Black Friday weekend takes Boxing Day’s crown in the UK

Traditionally in the UK, Boxing Day has been known for luring in millions with post Christmas deals but, according to our latest research, Black Friday is the one retailers need to watch.

Yesterday, John Lewis announced that its online purchases increased by 19% in the 5 weeks running up until Christmas. Black Friday, explained Adam Street, Managing Director of John Lewis, was a key driver of online sales.

While Boxing Day was clearly no huge flop, its role as the most significant day for sales in the retail calendar has certainly been contested. By looking into our data, which includes 31 of the UK's top online retailers according to Internet Retailing Top500 list, we have seen a huge shift in consumer behavior. Almost 79% more internet shoppers bought something on an ecommerce wesbite on Black Friday than on 26th December. 

Meanwhile, the conversion rate, the percentage of online shoppers that actually made a purchase from the website, dropped from a total of 3% in 2013 to 2.5% in 2014. This year Boxing Day saw shoppers making 17% fewer purchasers than they did a year ago.  

The birth of the Black Friday weekend in the UK seems to have debunked Boxing Day from its position as the most significant sales day of the Christmas season.

So, what does this mean for retailers?

The data confirms that major season trends are no longer controlled by the retailers but by the consumers. Consumer behavior online is changing and retailers need to be more agile in their approach. The main concern is that consumers are ‘taking over’; they prefer to shop when is most convenient for them, not the retailers. Our data has proved that trends set by retailers are not always followed by their customers. Our previous blog showed how “Silent Saturday” (29th November) triumphed compared to Black Friday and Cyber Monday with over 942,000 online purchases.

Anytime, anywhere...

However, whether the big day is Boxing Day, Black Friday, or Cyber Monday, the importance of a clear omnichannel strategy is now paramount. John Lewis claimed that 56% of their online sales were Click and Collect, overtaking home delivery. As well as providing a delivery point they also allow customers to physically browse through what retailers have to offer. The shop for these large retailers is certainly not something of the past. Both John Lewis and House of Fraser are planning a store expansion. But there is a shift in focus. The role of online is no longer secondary, rather it is the shop that helps the website: "The role of the shop is absolutely critical in providing the online sales”, explained Mr Street. 

Providing an omnichannel strategy that connects the online and offline experience is what will set them apart from the competition.

But more than this. As retailers such as John Lewis question whether Black Friday is sustainable for the industry, they must re-consider traditional approaches. For retailers need to meet the demands and expectation of their online customers anytime, anywhere, they need to invest in the processes and technology that can react in real-time to deliver relevant, personalized experiences to their customers. 

For more on how personalization can be delivered in real-time, check out Gigaom’s research Retail’s pivotal moment: how to deliver effective personalization.