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Published on November 12th, 2021 | by The GC Team

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Black Friday, ‘constant commerce’ and the Amazon effect

Consumer spending on Black Friday this year is set to increase by 15% from 2020 to well over £6 billion, with the rise of social media and social commerce suggested as an “unexpected avenue” for retailers.

According to eCommerce experts Wunderman Thompson Commerce, overall spend during the Black Friday peak period (Friday November 12th to Monday November 29th) is expected to hit £6.25 billion, with shoppers on the hunt for deals earlier to avoid the last-minute Christmas rush, and the gnawing sense that some products may be impossible to obtain due to supply chain disruptions and shortages.

Amazon and inspiration

The eCommerce firm’s Peak 2021 study found that 70% of Black Friday shoppers indicated they would increase their spend online, vs 29% who said they would up their in-store spend, with the principal beneficiary being retail colossus Amazon, which last year commanded over a third of UK consumer spend.

Amazon, the unsurprising winner, is estimated to have its coffers swelled by a further 5% this year due to a longer peak discounting period and the introduction of “Black Friday-worthy” early deals, despite global supply chain limitations and staff shortages.

For the record, 71% of UK Black Friday shoppers bought from Amazon during the Black Friday period last year, according to the Peak 2021 study. In comparison, eBay (31%), Argos (25%) and John Lewis (15%) all fell short of the marketplace’s convenience, deals and price-point.

And Amazon is not simply a place to purchase products. Reading has it that the retailer has become a source of inspiration for many shoppers, with 18% saying they use it to guide their purchasing decisions.

Other sources of inspiration shoppers rely on include influencers (18%) and social media (20%) – the latter used for ideas, and, for finding good deals online. 

Constant commerce

As seeking out ideas and deals has become second nature to consumers, the rise of social media and social commerce is seen as an “unexpected avenue” for retailers this year.

Nicolas Rieul, MD Western Europe at retail expert Criteo, whose research shows shoppers view their first product on retailers’ websites an average of 15 days before completing the purchase on Black Friday, refers to the rise in ‘constant commerce’ – i.e. “the idea that consumers are more plugged into their devices than ever before. In fact,” he says, “this specific shift in consumer behaviour may even cause it to be the biggest November yet.”

Looking back at the end of last year, 9% of UK Black Friday spending was done via social commerce, while 32% of event shoppers said that they were comfortable buying via social media channels. And with just 17% of people saying that their Black Friday shopping behaviour will revert to pre-pandemic levels, it would appear that these changes are more than just a temporary post-Covid related trend.

Other factors

But there are other factors at play this year, placing even more hurdles in retailers’ path. Hugh Fletcher, Global Head of Consultancy and Innovation at Wunderman Thompson Commerce, warns that retailers “mustn’t overlook the multitude of challenges in the UK, including supply chain disruption, a shortage of HGV drivers, Brexit complications and price inflation”.

He adds: “With the Christmas rush likely to become the Black Friday rush this year, retailers need to have their front- and back-end ready earlier – and pay close attention to consumer shopping behaviour. Keeping up with this demand will ultimately come down to the maturity of digital services, as well as the ability to compliment in-store discounting through click and collect, next-day delivery and social media activity.”

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