Shoppers opt to buy online over Black Friday weekend

The UK retail industry experienced a dramatic shift in consumer behaviour over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend, with many shoppers opting to buy online instead of in-store.

Online sales on Black Friday alone are expected to have risen to £1.1bn this year, up 36% on the same big shopping day in 2014, says retail researcher Experian-IMRG, with £495m being spent on smartphones and tablets.

Footfall across the UK for the weekend was down 9.6% year on year, according to leading performer of retail performance insights, Springboard, whilst online traffic was up 12%.

In-store retail sales were down in the US as well, with mobile and tablet devices accounting for over a third of total online purchases, a year on year increase of 35%.

If the forecasts are accurate, it will be the first time that UK online retail sales exceed £1bn in a single day, with Cyber Monday expected to bring in a further £934m in online sales, up 31% year on year. Online shoppers are forecast to have spent a total of almost £3.5bn online over the four-day period.

Shopping centres were the only places to buck the downward trend, enjoying a 4.9% year on year rise in footfall over the weekend. Their shopper numbers were down on the Friday but rose over the weekend, probably as a result of shoppers using click and collect services to pick up online purchases in-store.

Black Friday was the busiest UK day on record for Amazon, with more than 7.4m items sold at an average rate of 86 per second, and Currys said the number of visitors to site was up 70% on Friday afternoon.

Many sites struggled with this increase in online demand however. Customers experienced delays on sites like Argos and John Lewis due to the record level of site visitors, although website crashes were far less frequent than last year.

The way consumers shop is clearly changing.  Shoppers are happy to mix and match channels to shop in the most convenient way for them and retailers need to be adaptable enough to cash in on this.  The marked increase in online revenue is testament to an improved ecommerce experience on offer to consumers, yet as the online shopping revolution continues into 2016, Black Friday has illustrated just how important online UX is for every retail business.