Not Your Typical Black Friday

Just about everything looked different this year so we knew black Friday was going to be different as well. Given all the uncertainty, it’s hard to make predictions but here are the top trends so far that have characterized the biggest holiday shopping weekend of the year.

1. Online sales exploded

Online sales have been growing all year and Black Friday was no exception. A new record high for digital sales was hit at Thanksgiving with a 21.5% year-over-year growth to $5.1 billion and increasing to $9 billion up 21.6% from last year on Black Friday. $1 out of every $4 this season is being spent online compared to $1 out of every $5 last year. That’s a huge increase. (CNN Business). What’s more, consumers spent a staggering $6.3 million every minute shopping online on Black Friday (Adobe Analytics). As for the type of device for online shopping, mobile continued to play a huge role accounting for 46.5% of purchases on Thanksgiving and 40% on Black Friday.

2. Cyber “month”

It really started with Amazon’s Prime Day in October. Instead of waiting until the last minute, major retailers spread discounts out throughout November and even October to avoid a surge of people showing up on Black Friday. The logistics of trying to fulfill orders at the last minute was just not an option this year due to the pandemic.

3. Curbside pick-up

During Black Friday, in-store and curbside pickup increased 52% over last year according to Adobe. 52% of shoppers said they would use curbside pickup services over the weekend (International Council of Shopping Centers). We probably would not have seen numbers like these if it weren’t for the pandemic. It will be interesting to see if curbside pickup remains popular even after the pandemic is over.

4. Large retailers reign supreme

Target, Walmart, Etsy, BestBuy, and Amazon all saw huge growth in online sales, especially Target. Sales for Thanksgiving and Black Friday rose 403% for large retailers as a group against their October average compared to a 349% increase for smaller retailers (Adobe Analytics). As shoppers consolidate trips and look to maximize limited store visits, multi-category, omnichannel retailers are best positioned to outperform their competitors.

5. Forget last-minute shopping

Due to the huge surge in online shopping, getting products into customer’s hands has become a huge problem, and will continue to be so going into the holiday season. Curbside pickup or buy online, pick up in-store is the least expensive way for retailers to fulfill orders. It’s anticipated that December 11th will be the last day for cheaper shipping, with shipping prices increasing by up to 14.6% after that (Adobe Analytics).

6. Store traffic way down

Due to the pandemic, fewer than 20% of shoppers planned to shop in stores on Black Friday (Coresight research). This is not surprising given the patterns we were already seeing and now with the surges in COVID-19 cases, it has just accelerated. However, there was some foot traffic on Black Friday. Big Box retailers, strip malls, and category specialists all saw demand. Declines in foot traffic will hurt small retailers most, who often rely on people walking by and browsing.

7. No crowds

Due to physical distancing requirements, and retailers’ efforts to making shopping safer, people were more spread out there were no shopping crowds. Shoppers were spaced 6 feet apart while waiting in line and many were waiting in their cars for pick-up orders. This all had the effect of downplaying the “crowd” effect we’ve seen in previous years where shoppers are drawn to a store because they see a huge crowd gathering out front waiting to get in.

If there is a lesson to be learned here it’s that the businesses that tried to make it easier for people to shop via click and collect, curbside pickup, and online delivery were handsomely rewarded. The ones that also offered an exceptional customer experience did even better. These are strategies that will work not only during a pandemic but anytime.

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