Looking back at Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Now the dust has settled after a hectic Christmas and New Year period, it is worth looking back at the bumper festive sales events of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

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Taking place just three days apart, on 27 and 30 November, the two events kicked off the seasonal sales rush, with many high street and online retailers slashing prices and launching special offers.

Black Friday 2014 made headlines for all the wrong reasons, with photos and videos of customers fighting over bargains at high street stores and some online outlets struggling to meet demand and deliver in time for Christmas.

For 2015, retailers put in place a number of extra measures to ensure there was no repeat of the scenes of 2014 and to improve the overall customer experience.

But it turned out that these measures, including queuing systems and extra staff, proved unnecessary as customers instead turned online for the best bargains.

It meant that, for the second year running, Black Friday overtook Cyber Monday as the biggest online shopping day of the year.

The extended sales period saw a shopping surge for department stores, which raked in an almost 11 per cent increase in sales on the previous year, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics released last month.

Black Friday helped John Lewis record its biggest ever week of trading as sales via the department store’s website were up 15.5 per cent. Sainsbury’s said it had sold two and half times the value of Black Friday goods that it did last year.

However, at least 15 retail websites suffered some loss of service on Black Friday, according to web monitoring firm Traffic Defender.

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Although many retailers invested in extra server capacity and website improvements, they still struggled to cope with the extra demand. Retailers with problems included Argos, Tesco and John Lewis.

Parcel delivery company Yodel learned from its disastrous Christmas in 2014, when it was caught out by the volume of orders and was left with a three-day delivery backlog; in 2015 it invested £30 million and hired around 7,000 extra drivers to prepare itself for the rush.

While it is positive that some retailers learned from their previous problems and improved the customer experience for 2015, it is concerning that others made the same mistakes again.

As we warned in our previous blog, poor experiences can stop customers returning, no matter how much brand loyalty they may have had in the past. Customers will also expect to see the same levels of service as normal, even during peak periods.

Online sales will continue to rise over future Christmas sales periods as customers seek to avoid hectic high streets, and retailers must be prepared.

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