22nd November 2019

POV: Black Friday Preview


Black Friday – one of the largest one-day sales events in the US – has transformed into a global, seasonal experience. Rather than a long weekend of promotion activity, it has expanded to include multiple weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Promotions now extend into Cyber Monday, mid-November into early-December and the sales event is now viewed as a natural kick off to the broader holiday shopping season. Brands are capitalising on consumers’ purchasing readiness and are adapting their approaches to tap into heightened demand.

Details and Implications:

In the US this year, Thanksgiving falls on the latest possible date (Thursday November 28th) – shortening the holiday sales season. There are six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year compared to last year. To seize on heightened buying activity during this compressed holiday shopping time, according to eMarketer, 55% of retailers are offering deeper discounts and 54% will offer deals earlier than last year.Advertisers, accordingly, are launching promotions ahead of schedule and driving awareness of “Black Friday” deals as early as possible. For example, this year, retailers like Target and Walmart launched their holiday season plans the week before Halloween (October 31st).

Black Friday is now a truly global shopping event. In South Africa, 88% of people are interested in or intend to buy something on or around Black Friday this year. In Germany, the number is slightly lower at 77% and in the UK the intent is significantly lower than other countries but still over half of people at 52% according to a PwC survey. The survey also found that shoppers across the world intend to spend an average of £21 more this year than last, with the most intended purchases to be electrical items and fashion.

As the consumer’s path to purchase evolves, we continue to see in-store foot traffic decline and ecommerce sales rise. As part of this evolution, retailers and brands are focusing on a frictionless consumer experience, in particular by adapting mobile UX and by executing efficient fulfillment (e.g. fast and free shipping.) The latter will be critical in winning consumers during this particularly shortened holiday season, with 2019 ecommerce spend expected to rise 13.2% according to eMarketer’s report.

That said, don’t be too quick to write off physical retail. In South Africa, PwC predicts that half of Black Friday purchases will be in-store purchases. Even eCommerce giants like Amazon are hosting ‘in-store’ events. For the third year running in the UK, Amazon is hosting its ‘Home of Black Friday’ event in London. The event includes family fun, cocktail masterclasses, and showcases from big brands. This experience brings the online retailer, with Black Friday savings this year of up to 40% on toys, up to 50% on selected clothing brands, and multiple electronic savings, into the physical space. It is important to remember that not everyone prefers to buy online. In fact, AdWeek states that Snapchat reported that over 70% of Gen Z’ers plan to make an in-store shopping trip on Black Friday.


At a time when events like Prime Day and Singles Day have trained shoppers to expect deals throughout the year, consumers maintain an unwavering passion for Black Friday. The jury is still out on whether it benefits brick-and-mortar retail as much as online retailers but one thing is certain – whether it be physical retail or ecommerce – brands are doing whatever it takes to connect with consumers pre-, during- and post-Black Friday as a dovetail into the holiday season. Given 2019’s shortened holiday sales period in the US and the magnitude of promotions, it will be interesting to see how Black Friday 2019 stacks up to years past.

Further Reading:

eMarketer | eMarketer Report | AdWeek | PwC | Amazon | Amazon Press Release

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