How online shopping is pushing in-person Black Friday shopping to extinction

2 mins read

The once-blinding shine of Black Friday is dimming for U.S. consumers as nearly one-third will not shop at all on that day. Of those planning to shop Black Friday, most intend to shop only online, according to Sitecore’s Holiday Shopping Trends 2021 Report. This could be because 20% no longer believe the event offers good deals and the fact that the majority (71%) will have already started buying Christmas gifts by Black Friday. Only 11% said they will kick-off their holiday shopping during the event.

“The role that Black Friday plays in the lead up to Christmas in the U.S. is waning. With brands fighting harder than ever to differentiate their offers, there must now be a bigger focus on providing online, personalized experiences that are unique to a brand, rather than just flash sales,” said Paige O’Neill, Sitecore CMO. “We know customer expectations have never been higher, and while there is still a place for deals, brands should focus on earning loyalty through an intimate understanding of buyer motivations. Personalized content, offers, and experiences will help create the relationships that are lasting and will increase sales.” 

Consumers don’t want to face the crowds or over-consume

With 18 months of social distancing and rising infection numbers, it is no surprise that U.S. consumers cite avoiding crowds (58% of respondents) as one of the top three reasons to not shop on Black Friday. Only 17% plan to shop in person on Black Friday at national stores and just 10% plan to shop in person at local businesses.

The fact that the event is now associated with over-consumption (30%) and is becoming outdated could also be hampering interest.

Finally, shoppers have different priorities for Christmas this year. After suffering through the pandemic without much time with loved ones, many are ready to make up for lost time this holiday season. Nearly three-fourths (71%) say they would prefer experience-based gifts over “more stuff” and 63% want the gifts they do buy to mean something or have a story behind them, which may nudge them more toward local retailers versus “one-stop shops.”

Online brands can still triumph on Black Friday

The majority of those choosing to shop Black Friday this year will be online (43%), which offers brands an opportunity to meet customer expectations for both Black Friday-worthy deals and exceptional customer experiences.

Consumers believe that deals offered on Black Friday are often no better than sales offered throughout the year. However, those choosing to shop on Black Friday will still be on the hunt for discounts and deals. When online shopping this holiday season, early discounts and deals were cited as the most important buying factor for 67% of survey respondents. The next most important was exclusive pre-sale deals for loyal customers, valued by nearly half of consumers (43%). These shoppers believe their loyalty means not having to wait in line for a 6 a.m. Black Friday deal; they feel their “spot” is saved because of their dedication to certain retailers.

Personalization is key to true brand success, with the right product offered at the right time. Nearly one-third (30%) want personalized suggestions from their favorite brands this holiday season.

Ethical gift giving is top of consumers’ minds

Amazon may still rule the shopping scene, but U.S. consumers are more focused on shopping local and from independent retailers. Sixty percent of those surveyed said they’ll avoid big-box stores in deference to independent retailers, and slightly more (63%) are willing to pay more for locally made gifts.

Young shoppers are especially interested in retailers that offer more Black- and minority-owner products and services (76%). Overall, two-thirds of all U.S. consumers want such products but only 28% see Black- and minority-owner products and services while shopping.

Earlier this year Sitecore published insights relating to how this Christmas is make-or-break for brands and their showrooms, as well as how much U.S. consumers are looking forward to the holiday season. The full data is available in the Holiday Shopping Trends 2021 Report.