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What you missed: Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Zara’s data recipe, a chatbot deep-dive

Black Friday
Black Friday

This week’s news is of course dominated by the Black Friday weekend results. Online sales reached new highs in the US on Black Friday itself, up 21.6% year-on-year to $3.34bn. Unsurprisingly, mobile was a significant part of that growth, generating 36% of total digital sales, in a 33% rise from 2015, and 55% of all mobile shopping visits, according to Adobe. It was a similar story for Cyber Monday, with mobile generating 53% of online visits and 35% of sales.

In the UK, meanwhile, over 57% of traffic came from mobile devices on Black Friday rising to 75% at certain times of day. Overall online sales were only up 6.7% year-on-year however, yet footfall in stores was also up 2.8%, despite an expected 5% drop. “This demonstrates the fact that customers want a balance. Between online and physical shopping experiences, the high street isn’t as obsolete as some might think,” said Rupal Karia, managing director for retail and hospitality, UK and Ireland, at Fujitsu.

We’ve otherwise rounded up some of the best stories to read summarising everything that happened below. Also worth checking out from this week past is a deep-dive on Zara’s recipe for success, further updates on everything Instagram versus Snapchat, and an ultimate guide to chatbots.


BLACK FRIDAY / CYBER MONDAY UPDATE
  • Cyber Monday sales surge to record $3.45bn in the US [Retail Dive]
  • The US winners and losers of Black Friday 2016 [Retail Dive]
  • Black Friday online sales growth falls short in the UK but shop visits rise [Sky]
  • About 10 million more Americans shopped online than in stores over Black Friday weekend [Fortune]
  • How did Manhattan’s luxury stores fare on Black Friday? [Bloomberg]
  • Patagonia donated 100% of Black Friday sales to eco-causes [Ecouterre]
  • We might look back on 2016 as the year Black Friday hit an inflection point [LeanLuxe]

OTHER TOP STORIES
  • Zara’s recipe for success: more data, fewer bosses [Yahoo!]
  • Gap’s CEO missed the brand’s biggest problem when he called creative directors “false messiahs” [Quartz]
  • Email outpacing social media in e-commerce, stoking innovation [WWD]

BUSINESS
  • Yoox Net-A-Porter Group to launch in the Middle East [Fashionista]
  • Matchesfashion.com launches 90-minute delivery service in London [WWD]
  • Is e-commerce really better for the environment than traditional retail? [BoF]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Is Snapchat the next Facebook, or the next Twitter? [WWD]
  • Instagram is now letting users stream Live videos that disappear as soon as they end [Wired]
  • How this quirky clothing brand uses Snapchat to sell more shorts [Venture Beat]
  • Spyder using NFC to connect with customers through social media [WWD]

RETAIL
  • Missguided unveils first standalone store in Westfield Stratford [The Industry]

TECHNOLOGY
  • The ultimate guide to Chatbots: Why they’re disrupting UX and best practices for building [Medium]
  • Uniqlo is experimenting with MindMeld’s ‘smarter bots’ on Facebook [Engadget]
  • These new adidas shoes are made from lab-grown spider silk [Motherboard]
  • Scientists have created a solar-powered fabric that would let you charge your phone with your jacket [Quartz]
  • Soon you can scan a garment’s label to find out how sustainable it is [NY Observer]

START-UPS
  • How Stitch Fix blends AI and human expertise [HBR]
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data e-commerce Editor's pick mobile

Cyber Monday, Black Friday: Big numbers and bigger questions

dollar-bills

The intense focus on numbers at this time of year can be rather wearing, not to say confusing. Every day it seems we hear about percentage sales that have gone up or down and billions of dollars or pounds spent in stores, online or via smartphones.

However, what matters as much as the numbers themselves is the story behind them and what it all means for understanding the evolving consumer, for quarterly profits and for future strategy.

Take Adobe Digital Index’s final Cyber Monday tally, which includes some really big numbers. US shoppers, it seems spent 16% more this Cyber Monday than last and sales hit $3.07bn, the first time the day broke through the $3bn barrier in the US.

