What the Black Friday online results tell us about shopping trends

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In spite of The Economist’s prediction that ‘Despite the momentum that the event [Cyber Weekend] has built up, retailers are approaching this year’s jamboree with caution. For a start, shoppers seem unwilling to open their wallets. Sales in October were 0.3% lower than last year, according to official figures', it appears retailers had nothing to worry about.

Black Friday sales were expected to reach almost £8bn during Cyber Weekend (BBC), an increase of nearly 38% over the record-breaking £5.8bn in 2016 (The Economist).

What’s really exciting for those in the digital industry is the amount consumers spent online. According to IMRG, this figure reached £1.4bn on Black Friday, an increase of nearly 11.7% over last year.

Black Friday dominates UK and Europe

Aggregating performance data across a sample of NMPi clients shows that Black Friday was still the clear winner regarding both online traffic and revenue generation for 2017.

What is interesting this year is that for the first time ‘Sofa Sunday’ (the Sunday following Thanksgiving) outperformed Cyber Monday by a thread.

In the past, our digital campaigns have done better on Cyber Monday with consumers stuck at work unable to hit the high street. Could this show a shift in consumer behaviour?

If Sofa Sunday is here to stay as the second most profitable day of Cyber Weekend, digital strategies will need to be adjusted, increasing budget and bids.

The chart below shows the uplift of key metrics over Cyber Weekend compared to the November average. If we look specifically at clicks and conversion rate, we see that Cyber Monday had marginally more clicks than Saturday and Sunday, but consumers were just not converting at the same rate as Black Friday.

The trend shows that conversion rate spiked on Black Friday and then saw a steady drop over the next week. So, we need to ask ourselves, what were consumers looking for that they weren’t finding or were they just researching? It is hard to be sure, but this decline could be an indication that all the best Black Friday deals have been taken.

Mobile exceeds desktop in driving traffic

The difference between device performance in 2017 and 2016 is staggering. In just one year, mobile devices have made a massive jump to overtake desktop in driving website traffic.

Now we know that this isn’t very odd behaviour as many consumers use mobile devices to research before purchasing. What is interesting is that revenue driven by mobile matches that of a desktop on Black Friday.

I think we can safely say that as the industry gets better at mobile user experience, next year we can expect mobile devices to overtake desktop performance on Black Friday. Make sure your strategies are tailored appropriately.

While mobile is growing, desktop is still the leader when it comes to conversion rate. The bigger screen and ease of checkout keeps the user engaged from research to purchase.

How does the US Compare?

From the chart above we can see that our US clients saw significant uplift from their digital activity on Cyber Monday, which is a stark contrast to the UK and Europe. This is not unexpected and is due to the Thanksgiving holiday period. Since Americans have Black Friday off, most of their shopping occurs in-store rather than online.

19 days to go

With 19 days until Christmas, the gifting season isn’t over yet. There is still Manic Monday to come, along with two big weekends.

How to make the most of the next 19 days

  • Make sure you are taking advantage of mobile traffic with a mobile optimised site and easy checkout process.
  • As we get closer to Christmas you can make several adjustments to your ad copy – use countdown clocks to emphasise the last day for shipping before Christmas, and then switching campaigns to click and collect messaging once that date has passed.
  • Keep an eye on your stock levels. Make sure you are not pushing ads for items you no longer have – this is a sure-fire way to lose customers.
  • And most importantly, keep your customers engaged. The Christmas shopping period is getting longer each year, and consumers are now oversaturated with marketing messages, so you need to be different. Change your messaging to prevent creative fatigue and keep consumers engaged with your brand through the whole period.

Russell Scott is performance director at digital marketing agency NMPi.

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