London based Advanced Commerce has been named one of the most exciting new businesses in the region after being shortlisted as part of a brand new awards programme.

The StartUp Awards National Series has been launched to recognise the booming startup scene across the UK which has accelerated since the pandemic began. In 2020, when most of the world was shutting down, more than 400,000 startups were set up in Britain, with similar increases seen in other European countries.

There was stiff competition with over 2,500 applications received in response to the Startup Awards National Series’ first-ever call for entries.

André Brown, founder and CEO of Advanced Commerce said:

“I’m delighted Advanced Commerce has been recognised as one of the top start up’s in our region, this is a fantastic springboard to raise the profile of our online merchandising platform, GrapheneHC®, which has been built to become the gold standard of online visual merchandising, product search and personalised eCommerce experiences.”

Supported nationally by BT, EY, Dell & Intel, the programme will celebrate the achievements of the amazing individuals across the UK who have turned an idea into an opportunity and taken the risk to launch a new product or service.

 

Co-founded by the team behind the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, the new series follows the success of the Wales StartUp Awards, after organisers recognised the exceptional potential in the startup scene across the other British regions.

Professor Dylan Jones-Evans OBE, the creator of the StartUp Awards National Series, said: “​​New firms are important for generating economic prosperity, employment opportunities and innovation. Since 2016, the Wales StartUp Awards have celebrated this amazing annual contribution to our economy by entrepreneurs and the impact they have on communities across the nation.

“Given the sheer volume of phenomenal startups we’ve heard from since then, as well as the huge post-pandemic shift in people’s desires to take their career in a new direction and set up a business against the odds, we felt it was the right time to take the programme nationwide. We’ve been blown away by the standard of entries in this first year and truly look forward to crowning the winners in June.”

LK Bennett went live with their GrapheneHC integration just before Black Friday in 2021. Zoe Donovan, Digital & Marketing Director at LK Bennett explains:

“We had been using our previous merchandising tool for about 6 years, and the rationale for our move was it had been implemented before my time so I inherited it, but when I started using it I felt like the implementation had never been totally finished. It was quite a powerful tool that we weren't doing anywhere near as much as we could with and to get the full potential out of it we needed to spend a lot of money on the technology, and we would need to continuously spend a lot of money on the technology every year to keep it up to date.

We also needed to spend a lot of time and resource on using the tool, constantly setting things up and testing different things, and those were two things we didn't have.

It was just a headache - no one really understood how it worked.”

The move to GrapheneHC has been part of a larger website upgrade for LK Bennett that has seen an increase in conversion and contributed to 20%+ year on year revenue growth. But one of Zoe’s main goals is post sale:

“I talk about trying to reduce avoidable returns, with online shopping you're always going to get returns. The question is which are the returns that we could have avoided because we did something smarter up front and helped the customer find the right product the first time. A lot of customers who've returned items are disappointed as they were buying something that they thought they were going to love and going to keep, and the fact that they've sent it back means that they've had a disappointing and brand damaging experience that could have been avoided. Reducing returns, even by just 1%, saves an enormous amount of lost revenue, profit and cost along with protecting our brand reputation and customer’s experience. GrapheneHC and it’s ability to control product display sequencing throughout the entire site, and change that display sequencing dependant on different personas and onsite triggers really helps to  make sure we are finding the right product, first time and reducing the number of avoidable returns.”

Zoe was extremely happy with how the integration went, saying:

“It went very smoothly, we connected relatively easily through the API’s and throughout the integration everyone involved commented on how supportive the Advanced Commerce team were and how they were a joy to work with, quick to respond and how it genuinely feels like a true partnership.”

“The biggest short term gain for us is really having a tool that is the right level for a business of our size without compromising on the quality of the technology, and the team so far are so much more engaged with GrapheneHC than they ever were with our previous tool.

They can have a level of automation that means they can just step away on the categories that we don't have time to get into the nitty gritty with, whilst categories we want to be super visual and curated like ‘New In’ can be controlled really easily. We now have a tool that is still extremely powerful, but is much lighter weight for the team to use in terms of the amount of time they need to invest, which is absolutely one of our key objectives.”

