It might seem strange to be thinking about the end of November in early July, but then when else can we actually take stock of how best to sort out the upcoming peak season? It’s just four short months away from being upon us again – so the countdown is already ticking away.
Let’s start by looking back at the trends of Novembers past and use some data to figure out what shape peak season might take in 2017.
Has Black Friday peaked?
In 2014, Black Friday burst onto the UK online retail scene, taking many by surprise with the extent of sales and shopper engagement. One-off limited time deals created an excitement few other shopping days could match.
Even in 2016, Black Friday was still very much a strong focal point for the winter peak season – it was Amazon’s single biggest trading day in history. Yet it’s possible that this was Black Friday’s peak, so to speak.
Data from the Volo platform reveals an intriguing trend, one that was speculated about in November 2016 – the spike in sales on the day might be starting to spread across the month as consumers and retailers alike shifted behaviour.
From the 1st to the 24th, Volo data shows year-on-year* sales increases for every day but one.
Clearly, the run-up to Black Friday saw a period of increased activity – perhaps having analysed 2015 and seen a reduction in spend anticipating deals on the day, retailers came up with strategies to engage customers well in advance of the 25th.
Amazon’s Black Friday sales began on Monday 14th in 2016 and ran right up until the day itself on the 25th – a two week sales event compared to the one day of previous years. Morrisons and other retailers followed suit with week-long “Black Five-Day” sales.
*adjusted to match up days of the week so that Friday 11th 2016 is compared against Friday 13th 2015 and so on.
Black Friday daily impact decreased in 2016.
In 2015, Black Friday itself saw sales value double compared to Thursday – but in 2016, it was only ~1.5x as much.
Customer fatigue and scepticism over how really “exclusive” the deals were on the day perhaps played a role – a Which? report suggested half of electricals sold on Black Friday were available for less at other times of year.
As we suggested in our wrap-up to the weekend last year, the lack of a brand new tech product like the PS4 (which powered sales in 2015) might have made it harder for retailers to drum up significant excitement.
Interestingly, Cyber Monday 2016 was on par with 2015 in our data, seeing nearly exactly the same level of revenue, while Saturday and Sunday were up 2% year-on-year in 2016.
November 2016 saw a 10.8% increase in gross merchandise value over November 2015.
Despite the smaller impact of Black Friday itself, sales value over the month as a whole was significantly increased. As the novelty diminishes for UK shoppers, the planning and engagement of retailers and marketplaces has increased to really maximise the opportunity. This has accelerated the spread of peak spending over the whole month as marketing campaigns and publicity swing into action earlier.
As an ecommerce business, what does all this actually add up to? Well, if you love to see the glass as half empty, then the longer stretch of sales and spending demands more planning, more investment and a capability to deliver peak performance stretched over a longer period.
The flipside, of course, is an increased opportunity, as the businesses we work with at Volo have seen and maximised. If you’re able to address the challenges of a longer peak period, use the business data at your disposal to manage inventory and fulfilment efficiently, and maximise your exposure with a multichannel sales strategy, you’re in a good spot.
If you’re not working at that stage, perhaps now is a good time to ask why that is before we dive headlong into another November.
Ethan Morgan is a tech-focused marketer with an interest in marketplaces, and tweets for @VoloCommerce.
Volo Commerce is a market-leading ecommerce ERP solution, allowing businesses end-to-end management through purchasing, inventory control, listing across channels, orders, warehousing, dispatch and fulfilment – all in one place.