UK’s Black Friday Sends Strong Message to Retailers in Europe

Via SAP SE Newsroom

Dec 3, 2015

Originally an American phenomena, more and more retailers in Europe, particularly the UK, are taking part in the promotions extravaganza on the Friday following the American holiday Thanksgiving.

While I’m still not convinced that Black Friday actually leads to incremental sales, and not just profit margin losses, I will say that the consumers in the UK sent a strong message to retailers in Europe this last November 27. Just consider the results and headlines from this year.

In 2014, the big news stories from Black Friday in the UK were the huge onslaught of foot shoppers in the stores. Too many people. Too few sales people. Unhappy shoppers, with miserable memories, fighting over product to get deals in what is traditionally considered the peak period in retail of the year…

Flash forward, Black Friday, November 27, 2015. In just one year, the whole picture has changed. And the picture looks pretty similar for the US and the UK.

The big story this year isn’t about in store shoppers. In fact, photos from Los Angeles to London show shopping malls looking very quiet. The big story in 2015 is that online transactions increased significantly.

The New York Times reported that “Adobe, which tracked more than 180 million visits to over 4,500 United States retail websites this Thanksgiving, said shoppers spent $1.73 billion online on Thursday — or 22 percent more than 2014. Almost 60 percent of the traffic came from mobile devices.”

On the same day, the Guardian, reflecting the headline across UK journals, reported that “British shoppers spent 52% more online on Friday morning than they did in 2014 according to payment processing firm Worldpay”.  That’s a whopping 52% jump in online shopping on Black Friday in the UK in just one year!

There are of course cultural differences across Europe, including how people buy. According to the IDC Retail Insights consumer survey, 50% of consumers in Europe said that they frequently decide to purchase instore after starting their customer journey online, compared to 16% in the United States.

That said, technology trends often start in the US, move to Northern Europe, starting with the UK, and continue on their path to other parts of Europe. And in this digital era, the pace of changes is like nothing we have ever seen before. I believe that the story from Black Friday is one that European retailers consider very seriously: people’s buying habits are changing quickly and they are buying online more than ever before, often with their smart phones.

The retailers that use their data to learn about their customers and prospects, and develop personalized products, services and offers uniquely tailored for them – the ones truly transforming their businesses for this digital world – will win in the long run.

Franck Cohen is president of SAP Europe, Middle East & Africa

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