Black Friday Predictions - Were They Right?

  • Strategy
  • December 7, 2021
  • by Freyja Wedderkop

After a turbulent couple of years which have impacted the way we shop, bold predictions were made about Black Friday / Cyber Monday. And, with so many stats being released about this year’s BFCM, we break down which predictions turned out to be true, and which missed the mark.

The first predictions we’ll unpick are courtesy of Harley Finkelstein. As the President of Shopify, he’s in a great position to make BFCM predictions, which he did in this tweet. But was he right? Let’s explore below.

1. QR codes will make a comeback

The prediction:

The reality:

This prediction was spot on. Previously, QR codes were somewhat seen as a cringey form of marketing but the pandemic has given them a revival; allowing people to check in to locations or gain more information on something in a safe and contactless way.

Now, we see lots of big brands using QR codes for upselling, as links to leave reviews and merging their digital presence with IRL marketing. Retailers such as Macy’s, Target and Ulta have incorporated QR codes into their Black Friday strategy, and their trackable nature (e.g. number, location and date of the scans made) provides useful customer insights even after the big events have passed.

Shopify even used a QR code on their huge billboard advertisement in Times Square, New York, which allowed scanners to follow along with Black Friday sales per minute on Shopify. Check out this tweet from Shopify CEO, Tobi Lütke, for a closer look.

2. Retail and gaming will merge

The prediction:

The reality:

Yes - gamification is here to stay. By using game-design elements in non-game situations, such as e-commerce loyalty programs, customers are more likely to sign up, purchase and engage with your store so that they can ‘level up’.

For Black Friday, our client Goose & Gander gave customers a chance to purchase a limited edition ‘Mystery Box’ for £45 (worth anywhere between £69 - £147), with different products guaranteed on orders of multiple boxes. They sold over 8,500 mystery boxes and had more than 13k orders over the BFCM weekend (77% increase YoY). This resulted in 6,347 orders on Thursday alone, a 1,469% increase in daily orders vs their average (406 orders per day), making sales of over £670k (105% increase YoY). 

By combining limited stock with the element of surprise, Goose & Gander created a game-like feel which built anticipation amongst customers and shifted lots of stock over BFCM.

In the long-term, Facebook’s Metaverse (a combination of multiple elements of technology, including VR, AR and video where users ‘live’ in a virtual world), will have a huge role in merging gamification with retail.

3. Strong omnichannel strategies will be key

The prediction:

Omnichannel strategies such as Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store (aka BOPIS or Click & Collect) will also resolve problems such as expected shipping delays and concerns about being in crowded indoor spaces over Black Friday. 

The reality:

Absolutely - going forward, it’s hard to imagine a time where omnichannel strategies won’t be the norm. A great example is Timberland, which uses near-field technology (used for Apple Pay, Google Pay etc.) in their brick-and-mortar stores. Customers are given a tablet that they can tap against different products and signage throughout the store to get more information and easily see the deals for each product, which worked perfectly for BFCM. 

Similarly, AI on Zara’s app means shoppers can scan product codes in-store and order those products to be delivered to their house, which helped to prevent those dreaded in-store queues over Black Friday, and will do so for the rest of the holiday season.

4. Black Friday sales will increase in the US 

The prediction:

According to Forbes, this predicted YoY increase in the US’ Black Friday sales can be partially attributed to shoppers being wise to the continued shipping delays; many people are eager to get a head start to avoid missing out on those in-demand products. Secondly, getting ahead means that customers can avoid crowded indoor spaces (for brick-and-mortar shopping) and out of stock items associated with last-minute Christmas shopping.

So, while the BFCM 2021 sales aren't expected to reach the pre-pandemic heights of 2019, they’re likely to beat those of 2020 by some margin.

The reality:

Reflecting on BFCM, Adobe released that US shoppers spent $8.9 billion, just short of the record-breaking $9 billion spent in 2020. Despite this, the US was the world’s top-selling country on Shopify over BFCM, with New York and Los Angeles amongst the top-selling cities. 

Interestingly, despite a reduction in overall US sales, commerce experience platform, Nosto, saw their clients have more success. Their 2021 Black Friday Cyber Monday data report found that, compared to 2020, “North American retailers (using Nosto) saw increases in total traffic (up .2%), sales (up 17%), and AOV (up 17%) while conversion rates dipped by .5%. 