Discounts, smartphones and stock problems

What drove those numbers? Deeper-than-ever discounts, according to Adobe. Whether that’s good news or bad will become clear when November same-store sales reports and Q4 earnings reports are released. For a fashion industry trying to get consumers used to paying full price, discount-driven higher sales could be a double-edged sword that boosts revenue but also slices through margins. We’ll have to wait and see on that one.

Smartphones also helped make the numbers bigger. A lot of browsing was done via mobile and Adobe said 26% of actual transactions were via mobile devices.

But one factor that didn’t drive sales was the huge out-of-stock problem. I’ve already reported news that 15 out of every 100 products returned ‘unavailable’ messages on Monday. That’s no surprise given that, at 17%, US online sales between Thursday and Sunday outpaced Cyber Monday’s 16%. Americans spent around $8.03bn on those four days with the average order worth over $135 leaving many virtual shelves empty by end-of-play on Sunday.

Physical stores

OK, we know online sales exploded. How did that affect trips to physical stores? Store visits in the US were, unsurprisingly, down 10.4% on Cyber Monday, ShopperTrak said, falling to (an albeit huge) $20.43bn.

And a shift in the balance towards online was a key a characteristic of the whole shopping weekend. Over 103m people in the US shopped online over the four-day weekend but under 102m shopped in-store, the National Retail Federation said.

Obviously, lots of people are still shopping in physical stores but with the numbers going down, we could see some major rethinks in retailer initiatives next year.

What did they buy?

Back with that $3.07bn Cyber Monday number, key product categories were dominated by electronics and toys, aided by average discounts a little over 20%. Fashion certainly wasn’t the top priority and I’ve seen some contradictory reports about how the category performed Thursday-through-Monday either in stores or online. But there were some interesting stats released this morning.

We’ve already highlighted figures from Lyst on this site showing that where people were buying clothes and accessories, the big success story wasn’t partywear as might be expected, but loungewear. Consumers snapped up those comfortable pieces that they could buy any time of year but that came with hefty discounts attached. Not convinced? Lyst data showed 13% more purchases of slippers than stilettos, 43% more sweatpants than miniskirts, and three hoodies bought for every blouse.

The report also cited a focus on luxe loungewear with cashmere socks, luxury pyjama styles, high-end onesies and blanket scarves all popular. Apparently, Acne’s oversized Canada scarf sold out in minutes across all of Lyst’s global retail partners.

What does this mean for partywear? With many prices now back to ‘normal’ levels after the Black Friday/Cyber Monday frenzy, stores must be hoping that shoppers won’t delay their party purchases too long or panic discounting could hit closer to Christmas.

Future focus

Analysts at the moment don’t seem to be worried about the high level of discounting with NPD’s Marshal Cohen saying “businesses fared better this year because they planned it out better.”

But there’s no denying that for November/December 2016, they’ll need to up their game again and plan even better still. What are the factors to take into account?

  • Sales via smartphone are going through the roof but with sales of tablets at both ends of the price scale (iPad minis and Amazon Fire) surging over the four-day weekend, shopping apps still need to be tablet-friendly.
  • Laptop and desktop shopping has stayed popular and was key for higher value transactions.
  • Consumers are increasingly happy to shop at unsociable hours and this should be encouraged given the amount of website outages at busier times later in the day. Thanksgiving evening and midnight to 07:00 on Black Friday and Cyber Monday are key.
  • In Britain, Black Friday is not seen as a must-do-it day to shop in-store but Saturday is. All the special events retailers lay on won’t necessarily encourage Brits to take the day off when they can head down to the mall for the same bargains just 24 hours later.
  • In-store sales are falling on both sides of the Atlantic but are still high. Retailers need to lay on special events but timing is crucial as such initiatives alone won’t lure people to stores (see point above).
  • E-tailers need to do just what they thought they’d done after last year – work harder to ensure websites don’t crash.
  • They also need to manage inventory more carefully so that fewer goods are out of stock on Cyber Monday.
  • We need answers to the question of how long the Black Friday/Cyber Monday ‘season’ really is. We’ve heard talk of Black Friday Fortnight and Cyber Week. Planning how far in advance to kick off discounts and how long to continue them is crucial.
  • And of course, retailers must get to grips with the problem of maximising full price sales. Eternal discounting may work for some retail giants but for most businesses, margin protection is what’s key.

