It seems almost quaint now, but it wasn’t so long ago that Black Friday meant scouring newspaper flyers and lining up in the cold to nab one of a limited number of discounted camcorders, printers and Will & Grace box sets.
That was before people realized they could get the same same deals online without having to leave their homes or put on pants—and, ever since, ecommerce sales have surged. During last year’s Black Friday weekend, more Americans shopped online than in stores by a total of 10 million.
This year, no one’s predicting ecommerce sales to go anywhere but up, but there’s considerably less consensus around which trends will have the biggest impact, and where merchants should focus to get their “#BFCMwin.”
Will it be the year of chatbots and artificial intelligence? Will 2017 spell the end of the traditional wallet? Will the Will & Grace revival be as good as the original?
Only time can tell, but we’re pretty confident about a few things, and today we’ll share our predictions for Black Friday 2017. (TL;DR — it’s gonna be goooood.)
It won’t just be a one-day event.
It’s been six years since Walmart breached the sanctity of Thanksgiving by opening its doors at 10 p.m. the night before Black Friday. Now it’s unusual not to be open Thanksgiving Day, with many retailers — ahem, Amazon — kicking off sales even earlier.
And let’s not forget Singles Day, a sort of anti-Valentine’s for China’s singletons that rang up a cool $17.8 billion in online sales last year. (For comparison, Black Friday 2017 broke records at $3 billion.)
With three major global retail holidays falling in November, and consumers preferring to do their holiday shopping earlier and earlier, what started as a one-day blow-out event is expanding to four days, five days, or as Shopify puts it, “one monstrous two-month-long shopping holiday.”
And that’s a good thing! Not only does the extended the holiday shopping period give consumers a chance to partake in the festivities without the pressure to do it on a particular day, it also makes life easier for merchants who no longer have to deal with the droves of shoppers that have been known to grind stores to halt on Black Friday. Everybody wins.
Mobile will drive more sales than ever.
The numbers are in. 95% of Americans own a cell phone in 2017. 62% have used one to make an online purchase in the last 6 months. Last year, for the first time ever, mobile devices drove the majority of traffic to retail websites on Black Friday, breaking $1 billion in revenue.
Sure, there are people — pessimists !— who will point to the gap between mobile traffic and sales (last November and December, mobile was responsible for 41% of visits and 21% of sales), but that’s changing.
Why? Because online stores are providing better and better mobile shopping experiences. Things like horizontal scrolling, touch based interaction, increased page load speed, and Shopify’s new two-step checkout have all contributed to making the web a better, more mobile-friendly place.
According to Mobify, “Retailers who take advantage of these — ASAP — will be among the mobile leaders that see mobile revenue surpass desktop revenue in time for Black Friday 2017.” We think that sounds right.
Free shipping and fast delivery will be a top priority.
If there’s one thing you can say about online shoppers, it’s that when it comes to shipping, the faster and free-er the better. In fact, 9 out of 10 consumers rated free shipping as their number-one incentive to shop online more.
The funny thing is, it’s not even about saving money. It’s about the perception of getting a good deal. As behavioural economist Dan Ariely explains, we tend to overvalue goods and services advertised as “free”:
Most transactions have an upside and a downside, but when something is FREE! we forget the downside. FREE! gives us such an emotional charge that we perceive what is being offered as immensely more valuable than it really is.
Given the deep psychological appeal of “free,” it’s no surprise free shipping is so powerful when it comes to influencing purchasing decisions.
And it’s an easy thing for merchants to tap into — not necessarily by offering free shipping on every purchase, but by making it an option for orders above a certain threshold. Doing so will motivate customers to spend more, help them rationalize their spending, and give them a deal to brag to their friends about.
Navigation and search will make the difference.
In the words of our pal Jakob Nielsen, “If the customer can’t find the product, the customer can’t buy the product.”
Obvious? Maybe. But the truth is many online stores — including some big players — are seriously underperforming when it comes to navigation and search. A recent study by the Baymard Institute of 50 benchmarked ecommerce sites described the average product finding experience as “fairly mediocre.”
And it’s going to cost them. According to one study, if a consumer can’t find what they’re looking for in 8 seconds or less, they will go elsewhere. Another found that 80% of consumers will abandon a site after a poor search experience.
Put simply, if you can’t deliver an intuitive and frictionless shopping experience this holiday season, you can kiss that #BFCMwin goodbye.
It won’t just be about the deals.
Surprise! Black Friday isn’t just about rock-bottom prices and must-have toys, and we predict this year will be as much about giving and goodwill as it will be about “stuff.”
Okay, that’s being optimistic, but if the last couple of years are anything to go on, there’s definitely growing interest in reclaiming the values the holiday season is supposed to represent. You know, things like community and generosity and love.
This will no doubt include viral campaigns like #OptOutside by REI (which gave employees a paid day off outdoors and closed 143 stores on Black Friday) and Cards Against Humanity’s Holiday Hole (which saw online donors contribute more than $100,000 to the excavation of a massive dirt pit), but also smaller “alternative” gestures like checkout donations and #GivingTuesday.
And with 33% of consumers choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good, giving back isn’t just a nice gesture — it’s good business.
There’s no such thing as certainty in this business, but we’ve made these predictions based on facts and trends we’ve seen picking up steam over the past year or more. By increasing your awareness of them, and finding creative ways to respond to them in your store, you’ll be prepared for just about anything.