Just over a week ago, one of the busiest trading days of the year for the retail industry took place. Months of planning culminated in not only a day of shopping frenzy, but a whole weekend, and in some cases up to a week. For many, the week leading up to Black Friday signalled the start of their promotional activities – aiming to get ahead of the curve. Most Black Friday deals started in the early hours of Friday morning and ran through the weekend to Sunday night, and then of course into Cyber Monday.

Black Friday/Cyber Monday, the days leading up to, and in-between is a fairly new concept here in the UK – only firmly established in recent years. Over the past couple of years it has matured into a colossal spending event for consumers and has been hallmarked as something of a phenomenon.

Industry Insights

Let me just start off with this; Black Friday alone generated £1.1bn. That’s £45,833,333 an hour, £763,889 a minute, and £12,731 a second. When it’s put into perspective like that, you begin to truly comprehend how vital Black Friday is for retailers, how much consumers are willing to spend, and as I mentioned earlier, the phenomenon that is Black Friday.

Over the entirety of Cyber Weekend, an astounding £3.3bn was spent by UK consumers. £1.1bn on Friday, £561m on Saturday, £676m on Sunday and a staggering £968m on Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday was predicted to compete with Black Friday this year in terms of consumer spending, but fell just short of the £1bn mark.

Black Friday Revenues

According to Springboard, footfall was down 8% this year compared to 2014. Consumers decided to do the majority of their shopping online. This lead to a 16% year-on-year increase on Black Friday web traffic. In recent years, footfall in stores has competed valiantly with online performance but was eclipsed significantly this year.

4Ps Insights

To gather relevant insights we benchmarked all data across all of our retail clients. This gave us a comprehensive understanding of how our clients were affected by Cyber Weekend.

Consumers started shopping early this Cyber Weekend. We saw spikes in revenue and traffic as early as 1am. Early morning shopping was clearly a trend throughout the weekend and into Monday, too (as seen from the Retail Week graph below). On Black Friday and Cyber Monday, shoppers were clearly doing some pre-commute shopping in order to try and get the best deals possible.

Black Friday Conversions

On Black Friday itself, a great deal of high value items were sold. We saw a much higher average order value this year compared to last year which suggested to us that consumers weren’t necessarily purchasing gifts this Cyber Weekend. Shoppers were potentially being much more selfish with their purchasing habits over the weekend, and getting items for themselves rather than buying for others.

Another noteworthy insight is that we saw that total year-on-year sales were lower when comparing the weeks and days leading up to Cyber Weekend in 2015 with 2014, which attributed to lower revenue. This trend could suggest that consumers were anticipating and waiting for the Black Friday sales to begin this year. In my view, this is going to be a constant trend for any sale period, and consumer awareness will continue to grow.

When we compared the number of new website users around Cyber Weekend 2015 to that of 2014, it became evident that consumers were much more willing to venture on to a site they hadn’t visited before this year, than they were last year. This means the generic “Black Friday” keyword targeting and outreach strategies to promote Black Friday deals are paramount in reaching those new users next year.

Cyber Weekend New Visits

We saw a clear increase on 27th November (Black Friday) 2015, in the percentage of new website sessions. This was something that wasn’t anywhere near as prominent during the same period in 2014.

What Have We Learnt?

Preparation is key. 4Ps’ retail team were planning Cyber Weekend months in advance with our clients to ensure that everything went to plan. It was clear to see this year that a lot of planning was involved. Nothing out of the ordinary happened apart from a few retailer sites buckling under the pressure of the sale-hungry consumers – But generally websites were much more prepared than last year, and should be again next year as we may expect even more consumers taking to the internet. Retail Week reported this year’s web traffic up 16% while footfall tumbled 8%.

As I mentioned previously, consumers were waiting in anticipation for Cyber Weekend – more so than any other year to date. As soon as it turned midnight on Black Friday, people started to take advantage of the offers that were available.

This poses the question – did the retailers that started their Cyber Weekend promotions early actually take advantage? Were consumers actually willing to spend in the days before Black Friday? From what we’ve seen, we suspect not – making that week/weekend even more important. It’s also worth noting that brands who opted out of Black Friday promotions still performed very well during this period, suggesting there were still many who were willing to spend money that week, regardless of savings.

The next major sales period coming up, are the Boxing Day sales. These tend to be very profitable for retailers, but will that be the case this year? Cyber Weekend was so enormous this year and exceeded many retailers’ expectations. Our buying observations of those higher value personal purchases suggests the possibility that purchases made during Boxing Day sales may have been replaced with Cyber weekend sales, which hasn’t been the case in prior years.

It will be interesting to see how the Boxing Day sales perform this year against the performance of last weekend. It will also be interesting to see if there is a shift in purchasing behaviour over the Christmas period. Post-Christmas sales are typically more focused on individuals, rather than gifting – similar to the buying habits of Cyber Weekend 2015. This makes visibility and promotion even more important this year to capture those who are still holding out for post-Christmas sales and stand out from competitors.

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