Black Friday is the largest shopping day of the year, both for online and off-line retailers. And year-to-year all efforts are on ensuring maximum Black Friday sales.
This year, 2021, is exceptional for several reasons – with a big impact on the way consumers shop and an even bigger impact on businesses The COVID-19 effect on businesses the world over has business CEOs and leaders, wondering how to take-on this Black Friday.
That’s because a huge percentage of retailers already experienced Black Friday results after COVID-19. In the United States, for example, eCommerce shopping levels in April to May were 7% greater than the holiday season of 2019 (November to December).
Because of this upswing in eCommerce spring sales, retailers wonder if Black Friday will offer the value of previous years. Are customers going to have any desire for Black Friday? And will customer demand dampen given economic uncertainty?
The burning question whispered by customers and CEOs alike is…
Will BFCM of 2021 be just like other years?
To answer this, we interacted with 30 experts from eCommerce brands, apps and agencies to hear their thoughts, predictions and solutions to this year’s Black Friday.
What do eCommerce experts predict will happen and how are they preparing for such predictions? Here are their answers:
What the Agencies Say
Our interaction with eCommerce agency experts regarding their predictions for this year’s BFCM generated varying responses which can be grouped in the following:
- BFCM 2021 will be bigger than ever
- BFCM will cause a change in shopping behaviour
- BFCM will not be as dramatic as expected
- BFCM 2021 will cause brands to restrategize
So we’ve grouped each agency opinion accordingly.
BFCM 2021 will be Bigger than Ever
1. This Year’s BFCM will be the Biggest One Ever!
Michael Morales, Maukau
Experts are predicting this year’s BFCM and holiday season to be the biggest one yet in the e-commerce industry!
Indeed, as many physical stores find themselves unfortunately closing for safety measures, we’re advising online merchants to prepare earlier than ever for the operational challenges that may arise during this particular period, such as customer support, potential delays in shipping, etc.
When it comes to our clients, we have decided to help them diversify their channels of acquisition by leveraging existing strategic tools such as gift cards and referrals, so as to potentially compensate for the anticipated record increase in paid acquisition.
2. Expect Record BFCM Customer Volume this Year
Allen Burt, Bluestout
BFCM this year will be a completely different animal with big box retailers shutting their doors and focusing online, the competition for ad space and eyeballs will be the highest it’s ever been.
To compete with record BFCM volume this year, SMB brands should prepare by building a dynamic shopping experience that sets themselves apart from the competition.
Meaning, to keep your customer engaged with your brand (and reduce bounce rates) on your online store, you will need to incentivize them at each step of the purchase journey.
3. This Year’s BFCM will be Exponentially Bigger Than Previous Years
Gary Khodanian, Core Nomad
Since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out earlier this year, we’ve seen a significant shift in buying behavior with even more consumers turning to online shopping.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s current estimates indicate that the percentage of ecommerce sales compared to total retail sales jumped from 11.8% in Q1 2021 to 16.1% in Q2 2021, by far the largest change we’ve ever seen in the span of one quarter.
Given these trends, I’m expecting this year’s BFCM to be exponentially bigger than years past.That said, brands should start preparing for the surge in demand by stocking up on inventory right now.
An enormous pitfall for growing ecommerce brands is selling out of key products during the busiest time of the year and, in turn, leaving money on the table through lost sales. It’s easy to forget that your suppliers also experience a surge in demand during Q4, so buying and setting aside inventory in the months leading up to Q4 is really critical, especially this year.
4. The Surge in Sales Due to COVID is Likely to Continue on BFCM
Jonathan Kennedy, HeyCarson.com
With a spike in service/work requests from most of our merchants throughout COVID and into the summer, and a surge of new customers working on new stores, we’re optimistic the momentum will continue through the fourth quarter.
We are concerned about how the unemployment rate in the US will impact consumer spending. But we believe the fast growth in some verticals like homeware, fitness equipment and food and drink, will outweigh the drop offs in others such as luxury, fashion and beauty products.
Also, running promotions as experiments through the year and gauging response is the best way to prepare for and optimize sales during the holiday season. The BFCM season is the time to double down on what has worked through the year and historically.
5. This Year’s BFCM May be the Biggest in History
Alicia Gan, Chronos Agency
We’re projecting that online sales revenue for BFCM will grow by at least 20-50% more than the previous years. Also, according to Business Insider, it is especially because of the pandemic that the common consumer is forced to shift to an online shopping approach.
