Ben Cripps
Ben Cripps I'm one of the Application Performance technical team.

Black Friday, the winners and losers and next steps

Black Friday, the winners and losers and next steps

For the consumer, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now fading in memory, the only remnants being a pile of cardboard packaging sticking out of the top of their recycling bin and next month’s credit card bill.

But how did this online sales rush go for businesses and their websites? How did it go for your own company’s website?

Statistics, and yet another blow to the UK high street

Multiple media outlets are estimating a spend of over £7bn for the Black Friday to Cyber Monday period, and while the final figures aren’t in yet, the British Retail Consortium is predicting growth for the sale period.

In another blow to your local high street, more customers moved online with retail analysis firm Springboard reporting a Black Friday year-on-year 5% footfall decrease. It’s all further evidence that more people are moving online for their shopping.

High profile casualties

From reading around various media sources, in general some retailers appear to have been better prepared this year, but there were still some casualties. So which were the high profile UK sites that failed?

First up we have John Lewis (and Partners).

Despite reporting record Black Friday sales, the UK retail giant John Lewis website experienced a Black Friday glitch, with one analyst company estimating a potential revenue hit of £2.8m.

The website queue system - Debenhams and GAME

Some retailers, opted for a queue system to help throttle and control traffic to their websites. As per their 2017 strategy, Debenhams and GAME followed this path but received negative publicity via news media and social media platforms. PushON agency went as far to say “Both GAME and Debenhams suffered the same fate last year, showing that little has been done in anticipation of the Black Friday surge.”

One customer tweet about GAME was particularly amusing after reporting their queue position of 107,578!

Some US victims - J.Crew, Walmart, Lulelemon, Ulta

Outside of the UK, other big brands experienced issues too. J.Crew’s website experienced issues reportedly lasting well into Cyber Monday, with irate customers complaining they were unable to add items to their basket or complete the payment process.For the first five hours alone, estimated 323,000 impacted shoppers at the cost of $775,000.

To name just a few, other high profile victims were Walmart, Lululemon and Ulta.

So what have we learnt?

As both a web performance consultant and as a consumer myself, I’ve taken the following key points away:

  • While consumers are starting to wise up to the sales tactics and some of the duff deals, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are showing no signs of it slowing down for next year and beyond.
  • Big brands are still susceptible to outages – John Lewis & Partners suffered issues during Black Friday 2015, proving you need to plan and be ready for the unexpected (it reminds me of Netflix’s Chaos Monkey).
  • The website queue system of one-in, one-out is still a popular retailer choice, but the backlash from consumers and negative media coverage is showing this approach to be a negative approach. If I were a retailer, would I use the queue system? For me, the answer would be no, but if I failed to plan ahead, I suspect that is the only viable option for me.
  • Those retailers that have planned, prepared, and practised are the true winners of the holiday sales period, and those on the ball retailers have probably already started planning for Black Friday 2019.

You are going to plan for Black Friday 2019, right?

Whether Black Friday passed without issue or not, with reports showing year-on-year growth you still need to plan and prepare for next years annual sales. And now is the perfect time to start this process. To help get the ball rolling, get your tech and marketing teams together and think about the following suggestions.

  • How did sales and website traffic compare to the same period 2016 and 2017?
  • What is your expected year-on-year sales and website traffic growth?
  • How does your website performance compare to the same period last year?
  • What is the current level of your website performance?
  • Do you, and if so how, calculate your conversion rate? How does your conversion rate compare?
  • What steps did you take to plan and prepare for Black Friday?
  • Did you adopt a pro-active or a reactive approach? If reactive, did you estimate the brand, reputation and sales cost for a 30-minute outage?
  • Do you have any single points of failure? Did you have any contingency plans?
  • Did you have an outage, and if so what was the estimated cost?

Are you still unclear, or do you need some pointers? If so, why not talk to the team at Application Performance, we have a wealth of experience and advice. We’ve worked with some leading retailers and businesses, and we can help advise you further. Please just add a comment, or if you prefer, contact us here and we can get in touch.