Blog | 16th Dec 2021 / 16:54

58% of customers experienced technical issues during Black Friday 2021

Sian Roach Cybersecurity Content Specialist

The shift to an online-first world, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, has made more consumers choose to shop online than ever before. In 2020, more than 100 million US customers shopped online during the Black Friday weekend, resulting in a 22% increase in online spending.

Netacea was interested in how people shopped online, and whether they experienced any Black Friday issues in 2021. In a public survey which took place between 22nd November to 3rd December 2021, we asked consumers about their online shopping experience during the Black Friday sales to investigate whether their spending may have been impacted by malicious bot activity.

In this blog post, we check out the key takeaways from our 2021 Black Friday report.

What did consumers experience during the 2021 Black Friday sales?

While most of our survey respondents were from the UK (68%), almost a quarter came from the US (24%), and 8% responded from Europe and Asia.

Here’s what we learned from them:

54% of respondents stated they shopped more online this year than previous years

Despite more stores being able to offer in-store shopping this year compared to last, more than half of respondents stated they shopped more online this year than previous Black Fridays. Whilst the pattern of online shopping versus in-store shopping was similar across the USA and the UK, the USA saw more of an increase in its consumers shopping online (67%) compared to the UK (47%).

81% shopped online with the intention to purchase specific items or gifts

Almost all respondents (81%) shopped online to look for a specific item or to shop for gifts. As the holiday shopping season began more than half (54%) stated they were shopping online for holiday or Christmas presents. Just under 60% of respondents stated they were browsing for deals.

The two most popular shopping categories were apparel and fashion (56%) and electronics and technology (55%). High-demand items included smartphones, TVs, Apple AirPods, laptops, and tablets, alongside designer clothing and shoes. The most frequently mentioned store was Amazon, with Best Buy, Currys, Target and Walmart also mentioned on multiple occasions.

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More than half (52%) of US respondents spent more than $250

Previous years saw consumers spending an average of just less than £300 ($396.50 at time of writing) during the Black Friday sales. Whilst our results found that 72% of UK respondents spent less than £250, US spending was similar to previous years, with 52% spending more than $250.

58% of respondents experienced technical issues while shopping online

These Black Friday issues varied from website pages loading slowly (30%), to entire websites or specific website pages crashing (32%). Some respondents even hinted at online fraud attempts, with consumers noticing suspicious login attempts to their online accounts across the course of the Black Friday shopping period (3%).

32% of respondents stated they were unable to purchase an item due to it being sold out quickly.  

Many people struggled to get their hands on those Black Friday deals. Of those Black Friday shoppers searching for a specific item, 87% did eventually manage to buy their desired item, however, only 47% were able to purchase this item on the first website they visited. 31% of people visited multiple sites before they found the item in stock, and some (5%) even had to purchase the item on a reseller website at a higher price. While the overall data showed that 32% were unable to purchase an item due to it being sold out quickly, 15% of those looking for specific items were unable to purchase the item due to it being out of stock or too expensive on the reseller market.

Online shopping leaves retailers and consumers open to fraud 

Increased reliance on digital services broadens the attack spectrum for fraudsters on the internet. Online fraud attempts increased by 25% in the first four months of 2021 in the US alone. As automated services become more sophisticated, so too do the bots used to aid attackers in their attempts at online fraud.

While large volumes of holiday shoppers can contribute to slower download speeds, this problem is exacerbated by bots. It’s likely that many items consumers were struggling to purchase were acquired by scalper bots looking to list them on reseller websites, resulting in inventory issues across multiple websites.

It’s also probable that malicious scraper bots were active during the Black Friday sales, gathering information on Black Friday discounts, product launches and stock levels from retail websites. 17% of respondents experienced login or checkout pages crashing or noticed suspicious login attempts to their online accounts, suggesting the work of credential stuffing and card cracking bots using brute force to gain access, resulting in further Black Friday issues.

Serving requests to bots, particularly during the Black Friday sales, uses up server resources which can slow down or crash a website. Credential stuffing and card cracking bots flood login and checkout pages with unwanted automated traffic, whilst web scrapers and scalper bots drive large volumes of unwanted bot traffic to your website. This can push up infrastructure costs with no commercial benefit, and in extreme cases causes downtime for your website. As genuine customers are left feeling frustrated with your website’s user experience, unable to get their hands on that desired product, reputation and loss of future custom are at risk.

Protecting your online business for Black Friday 2022

It’s never too early to start a Black Friday checklist to ensure your business is prepared for next year’s surge of festive shoppers. Here’s three essential actions your business needs to put in place to stay one step ahead of the bots in 2022:

If you’re interested in learning more about our 2021 findings and our top tips for preparing your website for Black Friday 2022, download the full guide: Black Friday 2021: What did customers experience online?

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Sian is a specialist content writer at Netacea. In her current role Sian liaises with various teams within Netacea, to get an in-depth understanding of important bot and cybersecurity issues across multiple industries, and produce detailed content in line with current trends. In previous roles, Sian has produced reports and documents based on consumer insights and industry trends.
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