Black Friday revenue up 133% year on year despite website crashes

Retailers experienced a 133% increase in Black Friday online revenue compared to last year, according to data released by eCommerce personalisation tech firm Peerius.

Tesco, Currys-PC World and John Lewis were among the retailers that experienced problems with their websites due to a huge surge in online traffic, with many shoppers made to wait for lengthy periods of time in an 'online queuing system', but overall there are reports that sales were up significantly on the same day in 2013.

Peerius, which works with the likes of Topshop, Topman, The White Company,, Cath Kidston, Miss Selfridge and Superdry, analysed activity on its customers' websites and said that there was an overall 50% year-on-year increase in traffic on Friday.

It noted that 9-10am was the peak time for traffic as shoppers browsed the bargains at the start of the working day, while the heavy promoting of deals meant that there was a 121% increase in traffic at the start of the sales period (00:01) compared to Black Friday 2013.

Other Peerius findings:

Yusuf Rahman, head of analytics and optimisation at Peerius, commented: "As Black Friday coincides with the last pay cheque before Christmas, shoppers want to ensure that they buy their presents at the right time, on the right device and for the right price.

"There were several reports of website outages from leading high street retailers, with the spike in mobile traffic listed as a reason. Despite this, our data shows smartphone users are then most likely to complete their purchase on a different device."

Although much of the buzz around Black Friday has been centred on how retailers were able to encourage shoppers to head to their websites and kick-start their Christmas shopping early, there could be some significant implications of the markdown strategy and consequent tech failures for some businesses. Questions remain over what impact the slow online service will have had on customers who were not even on the hunt for Black Friday deals?

Michael Allen, VP of application performance management at tech firm Dynatrace, acknowledged that even some of the largest retailers' online infrastructure "struggled to cope".

"These failings directly impact both top-line revenue and brand perception," he added.

Meanwhile, Professor Chris Edger, retail expert from Birmingham City University, questioned the business strategy behind Black Friday and argued that the pressure to maintain market share by offering deals at the end of November might not prove positive for retailers in the long term.

"Based on the evidence in the US, Black Friday will become a 'vampire retail squid' – spreading out throughout the month sucking margin out of November trading," he noted.

"Indeed, Amazon – setting the trend in the UK once again – has already started its 'run-up' promotions to Black Friday on Monday 24 November. The margin consequences of this move – as consumers become addicted to November discounting and expect it as a matter of course – could have grave consequences for profitability over the longer term for some retail players."

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