In the States, the Friday following Thanksgiving is better known as Black Friday and the Monday succeeding Thanksgiving has been coined Cyber Monday. Black Friday marks the start of the Christmas shopping season, it sees consumers flock to stores - which generally open earlier than usual - in order to take advantage of promotional offers. There are no orderly queues here; these are military shoppers who have been known to enter Walmarts and Targets in stampedes. Indeed Black Friday is not for the faint of heart.
Over time, retailers began to notice a steady rise in e-commerce on the Monday after Thanksgiving, when Americans would return to work and shop from their desks. Subsequently, it was dubbed Cyber Monday and online discount offerings expanded. Last year, e-tail giant Amazon reported that the once modest Cyber Monday had surpassed Black Friday as the busiest shopping day in its history.
In recent years, the post Thanksgiving shopping phenomena have been recognised worldwide and this season, British retailers are preparing for both days to commence in earnest. Grocers Asda and Sainsbury’s (a new addition to the game) will likely attract customers with huge savings on electrical goods and department store chain John Lewis will also join in with its ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ promise.
As customers become poorer with their time however, they are far more likely to rush to the Internet to benefit from markdowns and offers across the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend. To ensure optimum benefits, merchants will need to ensure they are prepared for the influx.
Last week, leading high street retailer H&M suffered a website crash when it launched its collaboration with designer Alexander Wang. This raises the importance of regular application performance testing for the brand, which saw the same happen last year when its Isabel Marant line went on sale. According to global research commissioned by Vanson Bourne and Borland, 44% of Chief Information Officers are aware of the events that drive peak-traffic loads, but do not simulate website performance with heavy load testing to see if they can handle the increased pressure on their websites.
“Even minor delays to website response times can have a sizable impact on customer satisfaction, page views, conversion rates and site abandonment” says Archie Roboostaff, Portfolio Director at Borland Software Corporation.
In 2013, customers spent a record breaking £600m, but many retailers failed to capitalise on potential profits as they struggled to cope with the pressure of increased website traffic driven by online promotions around Black Friday weekend. According to Micro Focus research, more than ten well known global retailers were affected by the Cyber Monday’s one–day spike in website traffic. Brands including Ebay saw its website performance drop by 31% in the lead up to Cyber Monday. The site slowed from a 4.4 second load time to a 14 second load time when site traffic peaked between 5 and 11.45pm on the 2nd December.
Graeme Collins, Head of Marketing EMEA at RichRelevance said:
“Your customers are unequivocally using their mobile devices as research and comparison tools while en route to, or in, a store, and even when shopping online. This is especially true for Black Friday where nearly all retailers are offering discounted products. Interactivity with your store needs to be enabled to help consumers maximise their mobile shopping efforts and stay “sticky” your brand beyond the weekend. If retailers don’t ensure their sites are optimised for mobile screens and mobile navigation with blazing fast loading times, they will lose out to competitors during peak times. Even gestures such as cashing out customers directly from iPads or iPhones and emailing receipts to them could make or break a sale.”
“Application performance testing should form a comprehensive part of any retail outlet strategy to ensure online success and competitive advantage” Roboostaff adds.
This year Thanksgiving falls on Friday 28th November and Cyber Monday falls on 1st December.