Black Friday mania was upon us again a few weeks ago, the phenomenon that travelled across the Atlantic to become the biggest shopping day of the year.

UK shoppers relentlessly hit the shops and the internet, spending over £3.3 billion during Black Friday weekend. However, this year was slightly different to last year, with consumers spending more online than ever before. Online sales on Friday 27th November jumped up 36% on 2014, passing the £1bn mark, the first ever £1bn online shopping day in UK history.

Many online retailers profited from this, such as Amazon, who sold more than 7.4 million items. The way we find and buy the best deals is changing: While the UK had its biggest ever online retail day, footfall and sales on the high street didn’t prosper quite as well.

According to MasterCard, bricks and mortar retail sales growth for Black Friday in the UK halved. Although £5.9bn was spent for Black Friday 2015, this represented growth of just 6.7%, a dip from the 13% recorded in 2014.

Why the Shift Online?

This move online may have happened for a few reasons. Perhaps consumers don’t want to be involved with the huge queues, or maybe they want to avoid the chaotic scenes reported in the media last year:

Black Friday Chaos

David McCorquodale, the head of retail at KPMG, believes that this change could be because of a stand-off between consumers holding off for a Black Friday bargain and retailers determined to hold on to their hard-earned margins.

It is clear to me that the high street retailers who drove people to their online sites by offering the same deals prospered the most, as millions of consumers hit the mobiles, tablets and computers to buy their bargains. John Lewis, for example, took 4.9 online orders per second on Black Friday.

But the biggest reason for the shift to online shopping might be the rise of the smart phone or tablets, with so many different ways to browse and shop on retail sites now available:

Mobile Black Friday

Here at Hallam, we can’t stress enough the importance of ensuring your website is ‘mobile-friendly’. All ecommerce sellers must optimise their sites for mobile searching, as over half of all mobile searches lead to a sale.

Apparently UK retailers are collectively missing out on £6.6bn a year by not going mobile.

Throughout Black Friday, expectations for discounts were high, so it goes without saying that those who offered the biggest discounts performed best, but effective marketing played a key role. Black Friday is arguably the best opportunity to boost an e-commerce business.

What Worked Well?

Email is still a major marketing channel, as it ensures that customers know what bargains to expect. Open rates for email marketing during Black Friday and Cyber Monday exceeded 60%.

The content in the emails needed to be right, using offers and promotions effectively helps build anticipation, and also suspense. Make sure the marketing message is clearly heard.

Some retailers used gift guides to good effect, visualising the savings and products on offer. Amazon has done the same for Christmas:

Gift Guide

Xmas Gift Guide 2

Timing proved key, with some retailers spacing out their offers for two days or more, maximising their opportunity to sell. It almost seemed never-ending, constant bargains being revealed by retailers throughout this record breaking sales period.

Top Tips for a Successful Black Friday

  • Decide on an AdWords budget in advance. It’s faster than SEO and attracts customers instantly, while providing essential analytics to help inform what works.
  • As previously discussed, a mobile friendly website is a must have.
  • Make sure your website landing pages are relevant and engaging to keep customer interest.
  • Get SEO right, as organic searches from consumers can really boost sales for specific items. Effective SEO strategies take a fair bit of time to implement, so think about deals and products to push well in advance. Get home pages and key product pages up to scratch, adding keywords in all the obvious places: descriptions, headings, alt text, and most importantly, page titles. Tread carefully when optimising a page for the search engines. Don’t bombard your content with keywords, as this could damage page ranking in the long run.

Next up is Boxing Day, another huge day in the shopping calendar.

Is your website ready…?

One final note

Online PR was also hugely successful throughout Black Friday weekend. You can read in depth how we approached Black Friday for one of our eCommerce clients and the results we delivered here.

If you need help with your don't hesitate to contact us.

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