the day is winning over Brits.

She noted that Black Friday in the US has been a big deal for over ten years, though it’s only been barely a fraction of that time that the UK has adopted it.

“It’s only natural that Black Friday made it over the pond. Amazon coined the phrase here and it made sense: consumers have firmly settled in the money-saving mindset given the fact austere living is still on the agenda in double dip recession UK,” Davenport said.

“I think retailers realise that customers here want a chance to take advantage of big sales and deals before Christmas – it’s an expensive occasion after all.”

Read more on Black Friday:

As a guideline, 2015 will mark the fifth year that Vouchercodes.co.uk has taken advantage of the trend itself. Drawing upon 2013 data, Davenport revealed that traffic over the period doubled that of 2012’s results.

With the uptake among retailers increasing, digital agency Salmon, which is owned by marketing firm WPP, has predicted 2015 will signal an even more competitive and juicy day for retailers that get their strategies in order.

Problems documented on the day in 2014 included site outages, pages crashing, poor browsing speeds and some retailers even enforced a queuing process, which simply resulted in consumers taking their business elsewhere – a notable wake-up call for companies to be ready this time.

We’ve had huge demand for #BlackFriday and know some of you may have problems accessing our site. We’re doing everything we can to resolve this, and thank you for your patience.

Posted by Tesco on Friday, 28 November 2014

As Salmon’s CTO Glen Burson put it: “Black Friday’s surge in sales in November 2014 threw traditional British pre-Christmas shopping habits into disarray. Shoppers, lured to online retailers with significantly discounted flash promotions, spent an estimated £810m online in a single day ) almost 50 per cent more than industry experts had predicted.”

Strictly speaking, the ethos of Black Friday isn’t contained to just one day. Some deals continue across the weekend, while Cyber Monday follows three days later and is generally expected to be the busiest online shopping day. Salmon’s data revealed that sales grew, but at a smaller rate.

Black Friday versus Cyber Monday: How British shoppers are set to behave

With that in mind, Black Friday 2015 is expected to set a new milestone for British ecommerce.

“We believe that demand will start to surge before Friday 27 November as shoppers come online early to search for bargains,” added Burson.

“At Salmon we predict that in 2015 the frenzy of Black Friday, heightened by national press coverage, will lead to the first £1bn online shopping day in the UK.”

Based on the results experienced by Salmon’s clients, which include firms such as Argos, Audi UK, Halfords, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Selfridges, traffic will begin to pick up from 7am to 9am ahead, and at the start, of the working day.

The spike tailed off by 30 per cent by the time 3pm rolled around, but sales then surged once more at 5pm when the working day was over, continuing into the night.

Burson detailed: “Overall we saw an average fourfold increase in traffic for Black Friday compared with other days in the Christmas Shopping period but interestingly a higher completion rate of orders, which may indicate that Black Friday shoppers were more ready and waiting to make an order due to both advanced publicity and the fact that many bargains were available on Black Friday only.”

Ahead of the day, companies planning to embrace Black Friday should have team members agree to certain rules to follow, including:

  • Know roles and responsibilities
  • Ensure systems are operational
  • Communicate with each other
  • React quickly to issues
  • Prepare for shift handover
According to Salmon: “A key element of peak planning is a pre-defined set of processes and communications. One way to think of peak is as a crisis that you know will happen in advance.”

To contextualise the power of digital further, pizza business Domino’s generated sales of £200m in Q3 and mobile orders were a key factor to hit the milestone.

For Black Friday, just think of your customers as hungry pizza lovers and you the delivery boy, and you should be fine.

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