Black Friday is now big news in the UK. Last year according to Barclaycard, more was spent on Black Friday than on any day of last year’s shopping season, making it the biggest spending day on record.
Black Friday this year is likely to herald a similar frenzy and signals a change in customer shopping habits around Christmas. Retailers may need to step-up their preparations in order to take full advantage of this year’s Black Friday.
How big of a deal is it in the UK?
For anyone doubting the impact of Black Friday, John Lewis’ decision to enter the fray in 2014, due to its promise to be “never knowingly undersold”, should signal that this retail event is here to stay.
Simply put, when a bastion of British commerce like John Lewis does something, other retailers tend to follow suit.
According to IMRG, UK retail websites received a combined total of 181 million visits on last year’s Black Friday alone, and an estimated £810m was spent online. With so much online traffic, even retailers without a sale in place may be affected as excited shoppers rush from one online store to another when browsing for deals.
How are UK shopping habits changing?
Events like Black Friday are ensuring that Christmas starts earlier for shoppers and stores alike.
Instead of readying themselves for a narrow Christmas shopping window, retailers need to be prepared further in advance. Savvy shoppers may look to do their Christmas shopping during the Black Friday sales, reducing the popularity of sales closer to Christmas. As this behaviour becomes embedded into UK retail culture it is going to have a significant impact on the shape of the retail year.
Last year, Black Friday dramatically caught out even the UK’s biggest retailers. It was the first year that many retailers took part in offering sales and the first year that UK consumers truly bought into the idea. Ampersand’s own research found that over half of retailers running Black Friday sales in 2014 had website outages on the day. According to Visa Europe, Black Friday pushed Britons to spend a record amount last November causing the fastest annual rise in consumer spending since 2010.
How should retailers respond?
A sudden increase in online traffic can result in unplanned website and systems outages when retailers are not prepared. Downtime needs to be avoided at all costs as it halts sales and affects brand reputation. Retailers must plan substantial mitigations against outages in order to deliver a consistent customer experience, even if that means sacrificing a few of the “bells and whistles”.
Customers won’t care about innovative sizing widgets or highly personalised product recommendations if they are unable to check out on the biggest sale day of the year.
In the coming weeks, retailers should continue to test their website and the traffic capacity of their systems. By analysing visitor data from last year’s festive period, retailers can get a good idea of when the traffic spikes will occur. And plan accordingly.
If retailers can adequately prepare, Black Friday can be a sale day to look forward to – not fear.