On the 20th and 21st of November YouGov conducted research on behalf of Webhelp to gather views on how British consumers view the Black Friday and Cyber Monday retail events. These sales were traditionally an American Thanksgiving tradition, but for the past five years or so they have been gradually gaining momentum in the UK and now most retailers here participate in the sales to some degree.

Despite all the hype and the incessant advertising, our research found that more people have still not bought anything in a Black Friday / Cyber Monday (BFCM) sale than have. 53% of the shoppers we surveyed have not bought anything on special offer on the BFCM weekend vs 38% that have. 10% were not sure, so maybe they bought something in a sale, but can’t remember exactly which sale…

So, although the number of British shoppers participating in BFCM is still less than those who have not, 4 out of 10 shoppers is significant for an event that didn’t really exist in the UK until five years ago.

Of those shoppers who have previously participated in BFCM there were some very interesting results about how they shopped for special offers. 87% of shoppers in our research said that their BFCM activity was online and 24% said they visited a store. Naturally the total is above 100% because some shoppers will be shopping both in-store and online, but the level for online sales demonstrates that many shoppers now feel that it is much easier to go bargain-hunting online.

Research published by Engage Customer (source: Springboard) tells a similar story; with in-store footfall estimated to have declined by 5.4% this year compared to Black Friday in 2017. Declines of similar magnitudes were also experienced throughout the weekend (-5.6% on Saturday and -4.3% on Sunday).  In contrast, Loqate/GBG recorded that by 4pm on Black Friday online transactions had risen by 46% compared to 2017.

As we all know, the big sales usually need some preparation so we asked the shoppers how they search for the best deals. 64% said that they go directly to retailer websites to research prices and 20% look out for information on social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. 18% look out for tips in online forums, but just 9% respond to printed ads and 6% get their information from shop assistants in-store. This shows that for the BFCM sales, good online information really is essential for customers – not only are most of them shopping online during these sales, but they are seeking information online too.

We explored some other behaviour with the shoppers, such as:

  • Have you ever returned a product bought during BFCM? (7%)
  • Have you found a product in a store during BFCM and then bought it online on your phone, whilst still in the store? (10%)
  • Have you bought a BFCM bargain only to see it cheaper elsewhere? (12%)
  • None of the above activities (69%)

To my mind, one of the most interesting insights here is that one in ten shoppers is finding a bargain in-store and then ordering online on their phone while they are still standing in the store. Just imagine how many in-store sales are being lost because there is no guarantee that the customer is using the online store of the same retailer.

We also asked how customers like to follow up and contact a retailer if they have a problem after a BFCM purchase. Naturally with most of their research and shopping being online, it’s no surprise to see that online was the most popular channel for communications too. The most popular channels were:

  • Online via the retailer’s contact page (49%)
  • Online via the retailer’s returns page (40%)
  • In-store (39%)
  • Online with web-chat (38%)
  • Telephone call (30%)
  • Social media (18%)

These are some really fascinating insights into BFCM shopping behaviour by British customers. I think the dominance of online shopping both for research and the purchase itself is really important to note, both for the way that retailers plan to make information available, but also because it changes customer behaviour and the way that they interact with the brand.

To see that just 39% of post-sale issues will be followed up in-store is interesting and just reinforces the findings that BFCM shoppers are digitally-aware and not only seeking bargains online, but they want to engage with brands online too. BFCM has been growing in importance for British retailers over the past five years and though many are now choosing to spread the sale across a longer period of time, rather than just a single weekend, there is a need to plan ahead. It’s more important than ever for retailers to have robust strategies to supply product information effectively and manage customer interactions with these bargain-hunting shoppers.

By next year it will probably be the majority of shoppers participating in BFCM and this strong online focus means that their behaviour may well be different to your regular customers. Are you already thinking about your strategy for BFCM 2019? Talk to us to find out more.


Author: Ewan Mckay (ewan.mckay@uk.webhelp.com)