It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, for some that is. For others, it marks the start of a crazy time of year when malls and parking lots are too full, the possibility of being bumped by a trolley increases, queues stretch into aisles and outdoors – all to the sound of canned Christmas carols.
Traditionally, the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the US marks the start of the Christmas shopping period with major retailers opening very early (sometimes at midnight) and offering an explosion of discounts, deals and promotions across their stores. Thankfully, waiting in line or camping out in malls (something South Africans are growing accustomed to lately with a recent flurry of new store openings) is a thing of the past as Black Friday has been adopted by ecommerce players everywhere, and frankly – it’s better online.
While historically Black Friday sales were found in-store and Cyber Monday was reserved for e-commerce, both traditional and pure-play online retailers are participating in both sale days online, while extending their offers far beyond the shopping weekend.
“Christmas shopping isn’t what it used to be. Retailers are rolling out savings earlier as customers are beginning to shop in advance of the year-end mad rush,” comments Vincent Hoogduijn, CEO of Media24 Ecommerce, which includes Spree.co.za.
“Black Friday is just one day, but with enormous success. This year’s approach to extend the deals and offers encourages customers to shop conveniently ahead of the crowds and mayhem of the Black Friday Sale weekend,” says Hoogduijn.
Driving the growth of e-commerce during Black Friday is the adoption and use of mobile devices to browse and buy online. “Retailers can’t ignore mobile as a major source of traffic especially during festive shopping. Leading up to November, we saw a year-on-year growth in mobile orders of 300%. This trend continued over the Black Friday Sale weekend, as mobile orders were 369% higher than the previous year’s,” Hoogduijn says.
This growth in mobile traffic and orders may largely be to do with the native shopping app Spree recently launched. “Ensuring that customers are able to shop now, when and where they like is also vital to the success of Black Friday for online retailers. Providing a robust, well-supported mobile offering such as our new app and increased dedicated servers for our web site ensures fast site speeds, and a seamless shopping experiences for our customers.”
Mobile orders more than doubled their contribution to total orders for Black Friday vs. the sale day in 2014 – an indication of the ongoing growth in mobile commerce. Overall Spree’s number of orders on Black Friday was almost 900% higher, with mobile orders 655% higher, than the month’s daily average orders respectively.
Marred by the experience that some ecommerce sites go down during big campaigns, the uncertainty of shopping online is a cause for concern for shoppers who don’t want to miss out on their purchase.
“Site performance is always crucial for ecommerce players, but even more so on a high volume day like Black Friday. We anticipated that it would be one of our biggest days of the year so we ensured we were ready for it…it’s all about preparation,” says Hoogduijn.
Spree made certain that their site wouldn’t crash by investing in additional infrastructure to meet expected retail volumes. During Spree.co.za’s busiest period over the weekend, when their concurrent sessions were almost four times the amount they usually experience, the site remained stable.