According to industry body IMRG, in the period from Black Friday to Cyber Monday over £3 billion pounds was spent by online retailers, with the main showpiece event Black Friday becoming the first day where over £1bn was spent by customers in retailers. It’s true that more spending was online than offline compared to 2014, but another important trend emerged: the success of those firms combining offline and online capabilities.
Firstly, it is important to recognise that the balance of power continued to shift from offline to online. Shops did not experience the same rush to stores that brought so much debate to the media in 2014, with the high street experiencing a decline in footfall relative to last year. However, online sales on Black Friday this year rose by 36%, and the general picture for e-retail continues to be an unrelenting upward trend: £104bn being spent in 2014 according to the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Index, an increase of 14% compared to 2013.
But a deeper look at the top five sites searched on Google during Black Friday reveals a more complex picture. According to Google Trends, the top five companies searched for in the UK were Argos, Amazon, Currys PC World, John Lewis and Tesco. With the exception of Amazon, all of the other four have a strong offline presence, and were successful retailers prior to the e-retail revolution.
There are many potential reasons for this trend. One of these is sure to be that ‘click and collect’ options are becoming an increasingly attractive. With customers becoming increasingly frustrated with missed collections and inconvenient delivery times, many are taking the option to choose when to collect their product in stores. Very.com announced this week it could take up to 10 days to deliver some of their Black Friday goods due to the high demand. Click and collect hands control of the transaction back to the consumer, crucial to satisfaction. Brands like Argos and Currys PC World have a wide network of stores, making click and collect an easy option to offer customers. Tesco have recently announced that 200 of their stores are trialling same day click and collect. This is likely to become an ever-more important avenue in the next few years, favouring companies with brick-and-mortar stores.
Another reason is branding. Those with the most disposable income are over the age of 50, who now have access to online platforms in more numbers than ever before. However, it is believed a lack of confidence in online companies persists, and therefore strong brands such as John Lewis and Argos that are familiar with consumers of this age may have an edge in attracting online sales.
Therefore, Black Friday highlights that opportunities are arising for those who can successfully integrate good online retail platforms and brick-and-mortar store networks. Online retailers are not replacing traditional companies at the rate expected with the rise of e-retail; instead, it has led to an evolution in retailers to offer ‘omni-channel’ services across all platforms. Could we see Amazon brick-and-mortar stores? They already have set up an Amazon Books store in Seattle this month, and hope to set up more. A new trend in retail is quickly developing, and the integration of offline and online will be crucial to many consumer companies thriving.