Black Friday wins, disasters, website crashes, and learning from your mistakes

Both Black Friday and Cyber Monday have fallen foul of the classic over-promise/under-deliver mistake and the media would have us believe they’ve fizzled out this year… or have they?

The heavily discounted shopping event has instead taken to the internet in a massive way, perhaps in fear of repeating past supermarket brawls and unsavoury news reports. So what exactly happened and what can we, as marketers, learn from the event?

In case you missed it…

You might have been living under a rock recently in which case the entire concept of Black Friday/Cyber Monday might have slipped past you. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday kicks off a retail extravaganza with bargains and discounts aplenty and the long weekend is finished off with Cyber Monday, which this year fell on 30 November. Of course some retailers just can’t contain their excitement and started the fun off early, but the majority of retailers offer deals through the entire weekend and have internet-only deals on Cyber Monday to extend the spending spree for a further few days.

In fact…

Our own email send reports from the week leading up to Black Friday show that while Black Friday had the largest send volume throughout the entire day (no surprise there), it was actually Thursday evening that saw the highest hourly peak of sends.

Speaking from our own experience of what landed in our inbox, retailers really pushed the promotions of Black Friday reminder emails this year, with some even opening up their sales on the Thursday evening for consumers who just can’t wait. It appears that the Cyber weekend is gradually turning from a four day event to an even bigger five days…

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Email sends per day

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Email sends per hour

It’s not about the money, money, money

But when it comes to Black Friday, it actually is about the money. VISA predicted £1.9 billion would be spent in the UK on Black Friday alone which is up 4% from spending last year. Credit company Experian predicted that this year, Cyber Monday could result in £943m in e-commerce sales, up from £720m a year ago. Reassuring news for all online-based retailers who will be looking for a slice of that cash-pie!

Take to the web, not the streets

Forgoing crowds, lines and shopping brawls, online retailers have published data to confirm an increase in online sales during the four day event.

Amazon sold more than 7.4 million items on Black Friday alone, making it the online retailer’s most successful sales day ever in the UK. This year, the high street retailer John Lewis chose to market their deals specifically for Cyber Monday, and promised to honour their “Never Knowingly Undersold” pledge by matching competitors’ prices. In 2014 the company sold a NutriBullet every 30 seconds and a Samsung television set every minute, so they’ve sensibly learnt from this and targeted their strongest sales channel. It’s a crying shame their website crashed this year… Hubris can be the downfall of many an e-commerce store!

Getting involved without getting involved

ASDA are widely recognised as the driving force behind introducing the formerly American concept of Black Friday to the UK market, but this year they’ve turned their back on the main event, or did they?

The supermarket offered a slight tip-of-the-hat to Black Friday by cutting their petrol prices over the Black Friday weekend and also sought to attract buyers over a longer period by introducing a total of £26 million in savings on their products across November and December. They’re clearly looking for consistent numbers of shoppers across the festive period, not just relying on Black Friday bargain hunters to encourage sales.

So what did we learn?

Online retail is here to stay and is continually growing in popularity. Convenient and quick, online shopping allows customers to search for the best deals before parting with their hard-earned pennies. Not only that, but mobile is becoming an increasingly strong channel for shopping, offering the ultimate convenience of being able to spend-as-you-walk!

The benefits of online and mobile shopping is that retailers can also use social media to drive sales, offering one-click facilities to share the news of their latest purchase with their social group and thus increase brand awareness through user-generated content.


When it comes to planning successful campaigns, identify your strongest channel and target this appropriately as John Lewis has. However, learn from their mistakes and ensure that your website can cope with the amount of traffic a successful campaign can generate. What if it all goes horribly wrong? Don’t panic! A well-trained and ready customer service team will be able to cope with any disaster (web-based or natural!).

Also remember that consumers are ready and willing to buy in the lead up to black Friday and therefore are keeping an eye on their inboxes. Use this to your advantage to promote your sales in the lead-up to the big day and bag yourself some increased inbox-exposure.

Don’t forget also that disasters like website crashes allow you the opportunity to be reactive, so engage with customers across all channels and show them that your company is working hard behind the scenes to deliver a seamless service.

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Becky Hesilrige
Becky Hesilrige
Becky is the Content Marketing Manager at Pure360. She studied Sociology and conducted her dissertation on online communication and relationships. Follow Becky on Twitter @beckyhesilrige
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