Nosto’s suite of commerce experience tools, such as product recommendations and user-generated content (UGC), work in harmony to help brands surface more relevant products for shoppers to discover—and in a way that’s authentic. Naturally, this boosts sales and AOV, hence their positive BFCM client numbers.

5. Black Friday sales will decline in the UK

The prediction:

Klarna projected that “39% of shoppers (and 56% of Klarna shoppers) in Britain will shop on Black Friday over any other sale day” and Finder caveated that by predicting that “the amount of Brits who plan to spend in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales will drop 6% from last year.” This downward trend can be attributed to the financial strains caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reality:

Similar to the US, the UK’s 2021 BFCM sales were not as fruitful as those of last year. As Nosto found in their data report, “there were dips in total online traffic (down 11%), sales (down 4%), and conversion rates (down 7%), which could be attributed to the elimination of lockdowns and the reopening of physical stores. The good news is, like North America, the region enjoyed a boost in AOV (of 12%) compared to the year before.”

6. Black Friday is shifting towards digital

The prediction:

Black Friday is traditionally centered around physical retail, but many shoppers want to avoid the crowds following the pandemic and are opting for purchasing online this year - no surprises there. As so many brands are pairing digital customer services (such as tutorials, immersive video and ‘try it on now’ mobile and digital experiences) with their online sales, Klarna predicted that “72% of shoppers (and 83% of Klarna users) plan to do the bulk of their buying online during Black Friday”. 

The reality:

Although Nosto found that globally, there was a decrease of 7% in online store visits and 2% in online conversion rates, their data did reveal a 2% increase in online store sales—showing Klarna’s prediction was spot on.

Gregoire Barre, Solutions Consultant at We Make Websites, saysA contributing factor to Black Friday going digital in 2021 is that some of the biggest retailers (such as Target, Kohl’s, Best Buy and Simon Property Group) decided not to open their physical stores for the holiday, be it because of safety challenges around the pandemic or the cost of opening vs the sales they would make.”

“With increased online sales compensating for the loss of physical ones, retailers can take more time over their decisions and invest budget where it counts. We predict this trend will continue, but will require a more efficient supply chain and logistics network to support the shift from in-store to online purchases.” 

When it comes to digital, we can’t ignore the great debate of desktop vs mobile. And, it seems, for BFCM, mobile came out on top. Nosto reported a device split of:

  • Traffic: 69% mobile, 31% desktop

  • Orders: 56% mobile, 44% desktop

  • Sales: 53% mobile, 47% desktop

Nosto analyzed how “Mobile remains a popular device for product discovery and browsing, though when it comes to actually making a purchase, many prefer the ease of desktop for product comparison and completing the order process.” 

But let’s not forget the role of social media in online sales strategy. Shopify found that sales through social integrations were almost three times higher than in 2020! When broken down by device used, on Shopify, 72% of sales were made on mobile devices versus 28% on desktop. This is an increase from 67% of sales made on mobile and 33% on desktop in 2020.

As we move into the rest of the festive period and 2022, e-commerce brands should be prioritizing optimizing their sites for mobile first (if they haven’t already). 

7. Fashion is making a comeback

The prediction: 

Fashion and accessories will make a comeback this year, after suffering last year due to pandemic restrictions. According to Klarna, clothing and shoes are among the product categories most people across the globe are looking to buy in the BFCM sales (76% in the UK, rising to 80% in the US).

The reality: 

Fashion was back in a big way this BFCM, with positive year-on-year performance metrics across the board. For example, Nosto found the industry experienced a 2% increase in traffic, a 3% increase in sales, and a 12% increase in average order value (AOV). If these stats are anything to go by, we expect to see fashion having continued success throughout the festive period and into 2022. 

8. Shoppers will lean towards more conscientious brands

The prediction:

Brands and campaigns that are purpose-led will drive enormous success. According to Yotpo, buyers want to build relationships with brands that reflect their values.

Adding to this, Klaviyo recommends incentivizing people to shop by donating to a cause. For example, rather than offering 40% off sitewide, why not offer 20% off your products and match it with a 20% donation to charity? Andrew Forman, CEO and Co-Founder of Givz, says “Giving people a discount along with the ability to donate real dollars to the charity of choice has proven over and over again to increase conversion rate while building the brand up instead of tearing it down.”

