Black Friday goes digital, and mobile, in the UK




Hair pulling. Scratching. Clawing at the air. Coat grabbing. Elbowing. Foot stamping. Aggressive shoving. No, I am not talking about a Friday night pub brawl. Black Friday has been synonymous with two things – physical aggressiveness in the race to snatch a bargain, and the US. We Brits usually prefer to patiently chew on our turkeys, wear our paper crowns, and wait till it’s time to pop into John Lewis or Debenhams for the sales. All very decent, well-mannered, everyone gets what they want, and nobody gets hurt.

So it was with mild terror that we looked on as the Black Friday phenomenon crossed the Atlantic onto our shores. Surely we could never descend to that. Fear not, ye Brits, because research has shown that while Black Friday is yet another American import wiggling its way into our culture, over here we’ve digitalised it. Which means that you can still pop the kettle on while you browse for bargains on your phone.

Unlike in the US, where it is preceded by the holiday of Thanksgiving, in the UK Black Friday has no cultural relevance, and thus the physical element that goes hand-in-hand with it in the States is less pronounced over here; it’s just a chance to get a bargain Christmas present. While there were a few scuffles in one or two shops – Asda for instance – ecommerce sales for Black Friday grew by 91.6% this year; mobile engagement was up too on that day, with mobile site traffic reaching 60% of all digital traffic that day. The impressive statistics from Visa Europe showed that we Brits spent £1 million every three minutes, with online transactions up by more than a fifth from last year’s Black Friday.

In short, Black Friday is not only here to stay, but it’s also becoming one of the biggest digital shopping phenomena. After all, how could we possibly resist the chance to snap up a bargain? Pre-Christmas sales, post-Christmas sales – we love them, and no matter what state the economy might be in, sales are ingrained into our culture. And with more people turning to their portable mobile devices – be it the smartphone, the tablet, or even the futuristic smartwatch – shopping is becoming increasingly digital, and mobile; which will surely make husbands relieved to hear!

The digitalisation of Black Friday, and other sales events too, could cause a glitch for retailers. Rather than shelling out copious amounts of money on in-store displays and television ads, they’ll have to rethink their marketing strategies to include digital. And as we have already seen this Christmas with fears of online grocery orders arriving late, they’d have to pull their technology socks up to ensure that their systems can cope with a mass influx of online visitors without crashing. But it will be resources well spent. Black Friday is a trending cultural event that is set to stay and grow in popularity. What was once a physical raging stampede has become a finger-tapping digital phenomenon, and other shopping events are bound to follow suit next year.

With the post-Christmas sales still coming up, many consumers will most likely be too full with Christmas leftovers to move and not in the mood for the hustle and bustle of shopping centres and high streets. It will be much easier for them to put their feet up and pick up their phones – which, as creatures of habit, we tend to always have near us. Retail giants and well-loved brands should take heed of the Black Friday trend and tap into the advantages of mobile spend if they want to rake in bigger profits in this most lucrative season.


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