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Dec 20, 2017
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Black Friday 2017 evolved as growth proved sluggish says IMRG

Dec 20, 2017

Black Friday may seem like a distant memory now that December shopping is well under way, but what we learned from it will help to inform decisions made in 2018. So just what did we learn?

One big lesson was that perhaps Black Friday is less about making money and more about acquiring new, happy customers.


On releasing the latest IMRG Capgemini Index on Wednesday, Justin Opie, managing director of IMRG, said that Black Friday is all about discounting in the mind of the shopper and it’s perhaps unsurprising that, while ordering activity is high over that period, revenue growth is struggling to keep pace. 

This “raises a question regarding how retailers can actually assess success over that period,” he said. “Securing share of sales away from competitors is always important, but it might be that the measurement of success over the period is less about order volumes and more about the longer-term view – how new customers acquired can be converted into regular, loyal, higher-margin customers through the quality of the follow-up marketing after the discounting peak is over.”

Another lesson learnt was that Black Friday was clearly an online-focused day/week/fortnight this year, but unfortunately that focus doesn’t seem to have translated into a massive sales spurt.

The IMRG Capgemini Index showed that online sales on the day were only slightly higher than the average across November and the month as a whole wasn’t that impressive. 

Apparently, UK e-tail sales rose only 11.5% last month with Black Friday up only 11.7%. The overall figure for the month was markedly lower than the average of the past four years (18.3%) and was in line with the year’s generally lower growth rate, the e-Retail Sales Index showed.

Interestingly, we also learnt that it wasn’t the biggest names that came out as winners on Black Friday with the performance among the largest retailers (those generating over £100 million a year) being “mixed”.

Instead, it was “the medium-sized retailers (websites generating £10m-£100m a year) who tended to secure the highest share of sales growth overall.”

Of course, one reason for the unexpected performance on Black Friday could have been because so many retailers were offering markdowns throughout the month. IMRG monitored discount levels across 210 websites in November and said that price cuts were widely available during the month, which “is likely to have impacted on overall revenue growth.”

“This implies less of a focus on pricing strategy for a particular day and more on extending the discount purchase window in order to spur growth,” it said, even if that might not spur profits at the same time.

And is some cases, the discounts didn’t actually result in sales growth at all. IMRG said that some products sectors were down last month, citing electricals, although disappointingly, it didn’t mention fashion.

Bhavesh Unadkat, principal consultant in retail customer engagement, Capgemini said of all this: “Year-on-year performance is down across key categories, reflecting the continuation of a tough year for e-retail. While the Black Friday window offered a small spike in performance, it was nowhere near as impactful as the industry would have hoped. 

“The growth in average basket value actually supports this, with ABV being up across most sectors. Its figures essentially serve as a proxy for discount levels – implying that customers are downgrading on brand or price point but increasing the volume of items included within their baskets.”

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