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Black Friday is very much an American invention. It’s the day after Thanksgiving Day for a start, which is as American a holiday as you can get.
In recent years though the phenomenon has made its way across the Atlantic and taken hold in the UK, where it now looks to have become a permanent fixture in the retail calendar.
With scenes of unruly crowds battling to get their hands on a bargain, the discount day has drawn a lot of criticism, but 2015 saw a major shift, with a larger proportion of Black Friday spending now taking place online. Bricks and mortar sales actually declined in the US, falling by more than $1 billion from $11.6 billion in 2014 to $10.4 billion this year. By contrast, online spending surged to $2.74 billion on this year’s Black Friday, an increase of 14.3%. Presumably, this is down to a combination of more offers being shifted online and shoppers being less willing to face the scenes of carnage that have filled the Black Friday news reports in recent years.
It was a similar story in the UK. Consumers spent a total of £3.3 billion over the Black Friday weekend. Around a third of this was spent online and online sales passes £1 billion in a single day for the first time on Black Friday itself. The total of £1.1 billion represented a huge jump of 36% in online sales from last year. International online giant Amazon reported selling more than 7.4 million items but some businesses couldn’t cope with the spike and at least 15 major retail websites, including the likes of Tesco, Argos and John Lewis suffered some form of loss of service.
Another interesting trend for e-commerce traders saw mobile shopping surge on Black Friday. According to IBM smartphones accounted for more than a fifth (20.6%) of all online sales and tablets for a further 15.5% in the US. While this meant that around a third of all online sales happened on mobile devices, more than half (57%) of all retail traffic was via mobile. This would seem to suggest that many people were researching deals on their phones or tablets before completing sales on desktop or in-store. Effective optimisation for mobile is important for businesses wishing to capitalise on this.
Other countries have either taken up Black Friday or been inspired to create their own versions of it. Black Friday has crept into Canada while Mexico holds ‘El Buen Fin’, which translates as ‘The Good Weekend’ and this year took place on November 13 to 16. Online retailer eMAG, meanwhile, brought the concept of Black Friday to Romania in 2011 and the event has been growing ever since.
Iulian Stanciu, eMAG group’s CEO, said: “In 2011 almost no one new about Black Friday in Romania. In 2015, 11 million Romanians say they have heard about Black Friday. This is 73% of our target segment, which is of about 15 million people.”
In the run up to this year’s Black Friday eMAG estimated that its sales would go up by about a quarter (24%). “The whole volume of sales generated by Black Friday events should pass RON 1 billion (£160 million) this year, given the multitude of companies and campaign involved,” Stanciu said.
Black Friday has yet to take off in other countries but many commentators believe it is only a matter of time. Tim Coulling, senior analyst at Canalys, told Channelnomics: “I see no reason why Black Friday won’t break into mainland Europe. When you have huge international retailers like Amazon championing it, it’s only a matter of time before local markets take note and jump on the bandwagon.”
Adam Simon, global managing director of retail at Context, said that “the jury was still out” as to whether Black Friday would take off in the rest of Europe as it had in the UK but predicted that Germany and France would be the first to embrace it, with southern Europe following later.
With Black Friday already spreading to several major markets around the world and with more expecting to join in the fun over time, it looks like effective localisation will be key to tapping into what is slowly but surely becoming a global e-commerce phenomenon.
*Photo credits: Stokkete / Shutterstock.com