Black Friday 2021: Months of Sales, Mobile Shopping Habits, and the Importance of Gift Guides

 

Illustration of shopping labels with percentage discounts

The official date for Black Friday this year is November 26th. We’re not even out of October yet, and some retailers have already started to sell items at sale price. How has Black Friday gone from what was a one-day, mad-rush shopping sale to making it into a season that lasts several weeks, and now, months?

Here’s a bit of history about how Black Friday has gotten to where it is now, what the trends have been over the last few years, and their sales performance. We also cover what you as a retailer can do to capture the imminent hordes of online shoppers hungry for sales and bargains this holiday shopping season.

What is Black Friday, and why is it important?

Black Friday is always the first day after the US Thanksgiving holiday. Traditionally, it’s hailed as the day for bargain-hunters and shoppers to trip up over each other, fight and scramble for the limited quantity of items at sale price, or find gifts at heavily discounted prices.

During the dot-com boom and throughout the noughties, internet and social media use exploded; videos of bargain-hungry shoppers rushing into stores went viral, and in 2010, Amazon launched its first Black Friday sale in the UK, which spurred on British and European retailers to get in on the trend.

Since the beginning of the last decade, Black Friday events have continued to get bigger, louder, and longer.

By 2013, it had evolved into a weekend-long shopping event, and now, it coincides with Cyber Monday — which in addition to 2020’s Black Friday success, made record-breaking sales volumes last year.

And in light of last year’s events, this isn’t much of a surprise, when shopping in brick-and-mortar stores was heavily restricted, and shoppers could avoid the crowds and early-morning lines by shopping from the comfort of their sofas instead.

What direction is Black Friday moving in, and when will it start this year?

The Black Friday holiday shopping season is now the biggest shopping event in the US, UK, and Europe. And this year, it’s expected to be the busiest period for retailers.

Marketers have forecasted this holiday season’s sales performance — which includes both Black Friday AND Cyber Monday — by analyzing the performance of last year’s Black Friday event, in addition to ones from previous years.

Most marketers agree that you can expect 2021 to be similar to 2020 — but even BIGGER (15-30% increase in sales according to Channable).

Last year, the period 22nd - 28th Nov saw higher sales volumes than the Christmas period 22nd - 28th Dec — a trend, which according to Sale Cycle, has continued for the last five years; and last year Cyber Monday made retailers more revenue than Black Friday!

Since 2013, online sales volumes for Black Friday have increased year on year, and 2020 was the biggest ever in terms of online sales volumes and revenues — reaching $9.0 Bn in sales revenue for the 2020 holiday season.

Every year, Black Friday sales have started earlier than the previous, and now continue into Cyber Monday (first Monday after Black Friday) — which made record sales revenues last year of $10.8 Bn.

If this year is anything like 2020, where Amazon started its Black Friday sales a whole 4 WEEKS before the actual day, and in the wake of record volumes in online sales (44% more people shopped online in 2020 than 2019), we’re likely to see retailers starting their sales early again this year.

And by early, we mean NOW.

Walmart in the US is already offering discounts on selected items, and Amazon stretches Black Friday to an entire 2-month period. Curry’s in the UK is already pushing huge deals on TVs, Laptops, and other electrical goods items.

Even though some retailers don’t participate in Black Friday because it doesn’t go with their brand image, the tremendous amount of popularity and hype it carries has rendered it an opportunity that retailers cannot afford to miss out on.

Mobile shopping is the preferred and convenient way to shop

Before smartphone technology had matured and shopping on mobiles hadn’t quite taken off, shoppers preferred to order on a desktop when buying online.

Last year, mobile web traffic accounted for 70% of all online sales, with 30% coming from desktops — and when compared with 2018, it is a significant increase — when only 52% of online sales came from shoppers on mobile devices.

So now, shopping on mobile devices is very much the norm. And last year, mobile shopping comprised 39% of all sales between November 1st and December 31st — which, according to Channable, is 15% higher than in 2019 — suggesting that consumers are more inclined to make spontaneous purchases than before, or when they’re on the move.

Online retailers must optimize their mobile shopping experiences

Over the coming weeks, you can expect the first waves of discount-hungry shoppers to start punching Black-Friday-related keywords into search boxes on their phones. So it’s of paramount importance to optimize the mobile UX of your online store and make it easy for shoppers to find gifts and any sales you’re running.

With mobile shopping now the preferred way to shop and search accounting for 45% of revenue and web visits (Adobe Analytics), online marketplaces are crowded and more competitive than ever before. So, as a retailer, it can pay off to start your holiday season content marketing earlier than when you usually do.

Cut through the noise and beat your competitors with gift guides!

It’s important to realize that shoppers don’t always enjoy shopping for gifts. They want to find something quickly and easily. And the last thing they want to be doing is spending hours online, going from store to store in attempts to see which one has items on sale.

Offering categorized and personalized gift guides for different shopper profiles makes it easy and convenient for them to find something they want. With stunning visual content, you can inspire them and increase AOVs.

You can send out Black Friday gift guides to your email subscribers now to give them a taste of which items you’re going to be selling at sale price, and build up hype around your campaigns.

They’re also a great piece of content for your cart abandonment or checkout abandonment flows, where you can highlight the urgency of your sale and show shoppers what they’re missing out on.

For gift guide inspiration and ideas and how to ensure they’re optimized to capture mobile shoppers, we’ve published several posts on the topic:

Dominate this holiday shopping season with mobile-optimized content, start your campaigns now, and use gift guides

What started as a one-day high-street sale has now become a shopping season, which — for some retailers — starts months before the official day.

Hot from the States and led by Amazon, it’s evolved to coincide with other sales events like Cyber Monday and into a whole season of deals, promotions, and discounts.

By getting your promotional and sales content ready early and optimizing it for mobile browsing and transactions, and with the aid of gift guides, the most competitive online retailers can provide convenient and inspirational shopping experiences that capture as many mobile shoppers as possible.

Stay tuned for our next post on tips and ideas for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday holiday shopping season!

It’s not too late to publish your gift guide with Publitas. Contact us, or sign up for our free 14-day trial here.

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