“I would absolutely recommend GrapheneHC and would give it 5 out of 5 for a business like ours that wants easy to use, enterprise grade software.”

In December we learned that, at 5.4%, inflation has reached its highest level in 30 years. If the Bank of England is correct, the consumer prices index will hit around 7% by April. The more pessimistic economists have even predicted inflation reaching 1970s levels. Whatever the exact scale, it’s likely the effects of Omicron and high energy costs will damage global growth throughout 2022. But to what extent might businesses suffer? How entrenched might inflation become?

The Causes Behind Inflation

Global supply chain disruptions have meant higher costs for shipping and distribution, plus fewer goods and services on the market. Staff shortages due to Covid have also dented supply. However we can’t entirely blame the pandemic. Another factor is escalating energy prices. Oil prices, for example, rose by 15% in January and are expected to rise further this year. The UK government fears that, in total, annual energy bills will increase by £500 per household.

And all of this has been underpinned by low interest rates and government financial packages where money has been pumped into the economy to ease the effects of the pandemic.

Falling Real Wages

Senior economist at the Resolution Foundation, Hannah Slaughter, has noted that inflation-adjusted pay is now shrinking for the third time in a decade. (In 2017 the Brexit referendum caused a hit to the pound, and the financial crisis affected real-terms pay between 2011 and 2014.) Slaughter predicts the squeeze on pay will continue into next summer too.

This will be exacerbated by April’s rise in National Insurance contributions. Despite calls for this to be delayed or stopped altogether, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are pressing on, arguing it is necessary to pay for the NHS and social care.

The effect? This month NielsenIQ research indicated that nearly half of all households say their most important concern is the rising cost of living.

Uncertainty For Businesses

Should businesses still try to pass on their rising costs to consumers? Or do we accept falling margins and damage to our supply side?

Of course the answer will be different for each business, depending on various factors. Some large businesses will be able to absorb the costs themselves, thanks to their financial resources. Another factor is the type of product or service they produce. How elastic is the demand? (Or put differently, how essential is the product to people’s lives?) Food inflation has risen to 2.7% in January, the highest rate since 2013. This issue is understandably high on the political agenda and retailers are working hard to cut costs. However, according to Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the BRC, it’s inevitable that consumers will face price increases.

The exact food or type of product will also influence which businesses can pass on costs. As food writer and activist Jack Monroe points out, inflation impacts on consumers to varying extents, with those on the lowest incomes bearing the brunt. While some households will be relatively unaffected by price hikes, others will need to drastically change or reduce their shopping lists. 

Other areas of high inflation? Products such as furniture and flooring have seen large increases due to high demand and rising oil costs. Construction is generally under pressure – housebuilder Persimmon has warned of material prices going up by 5%. Eating out looks set to remain expensive although this depends, in part, on the pandemic and the supply of workers. The hotels and restaurant group Whitbread, for example, said it expected to face 7% or 8% inflation on around £1.4bn of its costs.

Cause For (Cautious) Optimism?

Arguably, since much of the inflation is due to the pandemic, so long as another serious variant doesn’t emerge there’s reason to believe some of the effects could be short-term. Supply chains will recover. Staff should be able to return to work. The jobs market has already seen positive signals, with unemployment continuing to fall despite the end of the furlough scheme.

Recently the government has announced help for households – a one-off repayable £200 discount on energy bills, along with a rebate on council tax. As of yet, however, Sunak has not committed to giving financial help to struggling businesses and manufacturers.

As for the Bank of England, it has increased interest rates to 5% in a bid to contain price pressures. It also plans to unwind its quantitative easing programme. 

The Bottom Line

What we do know is that businesses are worried. A survey by Iwoca, a small business lender, reported that nearly three out of four small business owners felt inflation was a top concern in 2022. Some believe this inflation will become entrenched. Nick Moakes, investment director of the Wellcome Trust medical research charity, for example, said inflationary pressure may lead to the toughest investment market since the financial crisis.

