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Rise in ‘Ghost Shoppers’ adding to High Street woes this Christmas

23rd November 2018

A STUDY by Webhelp, a leading UK customer experience provider, reveals 1 in 5 under 25s admit they’ve bagged a bargain online while still inside a traditional high street store during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.

The tech savvy shoppers find what they like during a visit to the high street and then order the same product on-line, sometimes while still in the retail store.

This new trend – dubbed by industry experts as ‘Ghost Shopping’ – will come as another blow to high street stores in a turbulent year for traditional retailers. Many traditional retailers struggle to compete with on-line outlets because they have higher operating costs for rent, rates and wages.

The online YouGov research on shopping habits around Black Friday and Cyber Monday by Webhelp finds that 18% of 18–24-year-olds will find a product in store and buy it online while still in the store. Overall, 1 in 10 across all age ranges surveyed admitted they had Ghost Shopped while visiting high street stores.

Webhelp’s Chief Customer Solutions Officer Helen Murray said “The rise of ghost-shopping is just the latest unpredictable behaviour of British consumers. They still love both shopping and bargains but when and how they want them is changing. You could call it a form of window shopping, but now people are using the entire retail outlet as the window before they buy online.

“It plays to the trend that all our clients are trying to stay on top of; how best to connect to shoppers in an increasingly digital world.”

The research also found that on-line shopping was now actually more popular with older customers with more 55 and overs admitting they will shop online during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales than those aged between 18 and 24.

The study examined the shopping patterns of British consumers around two of the biggest shopping days of the year. A whopping £1.4bn was spent on online sales in the UK on Cyber Monday alone, a figure retailers will be hoping to beat in 2018.

The majority of shopping was online in 2017, and 2018 looks to be the same with 87% of consumers surveyed stating they’d tend to be doing their Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping online this year.

Surprisingly more 55 and overs say they will shop online – 86% – versus 81% of 18-24s.  Meanwhile 27% of 18 -24s said they would go into a store and shop, versus 25% of the over 55s.

When Black Friday and Cyber Monday customers need help from retailers, social media is popular among 18-24-year-olds, with 35% using it as a research tool compared to only 12% of the 55 and overs. 28% of 18-24-year-olds also used it to contact retailers when product issues arise, with 47% of 35-44-year-olds using webchat. A third of UK Black Friday and Cyber Monday consumers still phone a contact centre, proving it’s still good to talk.

As the leading contact centre operator dealing with millions of customer interactions every day for brands like Sky, easyJet and Vodafone, Webhelp revealed changes this year too, with webchat conversations for one top retail client predicted to treble from 2017.

End of Black Friday?

According to Webhelp, Black Friday and Cyber Monday remain an important trigger for pre-Christmas sales but recently retailers are moving away from Black Friday to a week of activity or “Black Five-day”. In fact, some approach Black Friday as a period lasting to Christmas, the so called  “Golden Quarter” in retail where shops spread sales across the winter; avoiding chaotic peaks on Black Friday weekend and generating around a third of their annual revenue.

Webhelp advises UK retailers on how to best manage hundreds of thousands of customer conversations on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Bucking recent trends where it normally doubles its workforce of advisors across the UK region, this year it is planning to ramp up by less than half that number.

Webhelp’s Helen Murray said: “We historically double the workforce of our clients to support their peak period. More recently however, as clients spread the activity over what is called the ‘Golden Quarter’, and with consumers switching to on-line, self-service capability, and chatbots, we will increase front line teams by smaller amounts. The trick is to deliver high levels of customer experience in efficient, friendly and expert ways – irrespective of contact method – so shoppers and brands get the most out of a frenetic trading period.”


Press information:
Ewan McKay, Marketing and Communications Manager at Webhelp, on +44(0)7980 411230,

Article by: Webhelp

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