Black Friday and Cyber Monday are relatively new concepts in the U.K., but it would seem that the Brits have taken them to heart.
These two retail-frenzy behemoths were imported thanks to the strength, and will, of the likes of Amazon and Walmart (who own the supermarket chain Asda in the U.K.). But it appears that — unlike with soccer, cricket, or any game the U.K. invented, exported, and then got really bad at — the sovereign island is actually winning this game, doing Black Friday better than the U.S.
Only not at the actual retail store locations themselves.
That’s the headline from two new studies of retail activity undertaken by Survata on behalf of BloomReach, which surveyed 3,000 U.S. consumers and 1,000 U.K. consumers regarding their holiday shopping behavior.
It turns out that Black Friday in the U.K. — a traditional in-store day in the U.S. — was overwhelmingly preferred by U.K. shoppers as an online-shopping day, by a 74 to 26 percent margin. That was borne out by U.K. national news outlets on the day itself, which reported time and time again — on location and with typically British dry humor — on the lack of U.S.-style door-busting.
So while Black Friday is traditionally an in-store phenomenon in the U.S., in the U.K. it is treated as more of an online shopping experience. Just like Cyber Monday is supposed to be, you might say.
Also, while 45 percent of U.K. consumers reported shopping on Black Friday, just 37 percent reported shopping on Cyber Monday. This is in stark contrast to the U.S., where Cyber Monday was bigger than Black Friday — the percentages were 41 and 57, respectively.
In addition, retailers’ attempts to woo U.K. consumers with major shopping-day deals seemed to be less trusted, as U.K. shoppers indicate that they don’t expect retailers’ best deals until after Christmas.
Elsewhere in the research, we find that search engines are facing new and expanding threats this holiday season from online superpower Amazon. It is a subject we’ve broached before, as according to a previous BloomReach study, Amazon now commands almost 50 percent of all first-time product searches.
In addition to that “first touch” data, it appears that almost every product search touches Amazon at some point.
In the U.K., 90 percent of consumers will consult Amazon on their gift purchases. The U.S. is close, with 87 percent doing the same. Even if consumers find exactly what they want with acceptable prices and shipping, they will still often consult Amazon: 29 percent in the U.K. would still compare the product on Amazon, with 27 percent choosing to buy it right there and then. In the U.S., those percentages are 28 and 29 percent, respectively.
Of course, this all makes pretty grim reading for search engines, retail stores, and other online retailers alike.
I wondered: Why had Amazon become the dominant force in online shopping, in BloomReach’s opinion?
“As we’ve been conducting these surveys, time and time again, we’ve seen that consumers’ priorities are time savings and relevance, and often equally weighted with price,” Joelle Kaufman, head of marketing and partnerships at BloomReach, told me. “Amazon’s technology and Prime service meet all three, together with a breadth of selection and trusted content about products. Its technology gives customers intuitive and relevant search with auto-suggest.”
So what, realistically, can smaller retailers do in the face of such giants as Amazon and — to a lesser extent, according to this data — Google?
“Improve search and discovery to ensure relevance, and employ a mobile-first strategy followed by organic and onsite,” Kaufman said. “BloomReach data increasingly has shown that up to 50 percent of traffic is mobile, but it’s not the conversion device. Instead it’s the glue that holds all of the channels together. They can also deliver an end-to-end compelling brand experience from best price and packages through to packaging, customer support, and returns. Not to mention there still is a place for brick-and-mortar, so leverage physical stores seamlessly with online and mobile.”
Kaufman is likely correct about mobile being used for research rather than purchases, as we’ve discussed before.
So how is the rest of the retail world really going to compete in the future?
“Offer unique products, packages, and content, owned and user-generated,” Kaufman said. “Invest in better discovery through product listing ads (PLAs), organic search, site search, and navigation. Save consumers time through better search, more useful homepages, compelling recommendations.”