Aug 26 2022
10 minute read

Black Friday learnings before and during a pandemic

This article will review Black Friday right before the pandemic, Black Friday challenges and outcomes amid the pandemic, and discuss how you as a retailer can address shifting challenges over the upcoming elongated sales season.

Black Friday before the pandemic

Before the pandemic struck, Black Friday in 2019 painted a picture of an already growing shift toward online shopping.

2019

  • About 151 million consumers (59.5%) in the US purchased something on Black Friday.
  • Black Friday sales hit $142.4 billion.
  • Black Friday was the busiest day for in-store shopping over Thanksgiving weekend with 84.2 million Americans shopping in physical stores. (National Retail Federation (NRF)
  • It was the first time that online shopping was busier on Black Friday (93.2 million) than on Cyber Monday (83.3 million) in the US. (NRF)
  • During Thanksgiving weekend, Buy-Online-Pick-Up-In-Store (BOPIS) saw a 43% increase year-over-year (YOY).

Although these pre-pandemic Black Friday stats show a “natural” rise in online shopping habits, retailers were not yet fully prepared for what the pandemic era would demand of them.

Black Friday during the pandemic

The year 2020 brought a pandemic-stricken economy with it. Financial fears and health concerns entered the forefront, meaning retailers had to quickly adapt to survive.

2020

As people lost their source of income, and illness and restrictions forced retailers to shut their front doors, brick-and-mortar retailers had to shift dependence toward an e-commerce strategy, especially for Black Friday.

  • On Black Friday consumers spent $9B on the web, up 21.6% YOY. (Adobe Analytics)
  • Shoppers spent $6.3M per minute online, or $27.50 per person, on Black Friday. (NRF)
  • Shopping via smartphones jumped 25.3% YOY to reach $3.6B, representing 40% of total e-commerce spending. (Adobe Analytics)
  • Curbside pickup (BOPIS) increased by 52% from 2019 on Black Friday. (Adobe Analytics)
  • Sales began earlier than ever, with the first wave of deals beginning in mid-October and coinciding with Amazon’s Prime Day. (CNBC)

These 2020 Black Friday stats reveal that the retailers who adapted to invest their budgets, strategy, and time into digital marketing and an online sales presence were the ones that would have a better chance at surviving the pandemic.

2021

Then 2021 entered the scene with hopes for a brighter future. However, new challenges arose, such as the Delta variant and the next stage of the supply chain crisis, creating yet another strange year for the retail industry.

The supply chain issue began with the start of the pandemic in 2020, which delayed the global supply chain as manufacturers halted work until safety precautions were established. 

Despite promising forecasts for a supply chain recovery, global trade continued at a reduced capacity throughout 2021, leaving shelves empty and turning the situation into a crisis that has spilled over through more than half of 2022.

  • Overall spending on Black Friday was down 1.3% compared to 2020. (Adobe Analytics)
  • Spending in the month of November reached $109.8B, which was up 11.9% compared to 2020. (Adobe Analytics)
  • Site traffic on Black Friday was 110% higher than on a normal day, yet 5% down compared to 2020. (Bluecore)
  • Online Black Friday orders dropped by 8% in 2021, but order values were 9% higher. (Bluecore)
  • 66.5 million Americans shopped in-store on Black Friday, a higher turnout than in 2020, but still 19.5% less than in 2019. (NRF)
  • Out-of-stock messages in November were up 227% compared to January 2020 and 261% compared to November 2019. (Adobe Analytics)
  • Consumer Electronics had the highest percentage of out-of-stock items at 41%, which was 33% more than the second-most affected category, Home Goods. (Bluecore)

 

2021’s Black Friday results show that consumers did return to physical stores, but still less so than pre-pandemic years, signifying that digital is here to stay. Although 2021’s stats showed a slight decline in Black Friday web traffic and spend, November’s overall spend and Black Friday order values rose. 

Importantly, there was a sharp rise of out-of-stock products due to the global supply chain crisis.

How the pandemic has affected Black Friday

Based on stats over the past two years, it’s clear the pandemic left its mark on Black Friday. Shopping habits were already shifting online, but COVID-19 forced consumers online at a quicker pace than expected. There was also fear of a major economic downturn, but consumers proved that wrong.

Once panic decreased and restrictions loosened, some shoppers returned to physical stores, but in less mass than before the pandemic, and  supply chain bottlenecks have been a huge battle for retailers and consumers alike.

How to adapt to Black Friday challenges

The two main Black Friday challenges creeping over from the pandemic years are uncertainty regarding COVID and restrictions in autumn, and the ongoing supply chain crisis.

Luckily, there are a couple things you can do to address these Black Friday challenges in 2022.

1. Invest in your digital presence

Continue investing in your digital marketing and online sales presence, because based on both pre-pandemic and mid-pandemic Black Friday stats, it’s clear online shopping is here to stay.

It’s likely that the Black Friday season will start early again, so make sure your digital marketing strategy is ready to launch by mid-October and that you’ve smoothed out any kinks that could inhibit an easy, user-friendly online shopping experience for your customers. With the rise of purchases via smartphone, it’s also crucial to ensure your online presence is mobile friendly.

If you're worrying about how a possible recession may impact your budget, check out this article on why you shouldn’t cut your marketing budget this Black Friday season.

2. Improve demand-forecasting with product-performance data

Demand forecasting is analysing past sales data to make more accurate demand predictions in the future. This is especially important when it comes to the supply chain crisis. By knowing what your customers love, you can get ahead of the ball by stocking up earlier to avoid significant delays.

Product-performance data is critical for improving accurate demand forecasting. It allows you to see how each of your products perform at the individual level across all of your channels (Meta, Google Ads, Google Shopping, etc.).

By understanding the cross-channel performance of each product through metrics like revenue, ad spend per SKU, and stock level, you can easily find your worst-performing products, your best-selling products, low-stock items, ​​etc., and ensure you’re well-stocked and prepared for Black Friday.

Key Takeaways

Over the last two Black Friday seasons, retailers have had to overcome unique challenges, such as economic worries, store closures due to COVID-19 outbreaks and restrictions, and a supply chain crisis. Unfortunately, it appears 2022 may not turn out to be a whole lot different.

To address these Black Friday challenges, retailers should continue to invest in their digital marketing and online sales strategies and focus on improving demand forecasting through product-performance data.

To further improve your Black Friday strategy in 2022, learn ways to reallocate, rather than cut, your marketing budget here.

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