The month of November has quickly become known for one big event within the UK retail business – Black Friday. This year is predicted to be the biggest yet with more shops expected to offer sales than ever before.
Last year, Black Friday boosted UK online sales to £104 billion. As Amazon announces it will open a seven-week long Black Friday sale bonanza this year in the run up to Christmas, these figures are expected to rise considerably as more retailers jump on the bandwagon to encourage festive shopping.
Online vendors are already preparing for this growing landmark in the retail calendar. According to RetailMeNot, 76% of retailers are intending to improve online capacity and rend additional bandwidth over the Cyber Weekend sales.
However, it is important not to get lost in the frenzy. By observing the trends from last year, retailers will be well equipped to predict online activity and capitalise on the flurry of bargain-hungry shoppers.
The future is mobile
Mobile transactions continue to challenge the traditional use of desktop to shop online. Lloyds Bank recently reported that 34% of mobile consumers are expected to make daily payments using their devices over the next five years. Customers are now more confident than ever before in their ability to use mobile devices to carry out their shopping fix.
Retailers have also attributed a rising percentage of their online sales figures to the increased uptake in mobile transactions. With Black Friday just around the corner, figures from Big Data Labs, our platform that aggregates online transaction data from UK retailers, predict that this mobile purchasing trend could see the share of smartphone activity increase by 12% on last year’s sales.
The result is that consumers are opting to spend less of their cash via desktop, with an expected 10% drop in sales figures this year. As this shift takes hold across the weekend, it’s likely that almost 1 in 3 shoppers will use a smartphone to take advantage of the bargains.
These figures should act as a stark warning for retailers who aren’t already providing a smooth customer experience across every channel.
The rise of rural areas
Online traffic on Black Friday and Cyber Monday reached new heights in 2014. Our figures showed transactions peaking at midnight to 157% higher than the previous Cyber Monday.
Liberated by mobile devices, shoppers were able to buy whenever they pleased in the palm of their hands. Our data also showed that traffic surged between 7am and 11am on Black Friday, as shoppers arrived at work and moved from mobile to desktop.
The extended fibre optic rollout throughout the country will continue this upward surge in e-commerce sales this year. The government initiative to bring superfast broadband to all of the UK is taking effect, with Internet now reaching an additional 40,000 homes and businesses every week.
With more of the country now able to get online to access the big event, our figures predict that we could see double the e-commerce sales compared to last year’s season.
Last year’s Black Friday sales coincided with paydays across the country. Buoyed by the month’s paycheck, shoppers went online by the thousands to benefit from the early deals.
Our records showed that 11am on Friday was the busiest time of the day, with over 40,000 shoppers completing transactions online. However, with payday due to fall on Cyber Monday this year, this could delay shoppers and therefore we predict sales to peak later on.
If shoppers choose to hold back over the weekend before their bank accounts are replenished on the Monday, e-tailers had better be prepared for a delayed surge.
With the mobile shopping experience now more accessible than ever before, consumers will increasingly be able to shop wherever and whenever they choose. Combined with internet access now more readily available to more of the population, this is a recipe for success – if retailers can provide a seamless shopping experience from checkout right through to delivery.
By looking at previous trends and predictive insight of transaction data, retailers can take advantage of key learnings to ensure that there’s enough Christmas joy to go round ahead of the festive season, without the risk of serving up cold turkey.
Jamie Turner is CTO and co-founder of form optimisation company, PCA Predict