The rest of the world is facing difficulties too. The IMF has downgraded projections for US economic growth from 5.2% to 4% this year. EU countries are likely to grow at a slower pace than previously thought, similar to the global economy.

The future for businesses? It would be unwise to dismiss such concerns around inflation. But let’s remain energetic about how we can manage costs, adapt our strategies and generally keep an open mind about how to evolve.

Business owners are under constant pressure to evolve, react to trends, and, most importantly, make sales. In recent times, the constant conflict between customer acquisition and customer retention has been even more pressing.

Although food retail businesses like Ocado experienced record-breaking profits amid the pandemic, businesses that offered non-essential products were not as fortunate. Arcadia was one of the first and largest UK corporations to fall victim to COVID-19. Other British staples like Victoria’s Secret and Bonmarché followed the same worrying trend. 

While some businesses boom, others fall short of their targets and become just another figure. The Office for National Statistics noted that total retail sales fell by 1.9% in 2020 compared to 2019, which is the largest annual fall on record. As more businesses crumble under the pressure of increasingly fierce competition, owners wonder how to handle the conflict between customer acquisition and customer retention.

What is Customer Acquisition?

Anyone who is in the business world knows about customer acquisition. In simple terms, this phrase refers to a company’s ability to secure new clients. Large organisations have entire marketing departments dedicated to enticing prospective clients.

Customer acquisition strategies include email campaigns, targeted Facebook ads, refreshing old content, and any other marketing tactic that is done with the intent of persuading potential customers. Savvy marketers will employ the skills of their finance department to work out an average customer spend formula to decide whether their efforts are worthwhile.

To work out your average customer spend formula, simply divide your total sales by your customer headcount.

Once a business has succeeded in acquiring customers, it must retain them. Acquisition and retention operate in tandem; acquisition does not end when retention begins. Both play a vital role in the smooth running of businesses all over the UK.

What is Customer Retention?

In our free market, customer retention strategies are more important than ever. Customer retention rates tell business owners the percentage of customers that return for extra services and goods. Another way of looking at this concept is customer loyalty and retention.

Online retailers know better than most that capitalism breeds innovation. This oft-quoted phrase has been stretched to the limit in recent years. The free market, which was once upheld as a symbol of opportunity for entrepreneurs all over the UK, has since entrapped them.

Consumers are bombarded with thousands of options and services. More often than not, their options sound similar, look similar, and accomplish the same end goal. Copycat brands, which are also known as cheater brands, mean that competition is fiercer than ever before in the online space.

The Gaming Industry

Hopeful entrepreneurs only need an internet connection and a supplier to operate a direct to consumer (DTC) business. The number of DTC businesses has grown in recent years alongside the pandemic. Fierce competition has encouraged business owners to reconsider their customer acquisition and customer retention strategies. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted one industry as a stand-out success.

The gaming industry presents online retailers with a working model of success, even during the hard times of the pandemic. Covideogamers, who make up 18% of current gamers in the UK, pushed the video game market to a record £7bn in 2020 and made gaming the UK’s most lucrative entertainment sector

One thing is clear: marketers in the gaming industry are ahead of their time. Mobile gaming accounts for 50% of customer acquisition spending, whereas e-commerce only accounts for 16%. In this article, online retailers can learn about modern, effective customer strategies in the gaming industry.

Create Habits

Habits create loyal customers. Game developers collaborate with marketing experts to develop promotions and alerts that encourage users to return to their games. If you can encourage a user to return three or four times, the chance is that they will develop a habit.

So, can online retailers integrate this tactic into their customer retention strategies?

Lots of online retailers already attempt to entice customers back to their websites. Email marketing leads the way in this type of strategy. Retailers might use discounts, promotions, or even urge customers to check out their basket before it expires.

By combining industry-standard strategies with a more game-like aesthetic, online retailers can create habits and boost business. Take, for example, the standard prize box games that gambling apps utilise every day. Apps like Bet365 offer users a choice between three presents. If players pick the right box, they can receive anything from free spins to money that they can stake in a game of their choice.

Online retailer prizes could include discounts, free items on purchases over £20, or exclusive access to new products. If you implement a time-sensitive mystery prize, customers will regularly return to your site.

