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Online retail prevails thanks to high street butchery

Posted by Joe McNamara on 4th December 2014

Black Friday and Brits was always bound to go well. Analysts have been predicting the death of the high street for about three years now. Pfft – what do they know? Knock £60 off a plasma screen and out we pour, from our overcrowded housing estates, to war.

According to an article from The Guardian – not only did Friday 28th November 2014 lead to the mother of all fights in shops all over the country – it also registered 404,835 orders online amounting to a spend of £810m from UK shoppers.

As quoted in the same piece, data from internet retail experts IMRG show this figure eclipsed the £650m online splurge estimated to have taken place on Monday 1st December – now dubbed Cyber Monday.

Perhaps this was because the wounded were still struggling to connect to the Wi-Fi from their hospital beds. But perhaps there’s another explanation.

Blurred lines

The omnichannel shopping experience is an emerging concept. The ‘showrooming’ trend where shoppers inspect goods in shops before going away and making the actual purchase online is a product of this trend.

Similarly, in this case the media hysteria caused by Black Friday’s rather shocking scenes has contributed to an unexpected online sales surge. In other words, the people keeping track of the onslaught from their office desks started hitting the checkouts from their computer screens as well.

IMRG calculated that the number of visits to retail websites reached 181m on Black Friday – nearly 50% more on its estimate of 124m. So as UN peacekeepers were being called into their stores, retailers were also struggling to cope with the strain online.

Another explanation for Black Friday’s online sales eclipsing those of Cyber Monday is that better stock management and prompt delivery times from online retailers has strengthened confidence in leaving online shopping later.

Finding your way in the omnichannel maze

A couple of years ago we were seeing HMV, GAME, Blockbuster and Clintons disappear from the high street and the natural conclusion was that online retail had taken over completely. Friday’s chaos proves that this isn’t strictly true, but it’s not just the introduction of Black Friday to the UK that has brought the high street back into the game.

There is a strong link between offline and online retail. Old-fashioned tactics like discounts, offers and sales work effectively across both mediums and seemingly word of mouth about good deals can translate high street sales into online surges and vice versa.

The ecosystem has evolved to the point that sending a targeted text/email to a shopper with a voucher code to use in-store could result in online sales. They might share their bargain on Facebook and people who see it there may go shop for a similar deal online!

The increasingly blurred lines between driving traffic to high street branches, websites or mobile apps means retailers cannot afford to be caught out on any channel – especially at this time of year.

In summary, if this weekend has taught us anything other than the fact we frankly may as well all give up, it’s that retailers must still consider the high street as part of their omnichannel approach and focus on engaging shoppers at multiple touch points via a variety of channels.

Joe McNamara