The transformation of Black Friday to something other than a door-busting, product-flinging, race through the store in time to make it home for a lunch of leftovers appears to be moving full throttle.
There were plenty of news stories during the traditional kickoff of the holiday shopping season this year talking about how Black Friday was being knocked off its zany perch. There was a list of suspects: Black Friday deals coming in early November, Thanksgiving store hours, a hardier embrace of online shopping, a trend toward deals throughout the holiday season.
In fact, the National Retail Federation reported that more people shopped online than in stores on Black Friday weekend, a statistic that seemed to indicate that some of the shine is off the tradition of jostling with fellow shoppers in pursuit of a great deal. The influential trade group put the number of online Black Friday shoppers at 108.5 million, compared to 99.1 million in stores. (We know. Every one of them was in the same checkout line that you were.)
So, how does Cyber Friday sound?
OK, Datacember is not here to bury Black Friday. We’re here to elevate it. Black Friday is merely taking on a more sophisticated air. Consumers appear to be a little more deliberate, a little more willing to harness technology to help them find the best deals and save their sanity.
In fact, this year, according to BloomReach data, more sales closed online on Black Friday than on Cyber Monday, a day named for online shopping. A subset of data (see below) from BloomReach customers shows that Black Friday conversions online were 6.8 percent higher than on Cyber Monday.
It’s possible that consumers are simply incorporating Black Friday into a larger holiday shopping strategy. Perhaps, along with the healthy number of conversions on Black Friday comes some serious researching of products.
A key indicator of consumers’ intent to buy on Black Friday shows that they are in more of a buying mood than they are on Thanksgiving, but not nearly as determined to get the job done as they are on Cyber Monday.
Datacember looks at the average number of products viewed for each conversion. We assume that the higher the number of products viewed for each conversion, the less motivated consumers are to make a purchase on that particular day.
On Thanksgiving, shoppers viewed nearly 38 products per conversion. On Black Friday the number of products slipped to just fewer than 34. By Cyber Monday, the number of products viewed for each conversion was just shy of 29.
The data itself doesn’t tell us why shoppers seem more inclined to browse on Thanksgiving and Black Friday than they are on Cyber Monday, but it makes sense, doesn’t it? Online shopping on Thanksgiving is no doubt part of a mix of socializing, cooking, eating, watching football, walking the neighborhood etc. Think of it as online activity that includes a bit of recon.
By Friday, digital shopping is most likely part of a full-on omnichannel assault. Consumers move between online and brick-and-mortar. They have their own research on hand, conducted the day before between the turkey and the pumpkin pie. They’ve had time to think. They’re more ready to buy.
By Cyber Monday things are getting serious. The first official weekend of holiday shopping is coming to a close. Consumers have surveyed the landscape. They know where the deals are. They have a better idea of what they want and it’s time to start crossing some gifts off the list.
The trends are ones that retailers should consider as they strategize about the kinds of deals to offer shoppers throughout key holiday weekends and as they position themselves to provide memorable customer experiences both in-store and online.
In fact, some of the consumer behavior around buying and browsing over the weekend is reflected in the devices that consumers used while shopping on the Big Three days. We’ll take a look at that in an upcoming Datacember piece.
For now, we’ll end with this thought: No, Black Friday isn’t going away. It’s just changing, the way retail itself is, at the hands of evolving technology and empowered consumers.
Photo of shoppers by Mike Cassidy. Graphics source: BloomReach data.
Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.