This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday

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data e-commerce Editor's pick

Netflix and chill? Forget partywear, Cyber Weekend sales were all about lounge gear says Lyst

Lyst_loungewear

Given we’re headfirst into party season, with every retailer online and offline focusing their efforts accordingly on occasionwear, you’d be forgiven for thinking sales over this past weekend would have reflected similar thought.

But that’s where you’d be wrong…

During the Black Friday to Cyber Monday period, it was out with the party dresses and high heels, and in with luxury loungewear fit for curling up on the couch in, according to Lyst.

The e-commerce platform said it saw 13% more purchases of slippers than stilettos, 43% more sweatpants sold than mini skirts, and three hoodies bought for every blouse.

It also saw cashmere socks trending, and shoppers choosing traditional, cosy pyjama styles over ‘sexier’ lingerie pieces; full-length, long sleeve sets by Calvin Klein and DKNY out-sold more delicate lace and silk nightwear. There was also a big uptick in searches for luxury onesies and blanket scarves, with Acne’s oversized Canada scarf selling out in minutes across Lyst’s global retail partners.

It’s a Christmas for cosy, comfortable styles made in feel-good fabrications, said the site in a statement.

That insight comes from Lyst’s analysis of search, sales and active browsing data across its 11,000 partner retailers and brands, and shoppers in 180 countries. In any given hour, Lyst analyses over 4.5 million points of fashion data. Check out its tongue-in-cheek debut campaign displaying some of the search terms it sees its users focus on.

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e-commerce mobile

Tablets still key in an m-commerce world say Walmart, Amazon

ipad-mini

Two things became very clear from Cyber Monday. Well, a lot more became clear actually but for now I’m focusing on just two. Mobile is key, really, really key. And we shouldn’t write off tablets any time soon.

First, let’s look at mobile. Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer said today: “Mobile firmly established itself as the dominant shopping trend, for both traffic and sales.”

The company said mobile is making up more than 70% of traffic to Walmart.com. But it’s not just about visitors browsing because nearly half of its actual orders since Thanksgiving have been placed on a mobile device – that’s double compared to last year.

“Our customers went from previously mostly searching and browsing on mobile, to making purchases at a much higher rate,” it said of stats that simply can’t be ignored.

And what about tablets? Despite falling sales and a lot of analysts predicting that tablets are being squeezed out by larger-screen smartphones and touchscreen laptops, it looks like they’re making a comeback.

Walmart said iPad minis sold strongly and were among the products that gained the biggest boost in popularity over the past few days. Meanwhile, Amazon sold a massive number of its own-brand Fire tablets. In fact, Fire sales rose threefold and proved to be among the bestselling devices across its platforms.

Amazon said: “We’ve reached a tipping point with Fire, it is our fastest-selling tablet ever. We’ve already built millions and we’re ramping up production to build millions more.”

So there you have it – think mobile, but don’t only think smartphone.

This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday

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e-commerce Editor's pick

Cyber Monday keeps top e-shopping title

nordstrom-cyber-monday

Another day, another special retail event. It’s Cyber Monday (as if you didn’t know) and the question is: will it retain its status in the US as the biggest online shopping day?

Some thought it wouldn’t as Black Friday’s online migration has picked up pace and shoppers no longer need to wait until they get back to work to take advantage of fast internet connections.

But, as Mark Twain would say, reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, fewer people plan to shop online today but they’re still going to be online in greater numbers than last Friday. Perhaps that’s inevitable given that they had the luxury of shopping in-store when they were off work on Friday but haven’t today.