Develop Growth Loops

Proponents of growth loops disregard standard marketing funnels. Funnels, which have been widely accepted as an essential marketing strategy for the last decade, present a linear view of customer experiences. Growth guru Brian Balfour pointed out that acquisition, marketing, and revenue actually exist in a loop. In this self-contained loop, customer acquisition strategies and products work side-by-side to bring in more customers.

In his own words, ‘Loops are closed systems where the inputs through some process generates more of an output that can be reinvested in the input. There are growth loops that serve different value creation including new users, returning users, defensibility, or efficiency.’

Customer acquisition costs pay for themselves when you implement a growth loop. Here are some examples of the different types of growth loops.

Online retailers can develop loops by incentivising customers to post pictures of recent products on social media channels. By offering customers 10% off their next order with each post, retailers can boost their social media strategy and drive traffic to their sites.

Advertise on Gaming Apps

People in the UK spend on average 4.2 hours per day on apps. This figure has increased by 30% in the last two years alone. Since the COVID-19 pandemic first began, more and more people seek entertainment from the comfort of their own homes.

Mobile games have proven to be an effective opportunity for retailers that want an on-trend customer acquisition strategy. Mobile app CTRs exceed website CTRs in most industries. Gaming is no longer a stereotypically young male pastime, which means that all sorts of different online retailers can create tailored ads for their target audiences.

Cross-Sell 

Cross-selling is a central customer retention strategy in the gaming industry. Cross-selling occurs when a company researches customer behaviour and transitions specific subsets to more valuable games. This tactic aims to turn a single product customer into a multi-product customer.

In simple terms, cross-selling asks customers, ‘If you like X, why don’t you try Y?’

Online casinos and social games are the main proponents of this marketing model. Paddy Power uses in-game notifications and email offers to nudge users towards different casino games.

Cross-selling is difficult for online retailers to implement with success. Fashion companies already utilise the less-invasive, ‘people who viewed X product also viewed Y product’ tactic. To truly succeed in cross-selling, fashion retailers could create a ‘fashion PA’ style email system that introduces consumers to complementary products.

Most companies will struggle to execute this tactic across the board. It is best suited to companies that have a large marketing spend per customer budget. When done right, it can add real value to your company in terms of customer loyalty and retention.

Create a Community

The simplest strategy is often the most effective. Social media integration seems like a no-brainer, but lots of online retailers are still falling short. In 2020, the average person spent almost two and a half hours on social media per day. Online communities present an opportunity for retailers who want to develop brand awareness.

Fortnite’s Party Royale feature is one of the best examples of social integration. Party Royale gives users a space to meet their friends and play with non-lethal weapons. This integration has increased play time by 130%.

Social spaces allow users to feel like they are part of a community. Implementing this customer acquisition and retention strategy is as simple as adding a forum page to your site. This tactic is best suited to businesses that sell hobby-based products like sewing supplies and mountain bikes. You can start discussions by posting evergreen content like FAQs and how-to guides that provide value and boost organic traffic.

The pandemic. Environmental fears. Uncertain growth in the economy... It’s safe to say there are many factors affecting the future of retail. Moreover, shoppers are becoming increasingly savvy about exactly how and where they spend their money. Arguably no business can afford to be complacent.

How to stay competitive? We’ve compiled 20 of the most significant retail predictions for next year

1. A focus on climate change and social justice

With 66% of UK consumers caring about climate change, shoppers are starting to consider a brand’s environmental footprint, along with how they treat their staff and their commitment to social justice more generally. In response, brands are adopting new policies. These vary from carbon labelling and comprehensive recycling, to sourcing products ethically, hiring diverse employees and looking after mental health.

Clothing retailer H&M, for example, has a “Conscious Collection” which features products that contain at least 50% sustainable materials such as recycled polyester and organic cotton. Meanwhile in the automotive industry, Ford Motor Company manufactures its Escape and Focus vehicles using 80% recyclable materials.

