Last year Black Friday was a relatively new promotional concept for retailers in the UK. 

Fast forward 12 months and you’d be hard pressed to find a UK consumer who hasn’t heard of Black Friday or been on Amazon. 

While lots of retailers put on sales, Amazon was the most impressive for me. Here's why... 

As you are no doubt well aware, the deals weren’t simply restricted to the Friday and they weren’t restricted to the internet either as retailers (both pure play and high street) took to the TV to promote their “black friday” “black tag” “black weekend deals”.

As always there were winners and losers and, as has already been well covered on Econsultancy, some sites' servers were creaking at the seams.

So as a follow up I thought it might be interesting to demonstrate the scale of last week’s internet activity and put it into some context with a "vs last year" analysis on a bunch of retail websites.

But to start with I thought I'd share my opinions on what Amazon did this year. 

Just to be clear, I’ve never been a huge fan of Amazon and have often felt its user experience is often overlooked due to the sheer scale of the site and dominance in the retail sector.

However, I was extremely impressed with the lightning deals promotion which had obviously been thought through for a long time, considering the UX throughout the entire journey.

Firstly the deals were strong and they covered a vast amount of categories,  something for pretty much everyone. The little things that really impressed me though was the attention to detail in the UX. 

  1. The countdown timer to 'reveal the deal'. A nice little feature to increased dwell time on the site and let users browse the up and coming deals.

  2. The % claimed feature. This was a great feature to hide the fact Amazon may have been light on stock of a few items. At the same time it gave a sense of urgency for the shopper to get this in the basket and checkout quickly.

  3. The deal time limit. A great feature to really make the shopper feel like they obtained a one off bargain.

  4. The time limit on checkout in combination with the 'join waitlist'. A nice feature to not only improve conversion but also give other people a second chance to get the deal.

    This enabled Amazon to encourage shoppers to be logged in and also offered an indication to the likelihood of a second chance arising - nicely managing expectations.

  5. What's also impressive is that Amazon temporarily tinkered with important areas of the site (add to basket) for a promotion and made a good job of it.  

 black friday lister 

And the basket page creative...

amazon basket image

The only area where I felt Amazon didn’t step up to the mark was down to the fact you didn’t get the same experience on the mobile as you did with the desktop site, as a couple of the above features not present.

Amazon's Black Friday traffic 

A lot od people subconciously liked the same features as I did and visited the site a number of times, 173m times to be precise.

Amazon was already the mother of all retail websites but last week its website traffic was up 83% vs the same period last year (an increase of 78m visits) and it’s been well documented on the volume of items ordered every second.

Amazon a clear winner for me last week. 

So how did everyone else do?

For me, after the Amazon experience I was quite disappointed with all other retailers. I’ve listed below a handful of major retailers and their traffic lift on last year to show the scale of Black Friday.

But the most disappointing thing for me was was the lack of creativity. It was all about 10% off here, 20% off there, free shipping etc.

Although Amazon appears to have heavily discounted (and probably didn’t make a great deal of profit) it did it in a way that was innovative and created a real buzz.

I'm not convinced that people were actually all that enthused about the deals - I actually rather think Amazon successfully created a mechanic which drew shoppers in and used wizardry to extract money from shoppers. Well maybe not quite wizardry but my point is that the player everyone worries about is the only one raising the bar higher. 

Future predictions for Black Friday

So for next year I expect to see retailers looking more at the entire week rather than a single day or weekend in order to beat their LFL numbers.

I would expect that more retailers have looked at what Amazon did this year and they will be thinking about what they can do that will be more engaging next year, that increases time spent on the site, repeat visits and boosts conversion and generally takes it to the next level.

And, no doubt Amazon will push the boundaries again next year. 

Here's  a complete list of UK retailers' traffic for Black friday 2014 vs 2013

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Published 2 December, 2014 by Ian Gregory

Ian Gregory is Online Acquisition Manager at Kiddicare and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

great reading, I could navel gaze at this for hours!

about 3 years ago

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Angling Direct, AD at Angling Direct

Very interesting spreadsheet is attached.

I wonder what is the source of it?
Ian, could you let us know where the data is coming from?

The most shocking finding for me was performance of the Ebay UK. Despite Ebay.com achieved great success by getting more than triple traffic TY, Ebay.co.uk made only 7% growth.
Being the second largest marketplace in the UK EbayUK's results have big impact on other retailers in many markets. Would be nice to read some research on this trend.

Looking forward to see such comparison for all Xmas campaign during December and especially first week after Xmas Day, including Boxing Day

about 3 years ago

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Ian Gregory, Head of Online at Kiddicare

Eugene - thanks for your comment. Data is hitwise.

about 3 years ago

Peter Leatherland

Peter Leatherland, Online Sales Manager at Ethical Superstore

It will be interesting to see what happens next year, overall I’m not sure it will help the industry as much as we think. Shoppers still have a finite amount of money to spend, I wonder how much of the Black Friday rush has simply pushed shoppers to shop on one day (or weekend, or Cyber Monday) instead of spreading purchases over the next few weeks. Having one massive day isn’t good for infrastructure, Argos, John Lewis and Tesco are all big names with robust sites, all going down and no doubt losing sales. But site downtime is not their only problem, there is problems with stock levels and purchasing but crucially with how they deal with the orders. Even the mighty Amazon stopped offering next day delivery probably due to the huge backlog at their warehouses, do they hire more people to fill the gap, but how easy is it to employ temps over a few days instead of a few months in the run up to Christmas?