Anyway, the National Retail Federation’s Cyber Monday Expectations Survey (conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics over the weekend), showed 121m shoppers (49.5%) plan to shop online today, down from the 126.9m a year ago. The NRF said 103m people shopped online over the weekend.

Why today? It’s all down to the deals. “Unlike 10 years ago, we live in a world in which you can shop anywhere at any time,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “It’s no longer about one day, but a season of digital deals, and savvy online shoppers are ready to see what exclusive promotions retailers have in store for Cyber Monday. Shoppers have seen promotions roll out for the past several weeks, but if the price is right on Cyber Monday, they’ll definitely show up ready to spend.”

What else does the survey show us?

  • Mobile is key but not dominant. While 29.6m (24.4%) consumers said they will use their mobile device to shop on Cyber Monday, eight in 10 (80%) said they will use their home computers to shop online, despite heavy retailer investment in optimising their mobile websites
  • That’s interesting as data has also shown that online shopping from traditional computers rose nearly 10% on Black Friday
  • As many as 42.4% of Cyber Monday shoppers plan to shop online in the early morning, while a third (33%) will shop in the late morning
  • Many will wait until lunchtime to shop (16.6%) and over a quarter will take a more leisurely approach, waiting until early afternoon (29.5%)

This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday

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Comment e-commerce

Comment counts: Are you prepared for Black Friday UK’s £1bn shopping day?

With Black Friday on the horizon, retailers should have completed their final stages of preparation, ready to capitalise on the sales potential of the day and beyond. John Beechen of Salmon, outlines a final checklist.

blackfriday

This year it has been predicted that Black Friday will lead to the UK’s first £1bn online shopping day. In order to ensure success, retailers need to take learnings from 2014 to prepare for the increased level of activity. While a spike on the peak trading days was anticipated last year, it was clear many were not ready. As bargain hunters searched online for deals, some websites went offline for long periods of time, while others were slower at processing orders due to customer overloads, resulting in frustration from customers.

As an annual event, everyone knows it’s coming this week, but the scale of consumer demand at any given time can be unpredictable. Retailers need to have addressed their online operations in a bid to prevent anything that could damage the customer experience and result in lost sales. Those who are as prepared as possible, from front-end to back-end, will be the ones who triumph.

Here are five key things retailers need to have done ahead of the UK’s biggest retail event of the year:

1. Staggered marketing activities

Although a surge on Black Friday is inevitable, feeding customer deals gradually in the time leading up to and beyond the big day will have kept consumers shopping throughout the peak and on Cyber Monday, while reducing strain on infrastructure and fulfilment teams.

2. Briefed the business

Retailers need to have ensured every department is au fait with the plan for peak trading on 27 November – not just in silo but across the entire business. Being aligned will ensure all online trading and operations teams can anticipate surges and be ready.

3. Run an incident test

Ideally, the majority – if not all – performance checks will have already been completed across all online platforms. Simulating a major incident to understand how watertight your contingency plan is, will enable retailers to understand how they will cope with a “dam burst” scenario if faced with an unexpected influx of traffic on the day.

4. Created a back-up plan

If you are completely unprepared it’s not too late to put some basic functionality in place. For example, adding a queuing system whereby customers are placed in a waiting line to access the website will help to control the surge and reduce the chances of the site crashing. This is also a good contingency plan for retailers on the day, should they suffer unexpected problems, implementing a queuing system can relieve strain on back end operations whilst the problem is fixed.

5. Ensured staffing plans are set

Your staffing plans and shifts should be set, with everyone involved in peak operations (including your vendors) aware of their role and responsibility during the period. Shifts should be in place for both Black Friday and the weekend, and contact details published.

John Beechen is head of managed services at global commerce service provider, Salmon.

Comment Counts is a series of opinion pieces from experts within the industry. Do you have something to say? Get in touch via info@fashionandmash.com.

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business e-commerce Editor's pick

Welcome to Cyber Sunday: E-tail will never be the same again

la-redoute

Cyber Monday is now Cyber Sunday. That’s official. Well, at least as far as Walmart is concerned. The company is going to launch its Cyber Monday deals a day early this year.