2. Money spent on health and wellbeing

Among the various effects of COVID, people have grown more concerned with their overall health and wellbeing. Shoppers are spending increased amounts of time and energy on finding products to look after themselves.

For example, a Hartman Group report found that nearly half of consumers look for foods and drinks labelled “plant-based”, and the trend of “Veganuary” continues to gain popularity. The rise in sales of “Athleisure” clothing – wearing, say, yoga pants around the house – also points to a focus on health.

3. “At home” shopping continues to be popular

Lately, many of us have spent significant amounts of time at home and this has brought about a keen interest in areas such as home cooking, decoration and gardening.

Arguably this trend might fade after the pandemic. But so far, even as society begins to open up again, spending on the home has continued. In fact, the global home improvement market is predicted to rise to 1,010 billion USD in 2027, compared to 763 billion USD in 2020.

4. An interest in local shopping

Buying online doesn’t necessarily mean buying from far and wide. National movement restrictions have meant people stay in their local area to shop and to find ways to entertain themselves. This trend is likely to endure as local independent shops are seen as being more fashionable and ethical.

The extent of this shift does vary, though. People who work from home are more likely to shop locally – 65% say they now actively do more to support local businesses, compared to 45% of people who work away from home.

5. Second-hand shopping

With the fashion industry accounting for around 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, people are increasingly aware of the impact of their shopping. They seek out brands who use sustainable materials and low-waste practices.

At the same time, they are looking to buy second-hand which no longer means visiting charity shops but going online to specialised websites where they can resell fashion items and buy secondhand products, including those that are designer or rare. According to a global report by Thredup, the resale market is growing at a rate that is 11 times faster than traditional fashion retail.

6. Online shopping is here to stay

While there’s uncertainty over the long term effects of the pandemic, it seems likely the general shift to online shopping is a permanent change. A 2021 study by PwC found that more than 50% of people say they’ve recently become more “digital”. More of us are choosing online over physical shops for the sake of price and convenience – but also factors such as personal safety, the variety of choice, and the ability to see customer reviews.

The extent of the shift to online shopping does vary across the world – shoppers in Brazil, Mexico and Egypt believe they’ve changed the most, for example – but it’s a matter of degree.

7. More seniors shop online

No longer is online shopping the domain of the young. 75% of adults over the age of 75 use the internet every day, and 28% of online purchases are by senior citizens. Meanwhile, people in their 60s are the wealthiest demographic in the UK.

It’s clear that appealing to older shoppers is a wise move for certain retailers. How can they cater to people’s needs and tastes? How about making older people feel understood by a brand? Often, audience research can prove helpful, highlighting specific ways to improve a website and marketing strategy.

8. Increased use of mobile devices

This will surprise few of us but it’s worth remembering how popular mobile shopping has become. In 2021, 73% of all online purchases were completed on mobiles. This seems unlikely to change, especially since the pandemic has encouraged us all to become more reliant on technology – for example, needing to use mobile apps to make medical appointments and to order food in a restaurant.

Retailers must offer mobile-friendly websites that fulfil shoppers’ expectations of being straightforward and easy to use.

9. Simple payment processing

Part of the appeal of online shopping is the convenience. An otherwise great shopping experience can be ruined by a checkout process that is confusing or complicated. Most likely we’ve all experienced the tedium of entering lots of personal details only to find the sale hasn’t gone through. Perhaps we gave up on the purchase all together.

Indeed, 87% of shoppers will abandon a cart if they find the checkout process lacking.

Having the right software, then, is critical for retailers. Clear instructions must be combined with easy payment options and fast site speed.

10. Free shipping and fast delivery

A reasonably priced product. But then a large shipping fee and three weeks’ delivery time? It’s become the norm for shoppers to refuse such a prospect. They know that other retailers can send them their shopping both free and quickly.

A 2021 report by Jungle Scout found that 66% of shoppers expect free shipping on every online purchase. And 91% expect to receive orders within a week. (It’s also interesting to note that 80% of people expect parcel tracking and to be notified when their order has left the warehouse.)

