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E-commerce 1 – High Street 0: The blurring lines of Black Friday and Cyber Monday

This year the differences between the two major sales events in the U.S. are blurred than ever, with consumers browsing at their favourite high street stores yet purchasing online.

According to Barclaycard, which processes nearly half of all card transactions in the UK, sales on Black Friday – which was imported a few years ago from the U.S. - rose about 7 percent, reaching a total 3 billion pounds in spending.

However, this was of no help for ailing shopping centres and high street retailers, as these gains were primarily driven by online shopping: in the UK, web sales went up 6 percent as revealed data from e-commerce researcher PCA Predict. Furthermore, Springboard noted that the number of shoppers in stores was down by 3.6 percent.

Something similar happened in the U.S., where retailers tried to lure shoppers to their stores by offering deep discounts, entertainment and free gifts on Black Friday. Nevertheless, consumers went to the store to browse the merchandise, reserving their cash for Internet purchases.

Behavioural shifts favours online shopping versus traditional retail

The shift to more online spending has been driven by retailers, which have been “de-emphasising their in-store offering while bombarding consumers with daily promotional emails for over a week,” according to Bryan Roberts, an analyst at TCC Global.

Early estimates suggest the gravitation towards online shopping was even more pronounced in the U.S., where e-commerce sales were up 16.9 percent, according to Adobe Systems Inc. Traffic in physical stores was down by 4 percent to 6 percent, Cowen & Co. analyst Oliver Chen estimates.

"Consumers are conditioned to waiting for those key shopping moments, and this year is no exception," Mickey Mericle, vice president of Adobe's Marketing and Insights, said about Cyber Monday in an interview with CNBC. "We're seeing significantly higher growth in online spend this year," Mericle said. "Every day in November has been a billion-dollar day, and we're predicting that we have more than twice the number of 2 billion dollars shopping days this holiday season — that's an incredible milestone."

Last year, UK consumers spent about 2.9 billion pounds on Black Friday alone. While the cost of processing unwanted goods returned by trigger-happy bargain hunters may pose a risk to profitability, British retailers are becoming more adept at tailoring their offers.

Retailers learnt the lesson: no more heavy discounting

“Retailers didn’t discount products by more than last year," according to Chris Chaviaras, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “They tried to maintain profitability." To this point, ASOS discounted all products by 20 percent in the hope of snapping up more loyal shoppers. Meanwhile, Next participated in Black Friday for the first time as a way of clearing unsold flip-flops and shorts, highlighted the Bloomberg’ analyst.

This change of behaviour has also had an effect on sibling sales event, also originated in the U.S., Cyber Monday.

Market experts from Criteo point out that “A significant spike in consumer shopping was fuelled by a positive buying mood, strong economy and the deep discounts that shoppers have come to expect on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.”

In total, holiday shopper volumes increased 49 percent over the "baseline period" (November 6 through November 19, 2017) with the number of buyers jumping by 112 percent overall.

The largest increases in buyers took place on Black Friday (up 157 percent) and Cyber Monday (up 184 percent) from the weeks prior. “Shopper volume also saw an increase over the same period, up 49 percent with the largest days being Cyber Monday (up 74 percent) and Black Friday (up 68 percent),” Criteo’s data revealed.

Cyber Monday 2017 – a record-breaking year

Adobe reported that Cyber Monday hit a new record as the largest U.S. online sales day in history, with 6.59 billion dollars in sales, up 16.8 percent from $5.6 billion in 2016.

According to Adobe, Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day brought in 5.03 billion dollars and 2.87 billion dollars, respectively. The holiday shopping season so far has totalled 50 billion dollars in online revenue (+16.8 percent) and more than 1 billion dollars per day. Adobe is predicting this will be the first-ever holiday season to break 100 billion dollars in online sales.

“This past Cyber Monday, the behavior of shopping your work computer during the day is almost completely reversed,” said Taylor Schreiner, Director of Adobe Digital Insights. “This year, mobile shopping was dominant both in the morning and afternoon, and desktop only staged a comeback in the evening when people were home.”

Image: Amazon Cyber Monday, U.S. Web