I think next year retailers will try to spread it, therefore losing the impact of a special day (Black Friday, Cyber Monday) although there will be an incentive to ramp it up again so shoppers don’t spend all their cash at another store, putting pressure on retailers to be the first to push Christmas or a special day.

Lastly there has been a lot of negative coverage around Black Friday, it is essentially meaningless in the UK, just another hook for retailers to play on, with supermarkets requiring police presence (and conveniently having camera crews waiting in store to film it all) they perhaps won’t be let off next year for purposely creating chaos.

We went for something different and asked people to think of others on black Friday rather than trying to create an artificial buying frenzy. We’ve been very busy over the last few weeks without the nasty dips and spikes causing problems for us and our customers :-)

about 3 years ago

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Angling Direct, AD at Angling Direct

Great points, Peter!

I would still point out that off all the negatives and dispatching chaos it created for online retailers, Amazon seems the one that prepared the best in advance.

For this reason, they were running the BF campaign not on a single day, not even a weekend, but the whole last week which allowed them to spread the sales proposition and servers load.

And honestly if Amazon can do it just right, then having other big retailers facing down times and servers overload its just a big & cheap excuse for them, giving the budgets they allocate for servers infrastructure.

I agree, the BF looked like meaningless event in the UK but not any more, after industry showing record ever sales figures. So from now on, retailers have no choice but prepare for it well and run it, otherwise competition will get the whole prize.

about 3 years ago

Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

I've come back to this data today, I pulled out a basket of footwear retailers and looked at the percentage split between this year and last year (in a multi-series donut chart). I wanted to understand who had the biggest changes in market share from one year to the next, which is slightly different to how they have individually grown.

For this particular selection of retailers (including us):
JD went from 25.1% LY to 31.3% TY
Office went from 20.8% LY to 15.6% TY
Schuh went from 11.1% LY to 11.3% TY

So while I wouldn't like to comment on the strategy of others, I think if we had not had a Black Friday offer we would have seen a significant drop in our market share on the day. Basically, we had to work damn hard just maintain the same market share as last year.

about 3 years ago

Peter Leatherland

Peter Leatherland, Online Sales Manager at Ethical Superstore

Yeah I agree with Stuart and Eugene on potentially having no choice but to jump on the bandwagon, there will be a fear next year if you wait until after Black Friday or even until it you will have missed out on all the Christmas custom and lose your market share.

However I think a lot of it will come down to how tired the consumer gets of this kind of promotion and how much the single day rush sales are promoted next year, perhaps it'll be even bigger next year but I suspect (and hope) retailers will move away from it in time when it stops benefiting them and their customers.

about 3 years ago

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Angling Direct, AD at Angling Direct

That is exactly the right point, Stuart.

There is a simple fact that market demand on the BF day or similar event is huge, we have no choice as retailers but to response to that demand, otherwise risking losing market share for a day, a week, a month. In addition to extra direct revenue, there is huge aspect of acquiring brand new customers and brand awareness on such a busy day.

There will always be a competition that will try to get the maximum of such market demand available, no choice for us but to create incentives and offers.

A lot to learn from the strongest players to get it better next time, Boxing Day is coming!

about 3 years ago

Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

@Ian, I've been comparing our own traffic numbers (from GAP), against the Hitwise spreadsheet, and TBH I'm struggling to make sense of the spreadsheet. Any chance you can share your methodology for generating it?

about 3 years ago

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Ian Gregory, Head of Online at Kiddicare

@Peter - your points are all valid and I agree it will be interesting to see how it pans out over the next few weeks and next year.
@Eugene - yes Amazon did appear to be most prepared but this maybe down to their experience of this day in the states and of course they have pretty much fabricated it over here.
@Stuart - thanks for footwear industry insight. Agree everyone needs to work hard to maintain mash and hence my point around doing something to differentiate is important. Its also not necessarily about what you do on one day but working hard all year to acquire email addresses, build a brand and loyalty.
On the data methodology - its simply a volume difference and % difference vs the same period last year. Hitwise tracks visits (not UV's) Sunday to Saturday for a week so check you are measuring the same period. Unlikely to be spot on but it shouldn't be too far out. Also hitwise has only been tracking mobile network (non WiFi) visits since around middle of this year. Prior to that there was a large amount of sampling going on. If your miles out then possibly you have some self referring traffic?

about 3 years ago

Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

@Ian, thanks. If I'm understanding you correctly, the spreadsheet is for the entire Sunday to Saturday period, not just Black Friday? If so, that's squaring bit better with our own Hitwise data. It also explains some of the differences between retailers where some had been running promotions all week and some just ran it on Black Friday itself.

about 3 years ago

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Dryden Geary, Marketing Manager at Smyths Toys Superstores

Numbers look a bit out to me as well but I suppose if the baseline is correct it's ok for comparison purposes

about 3 years ago

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