Black Friday crowned biggest UK online shopping day as holiday period shifts to match the US calendar

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Black Friday is now the single biggest day for online traffic to UK retailers, an analysis from SimilarWeb, a global leader in digital market intelligence has revealed.

The recently imported discount day set the biggest one-day shopping peak last year, recording a 14% rise in traffic in 2014 and the biggest spike of traffic  for retailers (5.2%) in the period from 26 November to 26 December. The day created major one-day boosts for individual retailers, with H&M seeing a 111% rise in online visits, Sports Direct, 96% and John Lewis 77%.

The report, “The Rise of The UK Mega Shopping Day”, reveals that overall five “Mega Shopping Days” are now responsible for the biggest one-day spikes in the retail calendar, providing an even earlier kickstart to the festive period in late November.

Based on an index of leading retailers which represent 40% of the total traffic in the UK from the online shopping industry, traffic sees the highest peaks the day before Black Friday (this year on 26 November, which is Thanksgiving in the US), Black Friday (27 November) CyberMonday (30 November) Christmas Day (25 December) and Boxing Day (26 December). Of these, three US imports, Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday,  saw a  25.7% rise in traffic from 2013 to 2014.

Emergence of US Thanksgiving sees UK shoppers shopping earlier than ever

While Black Friday leads the pack of online shopping days, the joint second-placed Mega Day in the list is US Thanksgiving, the day before. This fellow US import registered a 30% increase in desktop traffic last year (a 4.2% of daily share of the busiest period of the year) and several electronics retailers celebrated Thanksgiving with one-day traffic wins of 252% (Game) 243% (PC World) and 195% (Currys).

In joint second place was Boxing Day, which saw no increase in growth from 2013 but grabbed a 4.2% daily share of festive traffic. The day looks set to once again be dominated by DIY and home furnishing retailers — winners for the biggest Boxing Day spikes last year were IKEA, (84% rise in traffic), B&Q (80%) and Homebase (63%).

In third place the web-centric Cyber Monday, also imported from the US, appears to have lost some of its lustre following the earlier peaks of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, but secured a 9% rise in traffic since 2013.

The fifth and final online sales event is Christmas Day itself which saw a 3.4% share of one-day traffic, as many Britons turned their backs on festive traditions to shop online, mainly on clothing sites. The biggest winners on Christmas Day are New Look, registering a 168% rise in visits, Asos 131% and H&M, 111%.

Overall, two online giants, Amazon and eBay, continue to dominate the Mega Shopping days for sheer number of visitors, with combined website visits of around 10 million on these major sales days. This represented 25% more traffic than the next largest online 23 retailers combined.

Shift to smartphones and tablets for festive shopping

The shift in shopping to smartphones and tablets is also set to continue this festive shopping season – last year consumers used their smartphones and tablets 62% of the time they were browsing the UK’s top online retailers’ website.

Joel Zand, digital insights manager at SimilarWeb, said: “In the space of only two years the festive shopping habits of UK consumers has changed beyond recognition. Several companies are adopting promotions and campaigns capitalising on the shift in consumer behaviour and the rise of these new sales days. This is bringing people online earlier and in bigger numbers than we have ever seen.

“Retailers are also appreciating that the majority of their customers are now browsing and buying over this period on their smartphones, creating the added challenge of offering a seamless service across all touch points on the busiest shopping dates of the year.”