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A very American Import: the first takeaways from Cyber Weekend

At Yieldify, we are keenly aware of the challenges our eRetail clients faced over the Cyber weekend.

The spike in traffic through eRetail channels – which crashed many major eCommerce platforms – has been well documented in the press. As customers rushed through retailers’ doors, websites buckled under the pressure from onsite visitors, online imitating offline.

But don’t get distracted by the in-store brawls. Downed websites and fights over flatscreen TVs aside, a lot of revenue has been driven this sales period.

Online holiday shopping spend is up 15% with more than $1.5 billion spent on Black Friday alone [1]. Early data from the weekend foregrounds the role of online in the holiday retail strategy – this is despite a fall in overall Black Friday sales by 11% compared to last year [2].


So what can we learn from the eRetail experience this Cyber Weekend?

Here are our key insights for eRetailers in its wake to help you futureproof your eCommerce channels:

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

The winners of the Cyber Weekender are brands who took a forward-thinking proactive approach, planning months in advance for the big event. Brands who decided on their messaging well ahead of time overshadowed those with a less reactive approach. The same applies in terms of preparation for heavy server load.

And outage and downtime was only half the picture. On Black Friday, eCommerce desktop pages were 20% slower than in 2013 with mobile pages loading 57% slower [3]. That slowdown was not only as a result of the higher traffic, but also due to the larger amount of data being displayed on each page compared to sites last year.

Queuing dehumanises the shopping experience

The online buyer experience lives and dies on convenience, efficiency and personalisation. Website outages, overcapacity messaging and queues for entry can undermine public confidence in a retailer’s online offering.

The Twitterstorm of frustrated users on the day demonstrates the negative PR a lack of technical readiness can earn a brand.

Invest in cross-channel to improve efficiency

Technologies and businesses are now emerging which will allow you to create greater purchase convenience for your customers – services which will be highly relevant to making future intensive sales periods more efficient.

Click-and-collect solutions enable you to streamline a buyer journey by bridging the gap between online and offline. For example, by allowing a user to order their item online and collect in-store, you could reduce the bodies in a store on deal day and even reduce the number of users clamouring to get through the website’s checkout.

Going further, new UK firm Doddle intends to open 300 lockers in all major UK train stations to allow location-tailored click-and-collect hubs. Amazon are trying a slightly different approach by placing lockers into other people’s shops (7-Eleven in the US and the Co-op in London). Click-and-collect services blur the line between digital and physical channels to create a convenient experience for users, while driving down the cost of delivery returns [4].

Be smart with your discounts

Black Friday is often misconstrued as a time to heavily discount which can lead to concerns over brand damage and potential negative margins. There isn’t necessarily a need to target all users with the strongest possible incentive – instead, you can tier this based on the user behaviour and previous relationship with the customer.

First time users are harder to acquire and will be more likely to bounce during a competitive period. Encouraging conversion through dynamic messaging – using a timer countdown or basket value upsells – should increase urgency on a traditional offer, without the need for excessive discounting.

Get ready for omnichannel

On Black Friday 35% of the sales we drove for a major women’s fashion client came through tablet. Considering also that mobile now accounts for more than a fifth (23%) of online sales, up from only 17% in 2013 [5], it is clear that eRetailers who neglected mobile and tablet channels will have lost out on revenue.

Your priority as an eRetailer should be to put in place a sound, operational multichannel setup. Only then can you look ahead to implementing a seamless joined up omnichannel experience. Cyber Weekend’s crash stories expose the fact that many brands are simply not ready for omnichannel.

Cyber weekend is the shape of eComm to come

Smart eRetailers will be analysing their Cyber Weekend performance, treating it as a test period, rather than once-in-a-blue-moon event.

This is because eRetail is set to grow 9.1% in the UK through 2018, from £37.2 billion last year to £57.6 billion in 2018 [6]. That revenue will be driven by soaring numbers of online shoppers. Brick-and mortar still accounts for the vast majority of purchases, but the numbers of users choosing to purchase online continues to grow at speed.

Already, 71% of US internet users with a household income of $75,000 or more choose online-only stores such as Amazon.com and eBay as their shopping venues of choice [7].

It is therefore crucial for eRetailers to learn from these short periods of high traffic. Don’t rely on the march of technology to support the growth in traffic coming onto your channels – now is the time to take the opportunity to simulate that near future where high level traffic conditions will be the norm.


[1] Catchpoint Systems via VentureBeat http://venturebeat.com/2014/11/30/black-friday-2014-e-commerce-desktop-pages-were-20-slower-than-in-2013-mobile-pages-were-57-slower
[2] National Retail Federation via Bloomberg http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-30/u-s-consumers-reduce-spending-by-11-over-thanksgiving-weekend.html
[3] Catchpoint Systems via VentureBeat
[4] Insights from Ben Hammersley, British Airways Business Life, December 2014
[5] eConsultancy https://econsultancy.com/blog/65819-all-the-stats-you-need-for-black-friday-2014
[6] IBM Christmas readiness report https://www14.software.ibm.com/webapp/iwm/web/signup.do?source=swg-smartercommerce-emm&S_PKG=ov25123&S_TACT=R03900WW
[7] eMarketer http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?R=1011634#sthash.4F4J6DQW.dpuf