4 Things Brands Should Expect from Black Friday 2020

It’s that magical time of year again. The briskness of fall turning to winter, big holiday gatherings, door buster sales…wait…scratch that. If anything, 2020 has shown us to be adaptable to change, to reset our expectations, plans, and behaviors. Black Friday will be no different…by being very different than the usual. And if we thought black friday was big for ecommerce last year…

From Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday in 2019, more Americans shopped online than in person. A total of 189.6 million shoppers spent an average of $361.90—more than any other year. And while Black Friday is infamous for its long lines and literal stampedes of shoppers, last year Black Friday saw more online shoppers than Cyber Monday.

Over the years, “Black Friday weekend” has seen a pretty steady increase in holiday shoppers and spending. US consumers have been trained to see the five-day period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday (and even the weekdays that follow) as the ideal time to make holiday purchases.

So how will a pandemic impact the biggest shopping season of the year? COVID-19 case numbers are going up. States that have never enforced social distancing are starting to clamp down on large gatherings and issue new guidelines and mandates.

Here are four ways brands should expect Black Friday to look different this year.

More stores will be closed on Thanksgiving

Some stores have long-standing traditions of closing their doors on Thanksgiving. But many major retailers leverage the Thursday holiday to start their Black Friday sales early. That’s why Thanksgiving has remained one of the biggest sales days of the year. 

But that’s going to be different this year. With how much essential employees are already risking by working through a pandemic and the challenges of dealing with crowds, many more physical stores are closing on Thanksgiving.

For the first time in 30 years, Walmart announced that they’d be closed on Thanksgiving. And many other stores have followed suit, including Target, Best Buy, JCPenney, Macy’s, and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

If your biggest retail partners are closed on Thanksgiving, you should expect to see more sales coming from ecommerce sites than in-person transactions on November 26.

“Black Friday” will last even longer

While more retailers are removing Thanksgiving from the equation this year, they’re also stretching “Black Friday” into the longest period it’s ever been. COVID-19 led Amazon to push Prime Day into October, and that change influenced some major retailers to start Black Friday sales more than a month early.

Target announced that in lieu of a traditional Black Friday sale, it would offer a series of weeklong deals called “Black Friday Now,” which will stretch through the entire month of November.

Right now, stretching sales isn’t just about widening the window for big box stores to recover the revenue they’ve lost to COVID-19. It also helps reduce the surge of foot traffic we’ve all come to expect from this five-day period. We likely won’t see any viral videos of human stampedes or interviews with people who camped outside for a doorbuster this year. Stores are placing less emphasis on Black Friday week, and so consumers likely will, too.

For brands, stretching out Black Friday sales means there’s a longer period for you to see increased transactions, but there will likely be a smaller bump than usual from Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday. 

It will also be more important to have a system in place for tracking MAP violations, since everyone is launching sales at different times over this three-month period. Without MAP monitoring software, it becomes much harder to catch pricing violations when prices start changing so rapidly.

If you don’t have a MAP monitoring solution yet or yours isn’t solving the problem, check out our article, How to Choose Your MAP Monitoring Software.

People will be more motivated to avoid the crowds

For months now, consumers have been trying to minimize the risk of spreading or contracting COVID-19. They’ve reduced shopping trips and gatherings, and they’ve canceled or postponed significant life events. That doesn’t show any signs of changing, and in fact, some states are just now issuing mask mandates and social distancing guidelines for the first time.

COVID-19 is still spreading, and most consumers will want to avoid crowds—especially since they can find all or most of the same deals online.

To top it all off, the CDC has explicitly recommended that people shop online instead of in-person this holiday season.

Consumers will have less to spend, but they’ll spend more of it online

The pandemic hit the US economy hard. Millions of people have lost their jobs and struggled to make ends meet. And while stimulus packages gave Americans some relief earlier this year, it’s been months since consumers received their one-time check to boost spending.

In spite of that, our internal data has shown a 113 percent increase in year-to-date ecommerce sales compared to 2019. Don’t be surprised if this year, overall spending is down on Black Friday. But you should expect to see a greater percentage of your Black Friday sales come through ecommerce than you have in the past.

Ecommerce once represented a small fraction of Black Friday’s booming success. But it already surpassed in-person sales last year, before any of us could’ve imagined that a pandemic would have us social distancing and being advised against physically shopping in stores.

Winning Black Friday will depend on winning the digital shelf

More than ever, your success on Black Friday hinges on how well you serve consumers throughout the customer journey, and how competitive you are on the digital shelf. You need to make a strong impression online and help consumers feel confident that your product is the best choice in your category. 

Not sure how to do that? Our free ebook, The Definitive Guide to Winning the Digital Shelf, dives deep into the strategies and best practices brands use to win greater market share online.
Get your free copy.

Want more insights like this?

The latest resources to take back control of the shoppers’ journey, maximize sales conversion, and protect your brand