Black Friday sales soar despite discount decline

Black Friday online sales were up by 11.7 per cent this year to £1.39 billion, according to new data.

Figures from e-retail experts IMRG found that the amount spent on UK online retail sites was ahead of the original growth forecast of nine per cent.

Of that spending, 39 per cent was on smartphones with the device taking the highest share of sales against desktops and tablets.

Data from global e-commerce consultancy Salmon found that a number of shoppers were rising early to get the best deals before the rush, with 17 per cent of visits taking place between midnight and 3am. Mobile usage also hit a Black Friday record of 81 per cent at 6am.

The Black Friday event saw more retailers launching their Black Friday campaigns before the day itself over a longer period, IMRG has claimed.

On the Friday itself (November 24), 168 Black Friday-specific campaigns were running.

However, at the beginning of the week there were already 77 active Black Friday campaigns running, as well as a further 37 running their own discount activity, with the number increasing sharply on both Wednesday and Thursday.

Wednesday marked the day when campaigns started to accelerate, as many retailers launched their campaigns on this day. However, this was not reflected in sales growth for that day, which was up by just 2.8 per cent – the lowest rate for any day that week.

IMRG data showed that even on Monday, November 13, a full week before Black Friday week began, there were already 12 Black Friday-specific campaigns and 66 non-specific discounting campaigns running among the 210 retailers tracked.

Some good news for retailers was that falling discounts didn’t deter consumers from spending.

Interestingly, figures from customer relationship experts Optimove showed that the average discount on an order fell by 12 per cent compared with 2016. However, the average order amount grew by nine per cent over the previous year.

Optimove said this suggested that shoppers were willing to spend more on a greater number of items on Black Friday.

The average number of items in an order also grew by seven per cent compared with last year’s sales figures.

Optimove founder and chief executive Pini Yakuel said: “As the numbers come in after Black Friday, it is clear that more shoppers are opting to buy online rather than in-store, which is why it is more important than ever that retailers understand the behaviours and motivations of their online customers.

“Contrary to traditional analysis of the Black Friday phenomenon, our data shows that most of the individuals shopping with a brand on the day are actually returning, rather than completely new, customers. On Black Friday last year, our research showed that 71 per cent of shoppers had bought something from the brand before at some stage and this trend continues.

“This year, the share of Black Friday transactions which were made by first-time shoppers decreased by a further 18 per cent. Customers’ pre-existing contact with a brand goes some way towards explaining why shoppers have been willing to buy more items without such high discounts this year.

“Despite the supposed ‘death’ of customer loyalty, driven in part by the ease of price comparison online, there are signs that days like Black Friday may be helping retailers to keep customers coming back to their brand. The challenge for retailers is to continue building on this relationship outside of the pre-Christmas and sales period.

“If retailers can continue to exchange value with their online customers – offering specific offers, personalised communications and experiences – then these positive trends can continue into the sparser months, January and beyond.”