Black Friday is coming up quickly on the 25th of November. Retailers are preparing for an all-hour shopping frenzy lasting until Cyber Monday, which has been estimated at up to £5 billion in total spending.
In our recent article, featured in the BRC Quarterly Report, we wrote about how online visit share (i.e. how often your website was visited compared to your retail peers) was a key metric contested across every hour over this period. Numerous months of planning promotions, product offerings, content and channel strategy all boiled down to whether your brand was actually being seen and visited online.
For this article, we will take a step back and look deeper into one of the key inputs impacting online visit share – where these visitors came from (the upstream/referring channels) and when (the day and hour consumers clicked through to retail websites). To do so, we extracted Hitwise data from 2015’s Black Friday period and looked into the 5 key upstream channels of: Search, Social Media, Email, Rewards and Print News & Media (please refer to the end of article for classification explanation). Below are some of our key findings.
1. As expected, search drove the majority of traffic to retail sites over the week leading up to Black Friday.
Search optimisation is critical for a retailer’s online visibility over the Black Friday period, and was by far the largest upstream channel according to 2015’s data. This dominance was particularly seen at the start of the week, which peaked in the evenings at 8pm, and further increased on the day before Black Friday, from 7pm onwards.
2. Upstream channels, such as email, peaked at different times over the week.
To differentiate and personalise, search needs to be co-ordinated with other upstream channels. Timing also needs to be taken into account, as our 2015 hourly data showed that peaks occurred during different periods of the day. In the lead up to Black Friday, emails had two peaks in the morning and late afternoon/evening, compared to social and rewards channels, which spiked in the late evening. Patterns furthermore changed on Black Friday, where a higher share of emails and rewards was seen from 9am onwards.
3. Amazon and eBay also drew from a higher share of clicks from social and email channels.
Search was expectedly the dominant channel for all top retailers in the lead up to Black Friday. However, the difference for Amazon and eBay came from a higher reliance on social and email channels. The greater share of clicks to these sites from social and email was furthermore maintained from Monday to Black Friday.
4. Timing is critical for campaign execution, as seen with Amazon and eBay’s approach with email and social.
Amazon was able to capture traffic from emails during the morning peak period. With consecutive emails sent by Amazon on Black Friday, a continuous stream of afternoon traffic was also received. As for eBay, clicks through social media peaked during the channel’s prime time period of 8pm to 10pm in the evenings.
Whilst search was the largest referring channel over the Black Friday period, a multi-channel approach is still required to differentiate and personalise with consumers. Our data revealed that peak times varied depending on the upstream channel, and that top retailers used such insight to spark consumer interest. Therefore, a deeper understanding into when and how consumers interact with different channels is needed to improve online visibility.