Are UK retailers looking forward to Black Friday 2017?
Black Friday is a concept that is relatively new in the UK, with retailers catching on to the US tradition a few years ago. Driven by Amazon back in 2010, UK retailers realised that the last weekend in November has the potential to draw in vast numbers of consumers online and in store.
In the lead up to Black Friday 2017, retail sales are predicted to increase up to 3.8%, accounting for over 10% of total spend, proving that this is more than just a one-day sales event. In fact, retailers Argos, Dixons Carphone and e-tailer AO.com have already kicked off their 2017 campaigns; ensuring that customers get to purchase deals in a less frantic manner and enhancing their shopping experience with these retailers.
The good, the bad and the ugly.
We’ve all seen the images of previous Black Friday sales, early morning queues and stampedes on the high street that’s quite frightening to watch. It’s no surprise that some retailers are reluctant to take part in the sales, especially due to the impact it has on the Christmas shopping season.
Pre-2010 UK consumers where buying their gifts in advance, at full price in the build up to Christmas, and the biggest sales day of the year was Boxing Day; a day where consumers were snapping up bargains, exchanging gifts and spending their gift cards in store and online, ultimately spending more money both online and in store. Now it’s different; Black Friday seems to have taken precedence over Boxing Day, with more people holding off Christmas shopping until the event in the hope that the products they want are heavily reduced.
Whilst larger retailers are likely to reap the financial benefits of Black Friday in the UK, where does this leave the smaller independents who, at this time of year rely upon the festive season to provide extra income? Smaller retailers could, however, benefit from avoiding these sales through offering respite to consumers who don’t want to face the chaos of the sales and offer a more enjoyable, even personal shopping experience.
Despite online sales continuing to grow, consumers still get a buzz out of queuing for sales on the high-street. One of the UK’s biggest retailers Next often has lines of people waiting for their early morning openings of sales that happen throughout the year, with people keen to pick up a bargain that might not be available online.
Time limited and in store only deals are clever ways retailers can increase footfall on the high street and a fantastic way to get rid of old stock. Plus, there are people out there who like the rummage through the sales items, ensuring they don’t miss out on any hidden gems they may have not noticed before.
Online shopping has become the norm for consumers in the UK, so much so that it is expected of retailers to have some sort of online presence. For every person who gets a thrill out of queuing and rummaging in the sales, there are those who just can’t face the chaos and choose to shop the online sales from the comfort of their couch.
2016 saw a 12% rise in online spending on Black Friday, showing that British consumers are opting to avoid the high street and search online where there is often a wider range of products and variations than in store.
Retailers need to ensure they are prepared for the onslaught that online shopping poses, if their website crashes, chances are it will damage the reputation on the brand. Another potentially damaging feat would be if retailers don’t have real-time view of their stock levels across all channels, resulting in the probability of overselling.
Preparing for high volume traffic is essential, as Argos have already experienced. Last year alone their website saw more than 12 million visits in less than 24 hours, with 263,000 products delivered through their Fast Track delivery service. Through having a responsive website, they have been able to gain consumer confidence an enhance their reputation in the industry.
More than a buzz word, Multi-Channel should be a key element to any retail strategy. Continuous developments in retail technology has provided a shift in consumer behaviour geared towards experiences, providing evidence that retailers should prioritise coherent in store and online experiences.
Are Amazon feeling the pressure? Probably not but it’s still a significant message to retailers that they see value in Multi-Channel, opening a pop-up shop in London between 21st and 24th November. Temporary stores are a fantastic way for retailers to capture extra sales during busy periods, offering a showroom for items sold online and extending digital aisles. Proclaiming themselves ‘the home of Black Friday’ this 4-day event is expected to be full of experiences, offering their customers something they haven’t offered previously – an in-store tangible experience.
In preparation for Black Friday, retailers will (hopefully) have prepped their physical stores and made sure their website is responsive but how many would have given thought to their mobile site? According to research, companies lose on average 20% of visitors with each second of delays when a mobile site loads, and chances are that millions of people will be travelling whilst most deals go live, resulting in elevated levels of traffic on mobile devices.
Building on multi-channel can drive customer loyalty and establish longer term relationships and ultimately sales. Therefore, it is imperative that UK retailers start prioritising multi-channel in the run up to Black Friday and Christmas in order to boost their bottom-line throughout 2018 and beyond.
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Rachel is passionate about retail and the ever-changing retail technology environment, with a keen eye for upcoming retail trends that are set to shake up the sector. She started her career as an intern at a national charity and has progressed rapidly into her current role with Cybertill.
Rachel has a Masters Degree in Digital Marketing from Liverpool John Moores University. I think it’s fair to say she knows her stuff!