Why? Is the retail giant-of-giants regretting pulling back from Black Friday now that the momentum is really building, or is this a logical move that simply reflects reality? Maybe a bit of both.

Walmart.com CEO Fernando Madeira pointed out the logic of changing tack. “The customers have changed but Cyber Monday hasn’t changed with them,” he told Reuters. “Now everyone has [the] internet.”

The fact is that Cyber Monday is no longer the year’s biggest online shopping day. China’s Singles Day has taken that crown and in some markets like the UK, Black Friday beat it last year too. Even in the US, the gap is closing with Adobe predicting $3bn in online sales on Monday but as much as $2.7bn on Friday.

It used to be that Americans got back to their offices on the Monday after Thanksgiving and took advantage of all those new-fangled computers and the high speed wifi they found there to go shopping. Seems almost funny now.

What it means as far as Walmart is concerned is that instead of the smattering of teaser deals it offered on the same Sunday last year, there’ll be 2,000 online-only specials available from 8pm.

The power of online

The move to Cyber Sunday also reflects a wider online-driven trend that sees retailers deciding when is the best time to offer deals and knowing that their smartphone-toting customers will be ready.

Black Friday is still key, of course, as its timing is perfect for Christmas shopping. But the rise of online shopping has shifted the shopping event scenery to create alternative Black Fridays at other times. Amazon has proved that with its Amazon Prime Days earlier in the year. Alibaba has proved it with Singles Day on November 11.

The onward march of online has also changed Black Friday itself and we’re seeing proof of that this year with a whole load of tweaks to usual retailer behaviour over Black Friday/Cyber Monday, of which Walmart’s move is the highest-profile.

Why is the change happening so fast in a world where e-sales are still the smallest percentage of total sales? Currently, more than 92% of total US retail sales still happen in physical stores and in Britain, the figure is still around 90%. But for both countries, online is a disproportionately large force in special shopping events like Black Friday. In the UK, for instance, over a third of the near-£2bn likely to be spent on the day will be online.

And that gives retailers the chance to extend the event on their websites as they’re not bound by shoppers’ abilities to get to stores. In fact, a lot of retailers launched Black Friday early this year with plenty of deals available last week and this week even more.

In France, where physical retail is still reeling from the Paris attacks, online is also changing the landscape and Black Friday is morphing too. La Redoute, which said the Friday-through-Sunday period was its second biggest shopping weekend in 2014 (as pictured), has renamed it Le Grand Weekend. But despite the use of the word “weekend”, its deals start today and end next Monday.

So whatever happens on Black Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday and Cyber Saturday, Sunday or Monday, one thing we know is that shopping will never be the same again.

This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday

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data e-commerce Editor's pick

Lyst data shows Mansur Gavriel bucket bags, classic Burberry trenches to trend in Black Friday fashion sales

Mansur Gavriel Leather Bucket Bag 1

Fashion marketplace Lyst is predicting what will be a top seller during the sales period this Thanksgiving weekend off the back of consumer behaviour witnessed on its platform.

It places bucket bags and luxe backpacks like the Mansur Gavriel styles, as well as luxury lingerie from Myla, Agent Provocateur and Calvin Klein as among the big items. Others include fluffy coats from contemporary labels like Sandro, Maje and Zara, and classic styles like the trench coat, peacoat and robe coats in luxury fabrications from the likes of Burberry and Maxmara.

Brands including J Cew, Alexander Wang, Acne and APC will see uptake across basic sweats, t-shirts and fine knits in navy, grey and black, while statement shoes will play out through Balenciaga, Jimmy Choo, Steve Madden and Sophia Webster choices.

Lyst’s data scientists have pulled information from what’s currently trending on its site, as well as what people are adding to their feeds to receive sales alerts on.

Burberry-Holiday-2014

The top 10 most searched-for designers on Lyst right now are: Prada, Givenchy, Gucci, Burberry, Valentino, Saint Laurent, Zara, Kenzo, Balmain and Topshop.

