Wunderman Thompson Commerce research shows consumer spending online skyrocketed during ‘peak’ moments in 2021, but is Black Friday losing its shine?

London, UK. Monday 28th February 2022: As cases of COVID-19 climbed and concerns over the then-new Omicron variant started to rise at the end of 2021, shoppers once again found themselves loosening their purse strings during the busiest shopping period of the year. Amazon was an unsurprising winner, with two-thirds (66%) of Black Friday shoppers using the marketplace to purchase something.

The reliability of digital wasn’t exclusive to Amazon, however. According to research by Wunderman Thompson Commerce of 2005 consumers in the UK, 73% of all Black Friday shopping was online, and 62% of consumers said Christmas celebrations would have been impossible without online shopping. And they let their wallets do the talking, as consumers spent on average £452 at Christmas, a 33% increase from the £341 spent in 2020.

Yet, even before shoppers started filling their stockings and decking their halls, the Black Friday fever overall whet the appetite of shoppers looking for the best deals. The average spent by UK consumers during the Black Friday period almost doubled, from £86 in 2020, to £168 in 2021.

But consumers are clear in that retailers need to work harder to offer them deals worth having, with (47%) of shoppers expressing disappointment in Black Friday offers. Even Amazon couldn’t stave consumer concern; despite a huge third (33%) of Black Friday spend passing through Amazon alone, this was down from 35% in 2020.

And expectations continue to rise year-by-year, with six-in-10 people believing retailers and brands should be better prepared for peak shopping periods; 56% of consumers go as far to say that deals are misleading during Black Friday.

But there is an indication of brighter times; even with increased uncertainty around deals, further coronavirus restrictions imposed by the government and a new COVID-19 variant, 28% of Black Friday shoppers claim they will spend more this year, versus just 14% who say they will spend less.

Hugh Fletcher, Global Head of Consultancy and Innovation at Wunderman Thompson Commerce, said: “Black Friday and Christmas are one of the few constants in the ever-evolving retail sector, but the desire to hunt for deals and where shoppers spend their cash has changed. Even the pull of Amazon – with its easy access, convenience and reliable marketplace – may be waning, as consumers start to cast their nets wider in a post-lockdown world.”

“But retailers have reason to remain optimistic. They can meet rising consumer confidence with genuine and bespoke deals that build relationships with shoppers through personalised online deals that then drive footfall, or influencer partnerships to help brands connect with the new generation of digital natives. Peak isn’t going away anytime soon; but it’s how retailers, brands and marketplaces respond to an increasingly savvy consumer base that will define future successes.”

And while the rise of online shopping continues unabated, consumers are also calling out retailers that fail to provide ethical and sustainable products and services. Over a quarter (26%) actively choose to buy from brands and retailers with a sustainable focus during Black Friday.

What’s more, a further 25% of consumers identified eco-friendly labelling as an improvement they would like to see in 2022 – more than contactless payments (21%), where an item is sourced from (17%) and the availability of instantly downloadable/digital items (15%).

Mario D’Cruz, Head of Service Operations at Wunderman Thompson Commerce, said:With 76% of consumers telling us their increased spending will be online this year, retailers and brands must prepare for the 2022 Q4 mega peak. Optimising services, reducing tech debt, and de-risking older platforms will all help increase the value of targeted investment into their eCommerce platforms. Observability is also critical in managing complexity, decreasing triage times and focusing teams to address warning signs before they become disruptive.”

For more details and to see how the UK faired against the US and China download the full report, “Preparation Prevents Poor Peak Performance”.

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