One of the biggest shopping events of the year is nearly upon us, with Black Friday falling this year on 29th November.
Where did Black Friday come from?
The day itself has an indeterminate past, but is often said to stem from America around the 1950’s. It was used to describe people taking a sick day from work, the day after Thanksgiving.
People would utilise their “sick” day to hit the stores to get a head start on their Christmas shopping. From around 2010, the UK started to follow in the American tradition, and by 2014 Black Friday became the peak pre-Christmas online sales day.
Introducing Cyber Monday
Following on from Black Friday comes Cyber Monday, which lands on 2nd December this year. Cyber Monday is a more recent addition first appearing in 2005, coined by Ellen Davis and Scott Silverman from the National Retail Federation.
This shopping day arose out of research that showed 77% of online sales increased the Monday following Thanksgiving. Cyber Monday became a way for smaller companies to compete with larger chains. By using online platforms, businesses of any size could reach out to a wide audience.
The ongoing battle: Retail stores vs. online commerce
Black Friday was originally seen as a retail store day and Cyber Monday entirely for online deals. Nowadays they are not exclusive, countries and companies across the world have incorporated Cyber Monday into their sale calendars and there is now a shift towards the Black Friday weekend.
Although footfall instore in the UK was down last year, online traffic rose on Black Friday by 46% year on year, with nearly half of that from a mobile device.
The most commonly purchased items being clothing, cosmetics and perfumes, jewellery, shoes and electronics. John Lewis is a retailer who covers all these offerings and reported a 7.7% increase in year on year over the Black Friday period.
The average shopper spent £315 last year across online and in-store, with a peak in action seen early evening.
"As online shopping surges with another record-breaking holiday season, the retailers with compelling websites coupled with physical store locations have the advantage," John Copeland, head of marketing and customer insights at Adobe, said in a statement.
John Lewis is an example of a retailer who is covering all items and retail opportunities to embrace success from the trading weekend.
It's vital to be ready for the increase in demand...
Failures on Black Friday due to not being ready for increased demand can hit retailers publicly. Last year, J Crew offered 50% off all online orders as a Black Friday deal, but disappointed shoppers were unable to take advantage of the promotion due to the website struggling to process increased demand.
So, instead the retailer made the decision to extend the promotion throughout the weekend.
Using the right solution
As a retailer, trying to capitalise on the benefits of the shopping frenzy ensuring operating systems cope with increased demand is key. Making sure there are scalable solutions, such as moving to the flexibility of the cloud for hosting and dynamically scaling up for an increase in transaction volume, can provide extra insurance for the busiest of periods.
Ensuring that the system is up-to-date with the latest software and gathering data ahead of peak to review performance can assist in making sure the reliant technology is ready for increased activity.
A new approach
Some retailers are already adopting a “Why Wait?” approach to beat the surge all in one go by releasing Black Friday deals early. TK Maxx have been launching deals from 20th October that will run through to Black Friday weekend, as well as trading on the fact they are always a discounted store.
Argos used early promotions in 2018 by launching deals up to two weeks in advance. This approach helps to stagger sales and lift the pressure on the operating systems and staff. Some stores like Currys are operating discounts early and a “Why Wait?” price promise that offers consumers a refund if the price is lowered on Black Friday.
This type of offer allows retailers to win over consumers that may have been disillusioned in the past through technical failures or the instore rush.
Looking to the future
Black Friday has changed significantly from a one day heavily discounted sales event. Moving towards a longer period enables retailers to maximise spending whilst decreasing the strain on systems.
The future success of the Black Friday events will be based on reassurance that the consumers needs can be met with something that benefits them. It is all about offering the right product, at the right time, with the right price in a place the consumer feels comfortable purchasing from.