How important is Black Friday to your e-commerce site? Forget the hype. It’s clear from the statistics that this day and weekend are a huge boom for the economy, both online and in-person. Let’s take a look at basic information about Black Friday; sales statistics for the day itself and for Cyber Monday; and tips to prepare your site for a huge spike in activity.
- What and when is Black Friday?
- Funny, ignoble history of Black Friday
- Holiday e-commerce sales trending
- 5 tips to get ready for Black Friday & Cyber Monday
What and when is Black Friday?
Before we get into the stats, let’s talk about the basics. Black Friday is the name given to a huge shopping day in the United States. It comes directly after Thanksgiving, which is always the fourth Thursday in November. It also comes three days before Cyber Monday – another big sales day specifically geared toward e-commerce stores. Black Friday and Cyber Monday dates for 2010 through 2020 are as follows, per Timeanddate.com:
- 2010 – Friday, November 26; Monday, November 29
- 2011 – Friday, November 25; Monday, November 28
- 2012 – Friday, November 23; Monday, November 26
- 2013 – Friday, November 29; Monday, December 2
- 2014 – Friday, November 28; Monday, December 1
- 2015 – Friday, November 27; Monday, November 30
- 2016 – Friday, November 25; Monday, November 28
- 2017 – Friday, November 24; Monday, November 27
- 2018 – Friday, November 23; Monday, November 26
- 2019 – Friday, November 29; Monday, December 2
- 2020 – Friday, November 27; Monday, November 30.
I would be remiss if I didn’t use the Timeanddate Black Friday tool’s dropdown option to see when this holiday will occur in the year 3950:
- 3950 – Friday, November 24.
Please mark your 40th century calendars.
Funny, ignoble history of Black Friday
Everyone hopes that their company makes out well on Black Friday, but the history is actually amusing and not as pleasant as you might think. There’s this idea that Black Friday grew out of companies going “into the black,” that their revenue was boosted into positive territory as they approached the end of the year. That sounds nice, but it isn’t the true origins!
The truth about Black Friday is that it was named by Philadelphia police officers in the 1950s. They used the term to refer to the same day, but the term “black” was meant to describe the dismal nature of the day – similar to a black eye. It was a reference to the huge crowds that rushed into the city for the annual Army-Navy game. “Not only would Philly cops not be able to take the day off, but they would have to work extra-long shifts dealing with the additional crowds and traffic,” notes Sarah Pruitt on History.com.
In any event, the holiday now means something different than it did at its inception – but it remains one of the most important shopping days of the year. Let’s get on to the sales statistics and tips for improving your success.
Holiday e-commerce sales trending
Again, this day usually represent more sales volume than any other day of the year. Money is flowing. Here are some kind of mind-bending statistics related to how huge a day it is for both Internet and brick-and-mortar retailers:
Big portion of retail sales – The period between Black Friday and Christmas accounts for about 30% of annual retail sales. It’s particularly high for certain types of retail – such as jewelry, which does almost 40% of sales in that window.
Many people active shopping – A well-known poll from the National Retail Federation (NRF) shows these numbers for Black Friday from 2011-2015:
- 2011 – 85 million
- 2012 – 89 million
- 2013 – 92 million
- 2014 – 87 million
- 2015 – 74 million.
People are moving online – That little dip above is where these statistics really get interesting. Those numbers above show how big a day Black Friday is but are actually specific to brick-and-mortar. As you can see, the number of people shopping in physical stores between 2013 and 2015 went down 19.6%. Those people were going online. There were $2.72 billion worth of e-commerce transactions on Black Friday, a 14% rise from 2014.
Black Friday is huge, and if you think it’s shrinking, it’s not. It’s going online.
5 tips to get ready for Black Friday & Cyber Monday
How do you get ready for this potentially incredible sales weekend?
- Think like a customer by focusing on usability.
How user-friendly is your site? That question is answered with usability testing. Basic components of a usability test are:
- Navigation – Assess your site to see how intuitively someone can move around and explore, through widgets, menus, etc.
- Content/text – Make sure there aren’t any instances in which your written copy is confusing.
- Visual coherence – The headers and the text should all work together meaningfully. Colors and fonts should harmonize with one another.
- Performance – You need a high performance infrastructure, optimized media, and to otherwise set yourself up for reliability and speed.
- Support – It should be easy and obvious how someone can reach you when they need assistance.
“User friendliness can have a significant impact on retention of visitors and the rate of their conversion into customers,” notes Mike Azevedo, CEO of database company Clustrix, in Entrepreneur. “[I]t’s crucial to create a positive experience for visitors.”
- Roll out the red carpet for mobile.
People spent $42.1 billion on mobile devices in 2013, a figure expected to reach $132.7 billion by 2018. Consumers go from one screen to another during their days. You want a shopping cart that is not just responsive but syncs throughout any customer’s devices. When your site is mobile-friendly, people keep shopping.
- Personalize your promo.
You obviously want your site to have its own personality, but recognize that behemoths such as eBay and Amazon succeeded with data personalization and marketing to the individual. What can be learned from the .com household names? It’s beneficial (hopefully mutually so) to gather consumer data from various touchpoints and customize content to fit the viewer. To filter users or prospects, use location (ZIP codes) and personal characteristics (sex, age, and similar criteria).
Keep in mind, personalization doesn’t mean you’re getting as granular as a unique experience for each user. Azevedo notes that you could just split your customers to receive two different offerings, Promo A and Promo B. “By using visitor data,” he says, “an ecommerce site can not only provide a personalized shopping experience but also increase the chances that customers will ultimately purchase.”
- Get your social working for you.
You want to think carefully about how you use social, such as how you use images to tell your company’s story, the personality you create around your business, and what hashtags you use. However, you also want to remember strong options such as email newsletters and PPC ads to let people know what you have available for Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday (or Black Friday through Cyber Monday – a relaxed sales bonanza weekend?).
You want a specific person in charge of responding to social media comments throughout this massive sales weekend. Complaints are a good thing, because they point you to what needs to be fixed for them and others. Plus, you want to know what people are saying about you and your competitors so that you can monitor and protect your reputation.
- Think scalability/elasticity from day one.
Azevedo recommends choosing a database that is built with scalability as a top priority throughout development. He suggests that you will be better able to grow if you know your database can expand linearly, processing information and updating seamlessly as more users and devices connect with the network and do business with you.
The issue of scalability is one of the primary reasons that cloud computing has become so popular. Being able to access resources based on your fluctuating needs is critical for e-commerce, not just for growth but for expanding and contracting through busy seasons. This scalability that is so essential to the kind of tipping-point growth that every business wants to achieve is inherent in the architecture of a distributed, virtualized cloud.
Arnon Rotem-Gal-Oz notes on Stack Overflow that elasticity – being able to adjust resources dynamically – is also a central characteristic of a strong cloud infrastructure. “[W]hen load increase you scale by adding more resources and when demand wanes you shrink back and remove unneeded resources,” says Rotem-Gal-Oz. “Elasticity is mostly important in [a] Cloud environment where you pay-per-use and don’t want to pay for resources you do not currently need on the one hand, and want to meet rising demand when needed on the other hand.”
If you want strong results for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you absolutely have to be fast and efficient. Meeting those objectives will always be directly related to the quality of your infrastructure and your ability to scale and elastically respond to demand. At Total Server Solutions, our SSD-based cloud hosting boasts the highest levels of performance in the industry. Learn more.