Black Friday is here again! Well not here, yet. But that’s how it's worked for years, it’s here even before it’s here, right? It’s the big event before the big event. Retailers and the advertising industry create news and events around announcing that it's almost here. Getting the engines primed, right? In the meantime, Amazon is dominating the early deals game, announcing Black Friday action, 50 days early! So yeah, it’s here.
Black Friday is still the single biggest day of spending and shopping on the calendar. But while online opportunities expand, popular attitudes around friday-focused brick-and-mortar feeding frenzies have cooled a bit. Two years ago REI made noise with their OptOutside campaign, staying closed on Thanksgiving and Black Friday in a sort of sacredly secular celebration of the outdoors and non-consumerism — and generated a lot of conversation in the process. They stuck to it last year and just announced they will continue the tradition moving forward.
Then last year we saw more stores choosing to stay closed on Thanksgiving.
Even the Mall of America closed on Thanksgiving last year, opening at a tasteful 5am on Friday morning. Malls are feeling the pinch as much as any individual retailer as spending continues to rise, but primarily in newer transaction channels. Malls are generally claiming a desire to spare the employees and the shoppers all that stress but reducing overhead in the face of stiff competition is also pretty fundamental.
So what does that mean for expectations this year?
According to a study from Field Agent, both Black Friday and Cyber Monday are polling at just over 50% of respondents saying they are “very likely” to shop on those days. The question now is not so much about When or, which days will get the most sales activity — but rather Where and How will customers choose to shop this year? Over half of respondents said they plan to buy “most” of their holiday gifts online. This is the first year this expectation has hit a majority percentage.
With shifting behaviors we also see shifting values. “Affordability” and “quality” are top values this year, while “traditions,” and “brand names” are falling to the bottom of the pile. Amazon is loving it, Macy’s not so much. Macy’s and Nordstrom are forecast to see outright declining sales through holiday season as malls struggle to draw shoppers.
Amazon, WalMart and Target lead the field for retailers overall. Amazon.com soundly dominates the website category with 62% of shoppers expecting to use it. WalMart.com is #2 at 11%. Amazon and WalMart also lead with customers in the mobile app category.
With online and mobile shopping sliding into the forefront of all shopping experiences this year it only makes sense that the in-store frenzy of Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday shopping may be a thing of the past. The same study cites a lot of frustration from a majority of shoppers around overcrowded stores with under-trained agents and fickle availability of in-demand inventory. These realities may accelerate the trend toward better shopping experiences that hinge on more convenient technology.
Make no mistake that physical stores are an asset to the brands that use them well and staff them well. But the familiar narrative around Black Friday highlights some very apparent pain points for customers. And in turn, smart technology and savvy shoppers have deemed all that FOMO and frenzy to be an easy trade off for a happier holiday experience.
Director of Interactive Media