With the dust settled on another record-breaking trading period, what does the underlying data tell us?

This year Affiliate Window’s publishers generated £100m in revenue for 1,600 UK and US retailers across the four day Black Friday weekend bookended by Cyber Monday. That's a 46% hike in sales revenue for 2015.

Here are six underlying trends.

1. Consumers spent more

Not only did consumers shun the high street to shop online, but they also dug deeper and splashed more cash.

The average basket was a full £7.50 higher at just over £93, making it one of the highest ever posted. Compare this to an average Friday on the network of £71 and the impact is compounded.

Typically a ‘big box’ electricals event, Black Friday for John Lewis and Currys marked exceptionally busy days and undoutedly helped drive this figure up.

The picture was far from consistent across the day. Peaking between 6 and 7am with strong performance in the small hours, a trend has emerged of shoppers buying their big ticket items, possibly with a sense of urgency, fearful of the threat of limited stock availability.

An interesting consideration for retailers, Black Friday continues to throw up unusual purchasing patterns in contrast to Cyber Monday which follows a more typical day’s trading.

What is equally interesting is how smartphones held their own. Typically underindexing both tablets and desktop sales, handsets weren’t far off the average and in fact pushed through the typical Friday AOV, peaking at an average basket of £113.

For the first time this event felt like one that smartphones played an equal role in:

chart 1 

2. The first smartphone Black Friday

Having already mentioned that Black Friday 2015 saw smartphones pulling in record baskets, the day also stood out because tablets saw their position as the major non-desktop platform supplanted.

Driving almost one in three sales in the couple of hours before the working day kicked off, our cross-device data has shown smartphones act as a powerful driver on initial intent during this time but conversions can often trail far behind. 

This wasn’t in evidence on Black Friday, with handsets trumping tablets consistently until mid-afternoon when the position was reversed as this data plotted by hour across the whole day shows (see chart below).

Overall, handsets accounted for 19% of sales, with tablets one percentage point behind.

chart 2

3. Black Friday is more than just a retail event

Traditionally viewed as a retail event, Black Friday offers adverstiers in other sectors the opportunity to capitalise on the surge in online traffic.

The big day is not one that should be narrowly defined by shoppers stocking up on their Christmas presents. Affiliate Window commissioned pre-Black Friday research that showed half of consumers were planning to take advantage of the deals on offer by purchasing gifts for themselves. Why then should Black Friday be just about buying for others?

This manifested itself in some of the advertisers who triumped on Black Friday, with six of the top 20 being drawn from the telecoms sector, all going to market with strong deals and scooping up consumers who were hungry for the best offers out there, be it for friends, family members or indeed themselves.

4. The Brits have made Black Friday their own

Many column inches were expended in the run up to Black Friday bemoaning another American import the UK could well do without. But let’s not forget that traditionally Black Friday has been an in-store experience in the US, with Cyber Monday the online bookend to the Thanksgiving weekend.

With the UK spending around £800 more per capita online than our American couterparts, the UK has been primed and ready to transform Black Friday into an online event for several years.

If we accept IMRG’s UK estimate of £1.1bn and Adobe’s US figure of $2.7bn, British consumers spent more than three times as much online this Black Friday than their US counterparts.

Meanwhile, Cyber Monday remains king for Americans as demonstrated by this year’s statistics from the network (see chart below).

In the space of a few years Black Friday has re-written the Christmas trading calendar, and the UK, with possibly the most sophisticated ecommerce infrastructre, has embraced it.

chart 3 

5. Black Friday became even more of a daytime event

One of the most strking patterns to emerge in 2014 was the difference in spikes across the day. Black Friday has clearly primed consumers to react as soon as the starting gun is fired.

This has manifested itself in a signficant midnight spike, followed by a pre-work rush. That midnight Black Friday sales weren’t matched by Cyber Monday until lunchtime sends out a powerful statement on shifting consumer behaviour and the importance of being ready.

By contrast Cyber Monday emulates a typical trading day. Unlike 2014 which saw a marked period at the tail end of the day where Cyber Monday was substantially bigger, there were only two minor peaks when Black Friday was challenged:

chart 4

6. Cyber Monday is dead

If 2014 was the year when Black Friday swiped the crown from Cyber Monday, then 2015 represents the year when it was ceremoniously coronated.

The figures across the Affiliate Window network provide a stark contrast showing how Cyber Monday’s previously imperious position has been consigned to something quite ordinary: 

chart 5

Whilst sales for Cyber Monday were up 30% and revenue up 37% year on year, in itself representing impressive growth, the uplift was overshadowed by Black Friday performance.

As one of the two critical pre-Christmas trading days, Cyber Monday couldn’t even muster it’s one quarter share of sales or revenue across the four day period.

Many retailers appeared to run consistent promotion across the entire elongated weekend and as such perhaps retail fatigue had kicked in. Considering some retailers went to market early, stretching Black Friday into a week long event, perhaps it was unrealistic to expect Cyber Monday to post spectacular, comparitive performance.

Kevin Edwards

Published 4 December, 2015 by Kevin Edwards

Kevin Edwards is Strategy Director at Affiliate Window, the current Chair of the IAB's Affiliate Marketing Council and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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Comments (3)

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff

Interesting stats, Kevin. I think many reported Cyber Monday as the biggest day ever in the US.

Does it suffer in your analysis because of less advertising spend compared to the Friday?

about 2 years ago

Kevin Edwards

Kevin Edwards, Strategy Director at Affiliate Window

From a UK perspective Black Friday represents the bigger opportunity yet much of the general commentary has a US filter leading I think to misrepresentation of UK trends. The two markets have quite distinct patterns as the US/UK graph hopefully shows. That UK consumers spent three times as much per head on Black Friday than a typical American consumer is a really standout statistic. What seems to have happened in the UK is that retailers went to market with their biggest and best offers on Black Friday and just maintained them through the weekend and into Monday. There was very little that was distinct or unique on the Monday. Given some retailers also 'went early' and made Black Friday a week long event perhaps an argument could be made for consumer fatigue by the time Cyber Monday kicked in.

about 2 years ago

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Robert Kent, Operations Manager at Daffodil UK

Great article, do you have any stats on how this has affected the post BF weekends sales, did British consumers get everything bought in the week long sale? Or was the retail-fatigue only temporary with sales settling back to 2014 levels from the Tuesday after?

almost 2 years ago

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