November is the new December

We’ve heard for a long time about the growth of Black Friday in the UK to eventually becoming ‘Black Five Day’, and now it’s been predicted that, thanks in a large part to the Black Friday Week, November is set to surpass December as the top month for holiday shoppers.

According to ecommerce consultancy Salmon (who first coined ‘Black Five Day’ last year) November will see a record £20 billion spent online, with £7 billion being spent over the Black Friday week alone. The shifting figures show that consumers now look to November sales as being the best time to get all their holiday shopping out of the way.

In addition, sales this year are set to overtake 2016’s record-breaking numbers. Last year, conversion rates doubled the normal weekly rate to 106 per cent which was up 10 per cent on the previous year.

James Webster, head of managed services at Salmon and peak trading expert believes that this is an indicator that holiday retail has transformed: “The traditional retail calendar has become well and truly disrupted, and this year we expect November to become the pre-eminent month for Christmas shopping. Black Friday and seasonal offers are now very much expected by shoppers in advance of the traditional December Christmas shopping period. Therefore, what retailers need to be thinking of is how they can cater to consumers during heightened conditions. Consumers want to shop with retailers on their terms and across devices and channels, taking the path of least resistance without high volumes of traffic affecting that experience.

“When it comes to Black Friday (and the weeks leading up to and after it), consumers are typically not looking for inspiration – they want a slick transaction-based experience. Consumers are now used to services such as Amazon Prime, with same or next day delivery, which has grown them accustomed to speedy and high quality services. If they’re presented with a slow or convoluted online experience they’ll find a better one a finger-tip away, so it is imperative that retailers have a strong contingency plan lined up during peak trading so as to avoid any reputational damage due to dissatisfied customers.”

This prediction does not come to a surprise to those in the Channel, commented Fujitsu UK managing director for retail and hospitality: “The idea that November is to surpass Christmas as the month for festive shopping isn’t unthinkable given how successful last year was. The run up to Black Friday showered shoppers with a plethora of deals, and this year November seems likely to be even bigger. Black Friday is clearly here to stay as consumers have grown accustomed to receiving special offers in November, and retailers have even begun to create their own peak days in order to spread the load and gain that customer traction and loyalty.

“November clearly offers a wealth of opportunities for retailers, but if they are to embrace it for its full potential, they need to ensure they are well prepared for it. Firstly, to keep operations running smoothly and to ensure transactions are processed quickly and efficiently, retailers need to make sure their point of sale systems are updated with modern technology. For example, equipping staff in-store with mobile devices that enable them to take payments on the shop floor will reduce queuing, speed up the checkout process and create a more enjoyable Christmas shopping experience. 

“However, with online shopping dominating the sales figures last year, it is also vital retailers ensure their omni-channel offerings are up to scratch and can cater for all customers: both in-store visitors and digital-first shoppers. Retailers ought to be testing their web and mobile sites rigorously in the months prior to ensure they are well equipped to handle high volumes of traffic, as any outages will cause shoppers to go elsewhere. Additionally, retailers should have a holistic view of all their inventory so need to have a network system that aligns stock in-store, online and in their warehouses in order to manage their product during the busiest time of the year.

“The festive period can either grow or kill a business, so it is vital that retailers focus on ensuring operations run as smoothly and efficiently as possible to deliver the best customer experience, if they are to reap the rewards of the peak season and Christmas shopping.”

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