Black Friday, the retailing juggernaut that seems to have changed our shopping behaviour forever, can legitimately claim to have forged new breeds of consumer.

Such is the mainstream hysteria that has been whipped up by Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), we have a special kind of deal hunter, poised to pounce on the biggest and best promotions on the stroke of a new day. 
When the 12am stampede subsides and traffic dies down, another type of consumer is stirring: the early-rising breakfast buyers who reach for their smartphones before parting with their pounds.

It’s these fascinating developments that help Black Friday contribute so much to the retail industry and offer a frenzy like no other. 

Plotting sales, conversions and average basket values across the 24 hours of Black Friday highlights consumers’ surging and waning interest as retailers cross their fingers and hope the day has delivered one of the best for trade they’ve ever seen. 

When the dust has settled, the numbers have been tallied and the data crunched, patterns and insights emerge. And in walks the Black Friday elephant. 

If you’re a retailer who embraced Black Friday last year, plot your sales hour by hour and check the profile that emerges. Using data from our own network, we have a reflection of when consumers will take to the sites of retailers, as well as an uncanny resemblance to a certain large mammal. 

Considering this, it will be telling if a number of retailers launch their offers at midnight, or, in the quest for eyeballs and Christmas cash, perhaps we’ll see a greater number of offers launching on Thursday evening. If so, peak trading will continue to creep ever earlier in the shopping calendar.

What does this all mean for those occupying the performance space? Well, having already touched on the early-morning shopper, it’s worth delving deeper to appreciate how they are purchasing. Typically reaching for their smartphones, traffic through handheld devices peaks between 8:00am and 9:00am, unlike tablets which lend themselves to late-night browsing when the gap between the two platforms is at its most pronounced. 

But while traffic may peak for smartphones, the sales tend to lag. The importance of tracking consumers as they switch between connected platforms is brought into view, with data from our network showing handsets fulfilling their role as a key initiator of consumer interest in retailers’ products. That the conversions happen later and elsewhere demonstrates the increasingly vacillating path to purchase as shoppers weave between multiple sources of content across static and mobile devices.

For email marketers, being on point at the break of the day gives the greatest assurance that as people scan their smartphones, offers will be noticed. Those who have built multi-channel offerings in particular have the opportunity to target consumers who may not convert in the moment but return to their site later in the day on a tablet or desktop.

Similarly spare a thought (and commission bonus) for longtail bloggers, who have been constructing their content only for it to act as a source of initial inspiration, piquing interest but often failing to convert earlier in the day. 
Such is the swell in clicks and unqualified interest, these affiliates are the foot soldiers who often fail to reap the commission rewards.

Many of those sales will happen later – in the early or late evening – and after the working day is over, expect average order values and conversion rates to soar. For affiliate marketers, being present in a consumer’s mind at this time of day is critical to success.

And when the day is over, digital’s role in driving interest and transactions at each stage of Black Friday becomes clear. The Black Friday elephant is here to stay… For now 

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