11. Customised packaging

More and more, shoppers demand an overall positive experience with a brand. And part of this includes the product packaging. Some people might look for the use of recycled materials, others simply crave an eye-catching design. Whatever your customer values in their packaging, make sure not to underestimate this element of your offerings. In an American study, 72% of people said they were influenced by packaging.

12. Advantages of AI

What was once considered futuristic is now commonplace. Retailers can increasingly use artificial intelligence in their operations, from applying machine learning to inventory management in their warehouses, to automating marketing activities and offering website customers fast interaction through chatbots.

The ability to forecast is particularly exciting to retailers. Huge amounts of raw data can be tracked and made sense of, providing insights into effective pricing strategies and product placement. In physical shops, technology such as heat mapping uses a combination of cameras and “computer vision” to reveal which products a customer picks up and their journey around the aisles.

13.  Experiential shopping

To encourage consumers back to physical shops, retailers need to offer enough engaging experiences. This might involve adopting features that allow people to use their smartphones to, say, access product reviews and sign up for exclusive events.

For more advanced retailers? AR and VR technology can personalise a shopper’s experience. For instance, “smart mirrors” let people try on clothes virtually. And in the world of furniture retail, smartphone cameras can allow shoppers to see how a new sofa or table might look in their own home.

14. Omnipresent sales channels

When omnichannel shopping, consumers can buy products across multiple places: their laptop or phone, or in physical shops. Although the pandemic has further increased the popularity of online shopping, customers still value being able to visit the brand at their local high street or retail area.

These bricks-and-mortar shops establish a sense of trust and familiarity. Moreover, they can be used to tell customers about new products and to enhance their brand image. According to research, opening a new physical shop typically increases traffic to the retailer’s website by 37% in the following financial quarter.

15. Safe physical shops

As shoppers continue to be highly conscious of their physical environment, it’s important for retailers to consider the design of their shops. The use of plastic screens at checkouts can help to ease anxiety, for example, as can clear signs for queues and an overall sense of orderliness. No doubt we’ll all be more hygiene-aware for years to come.

16.  More personalisation online

With third-party cookies being phased out by Google Chrome, online retailers will need to focus more of their efforts on first-party cookies. The upshot? They’ll have to gain the trust of their customers in order to credibly ask for their information – and in doing so, foster better relationships. Shoppers will expect more personalisation across the marketing channels; for example, for a brand to tailor marketing emails specifically to their wants and needs, and to show them only the most relevant products on their website. 

17.  Voice search and personal assistants

The popularity of these looks set to grow in 2022 as the speech-recognition technology continues to improve, making it easier to talk into our phones rather than to type. According to Google, 27% of people on the internet now conduct voice searches.

It’s worth paying attention to how this trend affects online marketing. For example, SEO-specialists may consider that customers will likely use more natural, everyday language when performing a search query. Online marketers would therefore do well to review their keyword targeting and general strategy.

18.  Social commerce on the rise

The scenario: a shopper is on their favourite social media platform and sees something they’d like to buy. Instead of clicking through to a third-party website, they can complete the purchase there and then. The ease of such transactions means social commerce is set to increase in popularity. TikTok has recently partnered with Shopify, for example. And Facebook is looking to create a more personalised shopping experience for its users by introducing Facebook Shops. 

As for Instagram, this platform continues to offer the most sophisticated social commerce in the market. Here, retailers benefit from making their products easily discoverable, the ability to run adverts, and a high user engagement rate – with 90% of Instagram’s users following at least one business.

19. New approach to influencer marketing

In past years, influencer marketing focused on heavily edited product shots and selfies. The idea was to look immaculate. With shoppers growing more wary of this superficiality, brands are now partnering with influencers who can create a sense of authenticity. What does this mean in practical terms? Fewer highly produced adverts, and more videos and livestreaming to encourage shoppers to get to know the people behind the products.

20.  Livestreaming

If a shopper doesn’t want to go to physical shops, they can rely on livestreaming to easily learn about new products, see celebrity endorsements, and – for example – find inspiration on how to style their wardrobe. This might take the form of a virtual event where a shopper can ask questions and chat with the organisers. Before the pandemic, livestreaming was mostly enjoyed in China but it’s now becoming popular worldwide, especially with young consumers. The beauty brand Estée Lauder, for example, saw a 60% rise in its online sales in the first quarter of 2021, thanks to its shoppable livestreams and other improved digital services.

