Black Friday is Changing. Brands Should Change with It

Black Friday is Changing. Brands Should Change with It

Black Friday is morphing. In 2019, customers dropped a lot of money over the Thanksgiving weekend: $7.4 billion on Black Friday; $9.2 billion for Cyber Monday. Both record numbers that would indicate the sales weekend hasn’t lost its appeal. But the way both retailers and shoppers approach the event changes pretty significantly every year.

Mobile’s big but people still love stores

This year, for example mobile devices made a huge jump as the shopping device of choice. More than 65 percent of all e-commerce on Black Friday was through a mobile device, an increase of 35 percent from last year. More than $900 million total sales were made by Shopify merchants, almost 70 percent of them on mobile. Adobe tracked $2.9 billion in sales from smartphones alone.

Target, Best Buy, Walmart and Lulu Lemon as well as Amazon and Costco won Black Friday traffic, according to early reports.

Because of the popularity of mobile shopping, a lot of people predicted that the stores would be relatively empty Black Friday. Retailers are trying to avoid the crazy crush and increase overall spending by spreading the deals over a longer period of time. Some started offering holiday deals in October. Others leaked sales over a period of days or weeks prior to Thanksgiving. But despite these changes, foot traffic only dropped about six percent. Perhaps, for many people, Black Friday bargain hunting has become a holiday tradition and a great way to work off the extra calories consumed on Thanksgiving. Reports say that a lot of people love diving into the holiday spirit, but shopping is only fun at retailers that really make it about the holidays—decorating and creating a festive atmosphere so it’s about more than the bargains.

Focusing on the meaning

Other retailers have started questioning how valuable it is for them to host a giant in-store event on Black Friday, paying people extra, staying open long hours, and cleaning up the mess for people who are only looking for low prices. Recently, the industry has begun to recognize that it’s loyal customers, customers who have a relationship with the brand, that actually are the most valuable. And that relationship isn’t built on a crazy mass shopping day when everyone’s fighting over the last hot seasonal toy.

Many have even decided to drop out altogether, building relationship by closing their doors and encouraging people to focus on family, not consumerism for the holiday weekend. For a certain constituency of consumers, that’s exactly the right message. Stores including Home Goods, Nordstrom, and Costco stayed closed on Thanksgiving and last year some stores stayed closed on Black Friday. Patagonia tends to make donations for environmental causes from their profits on Thanksgiving Day weekend.

And that sort of thinking is another growing trend that may impact Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays going forward. Complaints about consumerizing the holidays have always been around, but more retailers and brands are willing to actually make changes in response to that in order to build customer loyalty. 

While there will always be a huge number of customers who look forward, every year, to bargain hunting in a store decorated for the holidays, with holiday tunes, and holiday feeling going on, it seems that retailers and brands should ensure that the meaning of the season—family, reflection—is also incorporated into their planning going forward. How can they include that more overtly in the way they approach the holiday sales season so as not to turn off customers who are on the anti-consumerism bandwagon?

Also, are they ready not only to generate a great holiday spirit in-store, but to provide a stellar mobile shopping experience, including capacity for click-and-collect and all the traffic that might create?

Bottom line, now that the biggest retail weekend of the year is over, how can companies be ready for next year with all the consumer preference changes and trends 2020 might bring?


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Bruce is the founder and CEO of RW3 Technologies. Having spent more than 35 years in the consumer goods and grocer space Bruce has experienced the industry disruption first hand and understands how artificial intelligence, POS data, and mobile technology can transform a good organization into a great one.

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