The reality:

This tweet from Harley Finkelstein suggests that consumers are increasingly looking to shop with independents, whose story and purpose plays a much larger role in their business than is the case with giant, faceless corporations.

Julia Friesen, Product Owner at We Make Websites added “We saw lots of simple sales for BFCM and some conscious objectors. Brands want to give customers great deals but in some cases, are encouraging customers to reduce overconsumption by doing minimum blanket discounts or holding off on discounts completely.” 

A case in point is Pangaia, who didn’t offer a Black Friday sale or discount, in line with the nature and values of their brand. They did, however, increase their ongoing tree-planting pledge (Tomorrow Tree Fund) from the usual one mango tree planted for every item bought, to three.

Julia continued “The race to rock-bottom pricing has slowed. But, while we expect this trend to continue, customers are conditioned to wait for BFCM so brands are seeing top sales regardless. We don’t expect a lack of sales to stop folks from Christmas shopping either."

Looking for ways to use tech to make your brand more socially conscious? Get inspired by these 14 brands that are doing it well.

Predictions for the rest of the festive period

So, what’s next for the festive sales season? With customers spreading their shopping further across the peak retail period, there’s a greater need than ever to ensure your store is cut out for the sales influx and beyond. Physical retailers will maintain strategies to provide a safe in-store shopping environment on the busiest days, with extended opening hours, occupancy monitoring and blended shopping options such as BOPIS and curbside pickup continuing to be popular.

We learned from BFCM that, whilst overall sales and conversion weren't as high as 2020, AOV played a big role in boosting sales. As we go into the rest of the festive period and the new year, e-commerce businesses should focus on boosting AOV with tools like bundling, showcasing authentic UGC, and offering Buy Now Pay Later options. Not sure which BNPL options are right for your Shopify Plus store? Here’s our pick of the best.

Another recommendation for helping sales longer-term is subscriptions. Subscriptions create a more predictable revenue stream and make inventory management easier, as well as fostering strong relationships between your brand and customers. Consider offering a free month’s subscription at checkout as a Christmas gift. Take a look at how to implement subscriptions on Shopify Plus, here.

Christmas shopping

Some retail days, in particular, should be circled in your calendar. For the first time since 2010, Christmas Day falls on a Saturday, prompting earlier than usual Christmas shopping. Sensormatic Solutions predicts that the shift towards remote and flexible working means more people will be able to do Christmas shopping on weekdays, spreading out customer traffic and reducing in-store crowding.

Even still, there are a few days which will remain particularly popular. The last Saturday before Christmas (aka Super Saturday, 18th December) will be the busiest US shopping day after Black Friday, while the third busiest will be the Thursday before Christmas (23rd December). Make sure your e-commerce store is optimized for this huge sales period with these top tips.

After Christmas

As 26th December falls on a Sunday this year, business hours in brick-and-mortar stores will be shorter, resulting in less physical traffic than is usual on the day after Christmas. We predict this could be a positive for e-commerce stores, with customers opting to shop online at a time that suits them rather than being restricted by limited store opening times.

And let’s not forget product returns - as is common after Christmas, retailers will see a larger number of them. Brands that upgrade their returns process by looking into locations, streamlined processes, refund issuance and internal returns processing will win big points amongst their customer base.

Finally, remember that the benefits of increased custom don’t have to stop once the holiday season has passed. Learn how to leverage all that recently acquired data to turn your new customers into repeat ones, with these tips from Loyalty Lion, Ometria and Gorgias.

Conclusion 

The COVID-19 pandemic meant that retailers everywhere had to rethink their strategies. From finding ways to make in-store shopping safer, blending the physical and digital realms and bracing e-commerce stores for new ways of browsing and buying. The events of the past couple of years have ushered in changes which retailers should expect to stick around for the post-pandemic era.

The majority of the above BFCM predictions proved to be accurate, many of which also apply to the rest of the festive season and beyond. With so much emerging data at your fingertips, it’s never too early to learn from the stats and maximize sales going forward. Think you could use our help in doing so? Get in touch.


Authors

Freyja Wedderkop

Freyja joined We Make Websites in 2021 and brought over two years of B2B marketing experience with her. She has an MSc in Marketing and specializes in digital marketing, social media and content marketing. She also has a passion for design, events and, outside of marketing, loves cooking up a storm.


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