One of the advantages of being an online retailer is that, theoretically, customers can buy at any time of the day.
But that doesn’t mean customers don’t have favourite times to shop online, particularly on Black Friday.
Joshua Shimkin, head of marketing and SME growth at South Africa-based payment gateway Peach Payments, said, “We have analysed the last three years of Black Friday sales and five clear consumer types emerge, based on the time of day they prefer to shop.”
According to the data, ‘night owls’ prefer to shop between 11pm and 4am, while ‘early birds’ are up and at it from 4am to 7am.
‘Worker bees’ are busy from 7am to 2pm, when the ‘afternoon strollers’ take over from 2pm to 6pm, followed by the ‘evening e-shoppers’ on the 7pm to 11pm shift.
Shimkin says merchants can better plan for demand surges if they understand when their customers are most likely to be shopping.
“Daylight hours (7am to 2pm) were consistently the most active shopping hours on Black Fridays from 2019 to 2021, thanks to the Worker Bees,” he says, “But there have been subtle shifts over the years. Sales volumes during the 7am to 2pm slot dropped from 45% of sales on Black Friday in 2019 to 39.9% of sales in 2021, for example.”
By contrast, afternoon strollers, who shop online between 2pm and 6pm on Black Friday, have contributed a steady 20-21% of sales across the years.
Both these time slots require a high level of staffing and web resources, such as bandwidth provision for websites, and should take priority, Shimkin says.
Other minor shifts have happened on the two extremities of the day.
The night shift has lost a bit of its volume and the early morning slot has garnered greater volumes.
The night owls - people who shop between the hours of 11pm and 4am - have slowly reduced in number - making up 11,6% of all sales in 2019, but only 6.2% of sales in 2021.
The group of shoppers who hit online stores between 4am and 7am - the early birds - has grown, jumping from 6.8% of sales in 2019 to 10.8% of sales in 2021.
“The 7pm to 11pm time slot on Black Fridays is growing in popularity. It saw 14.5% of sales in 2019, growing to 18.4% in 2021, as the evening e-shoppers have come into their own,” Shimkin said.
These time slots require a reduced staff complement and internet bandwidth to manage, but remain important and should not be overlooked.
“No business can afford to lose 10% of its sales on Black Friday, but these times are ideal to allow for short staff breaks or to accommodate a shift change.”
Shimkin believes the minor changes in the times when consumers shop on Black Friday have happened for several reasons, including the lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, which meant consumers were likely not commuting as much during the 4am to 7am slot.
This freed them up to shop at that time. Consumers and merchants are also more familiar with Black Friday as a concept and are planning their shopping to fit into their lives.
“What is interesting is that although special offers now tend to run the whole month of November, rather than just on Black Friday itself, we are still seeing growing enthusiasm for shopping on the day,” Shimkin said.