Lyst is expecting to have two million visitors to its site over the four days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday inclusively, and will be generating approximately 500,000 product updates every hour to help customers know immediately when the piece they have been lusting after go on sale, at the best price.

It will also launch The Holiday Shop on November 28, a virtual pop-up area on the site showcasing the hottest offers from the world of fashion in a bid to help facilitate consumers with their shopping. It will likewise provide real-time stock and price updates, this time all in one place across a broad variety of brands.

Lyst - The Holiday Shop

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e-commerce mobile

eBay UK expects big sales next weekend

ebay-christmas
ebay.co.uk is predicting Sunday November 30 to be its busiest shopping day of the whole year.

‘Super Sunday’ as it’s been dubbed, falls of course between Black Friday and Cyber Monday – traditionally the two big days for in-store and online sales respectively in the US. Those holiday dates are becoming increasingly resonant in the UK too as retailers offer equivalent deals and savings to entice shoppers in the run up to Christmas.

eBay is predicting over seven million Brits will head to its site within 24 hours, between them purchasing 1,800 gifts per minute from a selection of over 800 million items worldwide.

Convenience is also on offer following an extended partnership deal with Argos earlier this year that now sees over 65,000 sellers on the UK site offering ‘click and collect’ as an option from any of the retailer’s 650 stores nationwide.

Tanya Lawler, VP for eBay Marketplaces in the UK commented: “This Christmas, above all, people want convenience and selection. Online and multi-channel retailers are able to offer fantastic depth within their product ranges and combine this with convenient local collection services like Click & Collect – the perfect formula for today’s time-poor holiday shopper.”

Not surprisingly, mobile access is expected to play a big part, driving 59% of (global) traffic. Peak time for that day is also expected to be between 8pm and 9pm.

Big winners will include Xbox, iPad, Bose Sound Bar, Lego and Playmobil, as already trending on the ebay.co.uk/Christmas shop. Each hour Brits are also currently purchasing everything from five teddy bears to 258 mobile phones and 318 handbags.

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digital snippets e-commerce mobile social media

Digital snippets: Holiday retail round-up special

Given it’s the day before Thanksgiving in the US – meaning retailers are about to go all out on heavy promotions – here’s a special round-up of all the ways they’re using social and digital to help lure the seasonal shopper and start converting those all-important Holiday sales…

ebayinc_digitalstorefront_rm4 (2)

  • eBay debuts shoppable touchscreens and digital storefronts for Sony, Toms And Rebecca Minkoff in San Francisco (as pictured) [TechCrunch]
  • Target launches “most digitally enabled campaign” in its history, pins hopes on Pinterest this holiday season [Co.Create]
  • Topshop partners with Pinterest for online and offline Holiday campaign [Fashion&Mash]
  • JC Penney launches first Holiday campaign under new marketing head, includes crowdsourcing initiative inviting users to upload videos of themselves singing ‘Silent Night’ [AdAge]
  • ‘Reserve in Store’ service rolling out to all Banana Republic stores across the US, 200 Gap [CNBC]
  • Jingle all the way at Kmart with #showyourjoe Christmas ad [Fashion&Mash]
  • Kohl’s adds emotional brand spots to Holiday mix [AdAge]
  • Hollister teases Black Friday deals on YouTube [ClickZ]
  • All the interactive elements accompanying John Lewis’ #bearandhare Christmas ad [Fashion&Mash]
  • Cath Kidston, Bauble Bar driving traffic with Christmas treasure hunt campaigns [Fashion&Mash]
  • Michaels offers interactive Holiday help with live elf available through streaming video [Chain Store Age]
  • M&S teases Christmas #magicandsparkle campaign over social [Fashion&Mash]
  • Louis Vuitton highlights gift ideas on interactive goose game [Luxury Daily]
  • Tillys runs ugly Christmas sweater contest over Instagram [Tillys]
  • Neiman Marcus teams up with Shapeways to offer 3D printed holiday capsule collection [PSFK]