Black Friday results 2018; why lower than expected online sales is good news for retailers

Steve Brockway

November 27, 2018

Black Friday 2018 has delivered less than expected.

While UK retailers saw an estimated £7billion of online sales over the weekend, it’s less than the £8.1billion estimated by online retail trade body IMRG back at the beginning of the month.

But what was holding shoppers back?

The extended Black Friday

This year saw record numbers of retailers starting Black Friday sales early and extending across a week-long period in an attempt to manage demand and expectations.

And results suggest that this emerging strategy worked – over half (55%) of Black Friday shoppers had already made a purchase at a discounted rate by Wednesday morning.

However, the same Maru/edr insight also suggested that retailers should still prepare themselves for an influx of online visitors on the big day itself. 57% of Black Friday shoppers stated mid-week that they were holding back on planned purchases with a view to buying them on Black Friday – with just 4% claiming they would brave the crowds and head in-store. So what stopped some shoppers parting with their hard-earned cash?

Deals must be right to entice shoppers through the door

One quarter (25%) of Black Friday shoppers purchased less than they had planned this year, with 50% stating they purchased what they had planned during the event.

Of those that purchased less, however, almost half (44%) claimed that the deals just weren’t as good as they’d anticipated, while 30% stated that they’re simply waiting for payday before buying more.

Before the Black Friday frenzy reached our shores, Cyber Monday traditionally appeared on the retail calendar the first Monday after November’s end of the month payday. But thanks to how Thanksgiving has fallen over the past couple of years, the shopping event has been pushed forward ahead of payday meaning shoppers have had less disposable income to throw at the retailing event.

It all leads us to suggest that retailers are likely to witness a ‘second spike’ this coming Monday as UK shoppers Christmas spending starts in earnest – a traditional Cyber Monday if you will.

Delivering a winning customer experience

Data gathered over the weekend suggests that, yet again, Black Friday impacted the digital customer experience. Site visitors were particularly aggrieved by slower site speeds and a lack of stock – of those consumers who visited a retail site over the weekend sales period and didn’t make a purchase, 30% claimed it was because items they wanted to buy were out of stock.

Retailers must find a clear balance in their Black Friday strategies. As our recommendations and results from last year highlight, the wrong deals will attract an influx of ‘bargain hunters’ who impact heavily on the customer experience and have little or no affinity to the brand. Their presence alone affects site speed and product availability and ultimately creates a grey day for a retailer’s most loyal customers.

Listen and act

Maru/edr have been tracking the impact of Black Friday on the digital customer experience for the past five years.

Listening to and acting upon customer feedback is essential in delivering a customer experience that creates brand advocates and loyalty for your brand for two key reasons:

  • Recover valuable customers who have had a poor experience and proactively intervene
  • Prioritise where to focus and how to develop robust strategies for the future

Voice of the Customer programmes are ideal for capturing the right feedback in the right way. Having pioneered digital experience feedback back in 1999, Maru/edr have a range of tools and best practice know-how that allow retailers to deliver the optimum customer experience.