Behind the Black Friday billions: digging into the data understand the 'why' of the shopping super peak

Black Friday and Cyber Weekend generated plenty of headline grabbing stats as usual, and in spite of the yearly claims that the discount holiday is greying out. John Lewis, who previously spoke out against the discount day, reported its best ever weekly revenues of nearly £200m (Guardian, November 2016). Predictions that shoppers would head online, and specifically to their mobiles, in larger numbers than seen in 2015 also came true to an extent, with Black Friday becoming the first ever day to generate over a billion dollars in sales from mobile devices in the US, with $1.2bn (Mashable, November 2016), but not quite hitting the predicted 25% increase (Retail Week, November 2016). Our own data shows that on Black Friday traffic and conversion rates doubled, while revenues increased 400% vs. off peak.

So Black Friday isn’t quite dead, and people like shopping online and on their mobiles. Interesting for sure, but it doesn’t quite satisfy our curiosity. Here at Qubit we’re all about understanding the behaviour of customers, and then providing the solutions to enable brands to influence this behaviour. Applying this thinking to Black Friday we decided to go beyond the big numbers, analysing millions of visits across the Black Friday and Cyber Weekend to see what we else we could uncover.

First up, the growth of the savvy international shopper. This is something that was foreshadowed in our analysis of Singles’ Day, which saw visitors from Asia to UK and US sites almost double. Black Friday and Cyber weekend saw a similar trend, with UK retailers seeing revenues from non-UK based shoppers double. It’s also no coincidence UK retailers saw the biggest increases in traffic from Ireland and China – both regions’ currencies have benefited from the devaluation of the pound post-Brexit. Visits from Chinese and Irish consumers increased even more than UK and US consumers (+216% and +202% respectively). As online becomes a greater focus for Black Friday and similar discount days, despite some data showing increases in footfall, cross border ecommerce presents some huge opportunities for retailers in the UK, we outline exactly how brands can ensure they’re giving their international visitors a smooth experience in our Business after Brexit guide.

Big numbers can often hide the true impact of Black Friday, and some retailers have found themselves burnt when the final tallies are in. Our data shows that while revenues and conversion rates increased during the Black Friday weekend, the actual value of each order declined. This suggests that consumers are becoming smarter with their shopping, taking advantage of deals and free delivery in an opportunistic way. The rise of mobile is driving this ‘little and often’ snackable shopping behaviour, and it’s likely to only continue to increase as we’ve seen this year with PayPal reporting almost a third of sales were completed on mobile (VentureBeat, November 2016).

So while retailers are seeing more traffic over these discount periods they need to work harder truly understand their customers if they are to increase basket values. Capturing consumers attention, when they’re in that moment of intent with targeted, personalised offers will help retailers along the way but, as we examined in our Black Friday and beyond research, they should seriously reconsider getting involved in shopping peaks if the data doesn’t add up.

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