Black Friday in Europe: The Customer Insights You Need To Know

It was once a solely American tradition of celebrating the Friday after Thanksgiving. But over the past decade, Black Friday has become the biggest shopping day of the year across much of the world, including Europe’s biggest markets.

With retailers ready to slash prices on the day and in the preceding week to ensure they don’t miss out on the retail frenzy, many SMBs are questioning how they can compete and which markets they should target to get their slice of the peak sales pie.

Benoit Boudier, Managing Director, EMEA, Small and Medium Businesses at Ingenico shares insights gathered  from a consumer survey Ingenico ran with YouGov  in six of Europe’s biggest markets to understand the size of the opportunity for smaller retailers and help to break down some of the barriers to cross-border selling during peak sales periods.

How Popular is Black Friday Internationally?

Our Black Friday research suggests that overall, the appeal of the retail event is strong across Europe. Last year, there was a significant surge in spending on the Friday after Thanksgiving compared with the average Friday. Most significantly, the growth in spending was three times more in Europe compared to America – impressive considering Black Friday’s star-spangled roots!

The growth in Black Friday’s popularity is likely due to the increase in younger shoppers, which is certainly the case here in the UK. With student-aged shoppers looking to save money, our consumer behaviour research suggests that one in six 18-24-year-olds will shop on Black Friday, while the older demographic of 55 and over, perhaps more sceptical, will make up the smallest percentage of shoppers.

This follows a similar pattern across Europe, except for Spain, where in stark contrast, the biggest percentage of Black Friday shoppers are over 55. This presents a good opportunity for smaller online retailers both locally and internationally to target the older generation in this region – 62% of the Black Friday shoppers surveyed in Spain also said they were willing to shop with a non-native retailer to get the best deal.

While the demographic split follows a similar pattern across Europe, the general growth in popularity shows some significant variance. Our payment data indicates that last year, Spain was the home of the biggest Black Friday sales boom - 193% up year on year, with the Netherlands and France next in line. Though the UK and Germany are at the bottom of the pile, their growth was still impressive – 29% and 18% respectively.

Our survey suggests that the shoppers of Spain are willing to wait for Black Friday to grab a bargain, while in contrast, the Germans are far less drawn in by the appeal of a short-term offer. 57% of the German shoppers surveyed had never bought anything on Black Friday. While this presents a negative situation for some of retail’s biggest names, it could open the door for smaller businesses with customers seeking more than a price cut.

How Are Customers Shopping on Black Friday in Europe?

When Black Friday fever began to spread across Europe some five to six years ago, the media message was one of High Street chaos. Footage of shoppers engaged in fierce disputes over claiming the last of the sale products, and dangerously high numbers of people trying to barge their way through shop entrances. Fear of these big crowds and a lack of patience for queuing has in part driven the significant growth in online shopping during Black Friday.

On Black Friday last year, European shoppers spent 72% more online compared with the average Friday. The Dutch, Germans and UK Black Friday shoppers are the most digitally savvy in Europe. Our research into these country’s digital consumer behaviour indicates that for each, the bigger percentage of shoppers who shop on Black Friday, will do so online (68% in the UK, 61% in the Netherlands and 55% in Germany).

However, this isn’t the case across all countries studied. In France, Belgium and the fastest growing Black Friday market, Spain, the majority of Black Friday shopping will be done in- store.

What is important to note however is the size of the mobile opportunity across Europe. While in Spain, though in-store is king, 39% of the online shopping activity that takes place will be done via mobile. This represents the biggest percentage of mobile Black Friday shopping across the countries studied, though the split is very even with Germany, UK, France and Belgium all at 30% while the Netherlands brings up the rear with 23% - demonstrating how much of their significant online shopping will be done via other devices.

Where Do European Customers Shop on Black Friday?

With so much online activity, the opportunity for smaller businesses to venture into new territories are vast and likely to be crucial to their results. The growth in online sales has fuelled a 26% increase in cross border purchases by European customers year on year.

The willingness for customers to shop internationally on Black Friday varies by country. In Belgium, 47% of customers are happy to shop with international stores, whilst in the UK, just 3% are willing to explore non-UK based retailers.

This variance is driven by a number of factors, including:

  • Who their purchase is for – those buying gifts on Black Friday are more willing to look for unique or specialist gifts further afield, and willing to go to perceived additional effort.
  • Security fears – in France, where only 27% of Black Friday customers are willing to shop internationally, online payment security was found to be a perceived barrier to looking to international businesses, while in Belgium, security was only their third highest priority.
  • Delivery charges – the cost of delivery has a significant say in whether customers purchase from an international site on Black Friday. Offers based on free delivery are likely to entice as much, or in some cases more, than any price drop.

As well as a willingness to shop with international retailers, our research finds that up to a quarter of online shoppers in these key European markets will be choosing to shop with smaller sized, niche retailers over Black Friday. With an air of scepticism around the discounts offered on Black Friday and whether the big players are really offering value, European customers are happy to look at smaller enterprises who offer something different.

Reach Peak Performance During Peak Sales Periods with Ingenico

Turn insight into action and ensure you make the most of the Black Friday opportunity and other peak sales days by downloading our latest eBook: Reach Peak Performance During Peak Sales Periods. From pre-planning, to the marketing initiatives your customers really want and how to adapt your processes and website to cope with the increased sales volume. Start your climb to peak sales success today.

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Benoit Boudier | Managing Director, EMEA, Small and Medium Businesses, Ingenico Group

As Managing Director of Small & Medium Businesses at Ingenico, Benoit is focussed on helping merchants grow their business across key markets in Europe.  

Benoit has over 15 years of international management and business development experience with fast growing technology driven companies in the electronic payments, eCommerce and mobile marketing sectors. At Ingenico, he has managed the global deployment of mobile payment solutions including the ROAM Mobile Commerce Platform and has led global business development, driving pan European deployment of the company’s transaction services business into tier 1 retailers. Prior to his time with Ingenico, Benoit held executive positions focused on driving innovation and growth for a number start-up and established companies based in Europe.

Benoit is a graduate of the Ecole Centrale Paris with a major in Aeronautics and holds a Master’s Degree from the HEC Business School