Black Friday has rapidly become as much of a landmark for UK retailers as it has for those in the United States, and with brands stretching their savings earlier and later in an effort to draw on an ever-larger pool of consumers, marketing efforts have become crucial when it comes to capturing those all important shoppers who are on the hunt for bargains and ready to buy. But what do the figures from this year's Black Friday sales actually reveal?
A Record-breaking Year
This year has seen growth continue at substantial rates, with online and mobile spending both surpassing previous records. In the US, spending passed the $3bn mark on Black Friday alone for the first time, reaching $3.34bn (£2.69bn), while Thanksgiving Day itself saw $1.93bn spent online.
Combined, the two days saw a 17.7 per cent increase in spending year-on-year, while for Black Friday alone, that figure was even higher, at 21.6 per cent.
Mobile, meanwhile, also had cause to celebrate. Black Friday became the first day in retail history to drive over $1bn dollars in mobile revenue, with $1.2bn spent via mobile over the course of the day, up a phenomenal 33 per cent year-on-year.
The figures, which come from Adobe's Black Friday report, aggregate 22.6bn visits to retail websites, and account for 80 per cent of all online transactions from the top 100 US retailers. The trends they indicate are mirrored in other reports which focus on UK spending.
The View From the UK
eCommerce consultancy Salmon monitored traffic throughout Black Friday and found that overall, 57 per cent of site traffic was coming via mobile, and predicted that £2.55bn would be spent on mobile between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, in what it calls the 'Black Fiveday' period. Overall, £5bn in online sales are predicted for this period.
Mobile saw peaks as high as 80 per cent early on Black Friday, with sales starting at midnight. John Rogers, CEO of Argos, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the company's website saw 500,000 visits between midnight and 1am, up 50 per cent on last year, while The Guardian reported that Argos saw 700,000 visits between 8am and 9am, 80 per cent of which were on mobile.
"Shoppers hit the buy button at unprecedented levels as conversion rates were up nearly a full percent across all devices in the evening hours on Black Friday," said Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst and director of Adobe Digital Insights. "With the full day total coming in at $3.34bn, Black Friday may have just dethroned Cyber Monday's position as the largest online shopping day of the year."
However, UK online retailer BHS.com predicted that Cyber Monday would retain its crown for digital spending, with research suggesting that 14 per cent of people planning to spend more on Cyber Monday this year than they did in 2015, and just five per cent planning a decrease.
The company reported that sales between Monday 21 and Friday 25 were 232 per cent higher than the same five days in the previous week, while Black Friday sales were up 239 per cent on the previous week.
"As an online retailer in the UK, Cyber Monday is an important time of the year for us," said David Anderson, managing director of BHS.com. "Last year, the nation spent £968m in sales during Cyber Monday, a rise of 34 per cent on 2014, and our research suggests that this year could see further growth."
Black Friday vs Cyber Monday - Does It Matter?
According to Dom Joseph, CEO and co-founder of ad tech company Captify, Cyber Monday is actually catching up to Black Friday in popularity, particularly in Britain where it is seen as a final chance to grab bargains.
"Cyber Monday has somewhat struggled to attract such a devoted level of attention amongst British shoppers that Black Friday has," said Joseph. "What works very much in Cyber Monday's favour is that it is the last significant retail 'day' before Christmas, in which people have the opportunity to pick up a heavily discounted bargain.
"This is a realisation that many consumers are waking up to, as it it becoming an increasingly popular day with UK shoppers as a record £968m was spent last year, a significant increase on the £720m recorded in 2014."
Whether or not it is Cyber Monday or Black Friday that sees the bigger online haul for retailers this year, the message is clear that online retail, and mCommerce in particular, are becoming the norm for many consumers, and retailers need to ensure they have robust systems in place for dealing with the surges that happen at this time of year.
"Last year, a number of high profile retailers got a wake-up call when their eCommerce platforms crashed on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, causing them to lose out on millions of pounds in sales," said James Parsons, CEO of Arrows Group Global.
"For today's retailers, their digital capability must go beyond surface level to a more wholesale transformation. 36 per cent say they cannot scale up quickly enough at peak times such as Black Friday. These businesses must ensure they have the workforce in place who can develop a more comprehensive infrastructure that can withstand the pressure of these peak times."
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