As we lead up to the festive peak season and retailers are once again preparing for this year’s Black Friday weekend, the omnichannel experience is still a fundamental part of retail strategy. There has already been a number of sources speculating that this year’s sales will break all the records set last year, including predictions that online sales will surpass the £1bn mark, up from £810m in 2014. Notably, the number of consumers shopping online for Black Friday deals is set to increase to 30%, up from 8% last year.
Clearly, we’re beginning to see the growing importance of online leading up to Christmas and Black Friday, itself made popular by Amazon, whose recent Prime event similarly guaranteed orders and revenue. Although last year’s peak season generated a 10% increase in high street footfall compared to previous years, consumers increasingly seem to be going online for their Black Friday deals.
However, despite the growth of online sales, recent research from Gekko shows that nearly three quarters (74.2%) of shoppers benefit from the touch, feel and physical comparison of products when making purchase decisions. This is especially the case with high ticket electrical items such as a smart TVs or washing machines, where 67% of shoppers are likely or very likely to buy in a physical store, compared with only 46% who would consider buying online. Moreover, more than half (56.8%) of consumers prefer to head onto the high street so that they can seek advice when making a considered purchase.
In an increasingly connected retail landscape, in-store retail sales are gradually feeling more of an impact from online, especially with smart phones offering shoppers a way to price check in their pocket. Barclays recently predicted that 42% of all retail sales will involve a mobile device in some way over the next ten years, clearly showing how brands will need to integrate their online and retail offerings to create consistent branding and the omnichannel experience we now expect.
This peak period, brands need to ensure that their sales and promotions take into account the omnichannel nature of retail today. While online sales will certainly be a focus this year in light of increasing numbers of dedicated online consumers, brands should not neglect the legions of shoppers that will descend on the high street, often using their smart phone to ensure that the deal their considering isn’t cheaper online.
Making sure that your branding in store matches that of your online offering will ensure that the 54% of shoppers that like to research products online before buying in store will continue their customer journey to buy your brand. Placing brand ambassadors in store to support your peak promotions are proven to assist customers looking to purchase considered items, supporting the majority of consumers who want to experience a product or ask advice before making a decision.
Whether buying online or in store, Black Friday is guaranteed to make the headlines this year, either for record sales or for more riots in supermarkets over discount appliances – perhaps it will be both. Black Friday is now a retail institution, which begins the Christmas peak shopping period for both retailers and brands.