This year the run up to Black Friday was accompanied by much uncertainty. Of course the ongoing effects of Covid-19 cast doubts. But retailers were also unsure about supply chain issues, staff shortages and general attitudes towards spending. At the same time, Black Friday – as ever – presented great potential for boosting sales.

Let’s look at how the day played out across both physical and online shops. Was spending as high as expected? What can retailers learn for next year?

Early promise of high spending

Early data from Barclaycard indicated that spending was higher than in the last two years. The company – which processes approximately £1 in every £3 spent on cards – reported that by 5pm on Black Friday there were 23% more transactions than at the same point in 2020. More significantly perhaps, it reported a 2.4% rise in the volume of payments compared to the pre-pandemic times of Black Friday in 2019.

It seems shoppers may have reacted to warnings from the CBI that prices are set to rise across the UK, encouraging them to make the most of discounts. In addition, Pricer data suggests that 57% of people are now more price sensitive than before the pandemic.

Wins for online retail giants

A Toluna study showed that the most popular retailer was Amazon (64%), second was Argos (28%) and third was eBay (19%).

Both in the UK and across the world, Amazon had a record-breaking Black Friday sales period. The top sellers were products in its home, toys and beauty categories.

eBay saw its average selling price rise by 54% from the day before Black Friday. Its site traffic peaked between midday and 2pm – presumably the effect of shoppers browsing during their lunch breaks – which demonstrates a more typical pattern than last year. The general manager of eBay UK, Murray Lambell, said: “Our home and garden sellers have been the big winners during the Black Friday period so far. Consumers have been capitalising on deals for refurbished and upcycled home goods, with a certified refurbished Dyson fan sold every minute on eBay UK.”

In addition, Shopify enjoyed a record Black Friday. The average order value rose from £58.89 to £65.60 in the UK, with 10am being the peak sales hour, and apparel and accessories being the most popular category.

Indeed, overall the most popular items among UK shoppers were clothes (42%). They also favoured computer and gaming products (26%) and fragrances (25%).

Physical shops did less well

Not all retailers made gains from Black Friday this year. The high street fared badly – the number of people shopping here declined by 0.5% which represents the first drop since the annual discount day began in the UK. (Instead, some people visited shopping centres and retail areas, which saw a 6.5% and 4.9% rise respectively.)

The reason for this? Many people are still working from home and so not popping to their high street during their lunch break. There are fewer tourists in London and the UK’s other hotspots. And of course Storm Arwen didn’t help – people stayed at home to avoid the challenging weather.

Lower spending overall on Black Friday

Some were predicting record spending this year. Despite early promise, it seems online sales – which represent the majority of spending – were down. According to the IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, online retail sales were 14.3% lower than those of the previous year.

Arguably, retailers started their sales too early in November, meaning demand petered out by Black Friday itself. It’s also likely that consumers feared delays to receiving their products and so completed their Christmas shopping earlier in the month.

More generally, there was social resistance to the annual sales event. In recent years the number of anti Black Friday campaigns has been growing, with 85% of smaller sellers protesting the day this year – the highest number ever recorded by the British Independent Retailers Association. Such sellers were protesting what they see as the destructive nature of the hyper-consumerism associated with knock-down prices and brief sales periods. Instead of taking part in Black Friday (and Cyber Monday), they closed their websites and did something socially beneficial such as planting trees or donating money to food banks.

The future of Black Friday?

While it’s hard to predict what 2022 might bring, retailers could learn specific lessons from this year. For example, they might start their campaigns later in November to avoid dwindling shopper enthusiasm. They might also reflect on this year’s most popular categories (including clothing and computer products). Equally, it’s worth considering the bigger picture – is Black Friday right for a particular brand? Are there alternative approaches to the sales period?

Whatever happens, an effective marketing strategy is crucial, including the right software. 

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