With the focus now on Christmas, the activity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is still trickling in a steady stream of analysis, on the most part proving suspicions that the weekend continues to be a fruitful fixture in the retail calendar.

While certain sites were unprepared for a record year traffic flurry, e-commerce once again reigned throughout ‘Cyber weekend’ 2016. Retailer Argos reportedly secured 500,000 visits to its website in the first hour of trading on Black Friday alone, a 50% hike on its performance a year earlier. 

Failure to launch

For high street-only retailers, the picture wasn’t so rosy, with ShopperTrak finding footfall fell 8% on the year before, attributing the fact to the many online retailers, such as Amazon and Argos, started their discounting earlier in the week, or even two weeks prior, removing some of the urgency of in-store flash sales.   

However, there were more than a few online retailers and affiliates who were not up to task; we covered Quidco’s recurrent site crashes, but over a third (36%) of retailers admitted they cannot scale up quickly enough during peak times such as Black Friday, according to Arrows Group.  

“The new generation of customers expects an anywhere, anytime service from retailers,” commented James Parson, the group’s CEO; “This means that businesses must face up to the fact that digital transformation is a priority in today’s marketplace and invest accordingly.”

Bumper year

Those that pulled it off capitalised on another record year. Barclaycard reported payment transactions in the UK to be up 6% on 2015, while the association for online retailers, IMRG, put ballpark total spend at £1.27 billion, representing a 16% spike on last year. 

The most active day for browsing deals across all devices was ‘Cyber Sunday’, however, Black Friday generated the most purchases across the entire weekend. 

Reporting a 27% rise in online shopping across the day, Affiliate Window tracked some £57 million worth of sales across UK retailers – including Tesco, John Lewis, Boots.com and Currys – which met the equivalent of nearly £40,000 a minute, with smartphones behind a quarter of sales. 

Meanwhile, The Hut Group reported that sales among some of its health and beauty titles grew by 95% year-on-year on Black Friday, with more than three million visitors to its websites in 24 hours and shifting more than 3,000 items per minute at peak times.  

Mobile on top

When compared to our neighbours across the pond and originators of the retail date, British consumers showed some pretty stark differences in terms of purchasing behaviour compared to the US. While approximately 75% of searches took place on mobile in both markets, according to ChannelAdvisor, mobile accounted for less than one in two purchases (49%) in the US. 

Mobile soared to 16% on 2015 as a channel for retail purchases in the UK, with this distributed 22.7% on tablets and 41.7% on mobile. However, consumer preferences took an even steeper turn towards mobile as the weekend rolled in and activity moved away from the work desktop; 70% of all conversions took place on mobile devices on ‘Cyber Saturday’.   

Savvy retailers were quick to capitalise on the ability to personalise with mobile. Urban Airship found that retailers globally sent 56% more holiday notifications this year compared to 2015, with 88% of these highly targeted to shoppers’ location, preferences and behaviours, with just 12% of messages broadcast to everyone.

This approach paid off, with highly-targeted notifications seeing engagement rates more than three times higher than general broadcast messages. Urban Airship also found that app installs averaged more than 696,000 per day throughout November – up 24% from October – while Black Friday peaked at over 1.2 million app installs. 

Looking forward, Affiliate Window operations director, Anjulie Truong, pointed out that with retailers starting promotions earlier in the week, Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend of 2016 has some potential implications on the next sales dates in line. 

“How this shift in trading will impact Christmas and January sales is yet to be seen, but what is clear is that Black Friday has secured its place as a key trading event for online marketing.”