In other words, many eCommerce stores should expect this year’s BFCM to be one of the, if not THE biggest, BFCM sales events in history.So we’ve been pumping out BFCM 2021 preparation content since earlier this quarter. We’re currently preparing for our next major online webinar.
In the meantime, we’re also going to be implementing a BFCM add on package for our clients so we can replicate last year’s success and possibly even go beyond.
6. There’ll be More Shopping Online than Ever Before
Derric Haynie, Ecommercetech.io
More shopping is going to be done online than ever before, that being said, there’s going to be more demand for consumer attention than ever before, which means if you wait until the “big day(s)” you will literally get lost in the inbox.
Instead, you need to extend your BFCM campaigns out, probably until the beginning of November, get people registering for the sale and hyped about it.
I would recommend a contest/giveaway where they can actually get tiered discounts based on participation and referrals, this will get the buy-in you need to really drive a successful sale and avoid nosebleed advertising prices during the actual day.
Things like SMS marketing are more important than ever. On-site chat, Loyalty, so you can keep them coming back in 2021. And of course upsells and cross-sells on site to increase the average order value for the four biggest days of the year.
7. Customers won’t Decrease their Spend
Ben Murray, MediaCarry
We anticipate that the holiday season is going to be different as there’s a ton of unknown factors due to the pandemic and the hit the economy took earlier in the year.
The plus side of this is that the majority of consumers don’t plan on decreasing their spend. Over 70% of shoppers are set to spend more online.
In preparation, we focus on optimizing our clients brands to a tee. For us to do this, we need to know what’s going on in their industry and what their competitors are planning so they can differentiate from the rest.
We are having our clients focus more on marketing while we plan strategic web elements / flash sales features that incentivises consumers to add to cart and further checkout. Making sure the landing page that most consumers will be visiting is conversion rate optimized and that their funnels are strong and frictionless.
BFCM will Cause a Change in Shopping Behaviour
8. Expect Massive Shipping Delays this BFCM
Teara McGinn, BrightBird
I think BFCM is going to have to happen earlier this year due to all the Shipping delays. There’s also a legit possibility that stuff shipping early December will not get to destinations in time.
Obviously, the weekend itself isn’t going to move but I’m really advising my clients to consider doing it earlier this year, to get their shipments out before the rush.
I think the concept fits good with brands that like to do things a little bit different. The mold-breakers.Rather than contributing to holiday mania and the overwhelming shipping system, we’ll be doing our top sale of the season instead of following the masses.
9. In-Store Shopping Traffic will be Directed to Online Businesses
Brent Godkin, OnlyGrowth
Due to Covid I anticipate there will be a lot less in store shopping on BFCM. This will drive all that lost foot traffic to online shopping making this BFCM bigger than ever simply because people who might not have shopped online before will do so.
Once things are on sale I think there will be an influx of people purchasing who have just been waiting so they can save some cash.
In preparation, think of setting up a new marketing channel (like sms) and right away.
For example with sms its best you start to “warm” your channel by sending out campaigns so you can clean your list and get service providers used to your number sending texts.
If you wait until Black Friday and just blast 10k people with texts you likely will have a very poor experience and a lot of your texts may get marked as spam. Also get customer support ready for this BFCM, due to the expected increase in online shoppers.
10. Customers will do More Research before Purchasing Online
Andre Oentoro, Breadnbeyond
Since customers will spend more time researching and exploring deals online this BFCM, we will try to communicate the offers as early as possible. In this matter, I always make sure that my website and landing pages work well to handle a traffic surge.
And for the promotion efforts, I rely on email marketing. As I know that tons of emails flood everyone inbox, I take a unique approach by sending “hyper builder” emails. It helps us to give our subscribers and potential customers a teaser of what’s to come.
After we have their attention, we offer them seasonal bundles and daily deals that are available for a limited time, creating urgency, a deadline, and the fear of missing out. For our VIP customers (email subscribers and repeated customers), we offer them early access to the sales to avail better deals and more discounts.
BFCM 2021 will Cause Brands to Restrategize
eCommerce Brand Warby Parker stands out by using unconventional marketing tactics.
11. Brands will Focus on Attracting New Customers
Raúl Abad, RaulAbad.com
Our main objective this BFCM is to attract new clients, and in order to do that, we’ll create retargeting campaigns in advance which allows us to hit those audiences at a lower price.
One week before BFCM, we will run additional lead generation campaigns using coupons for exclusive discounts.
All of these new leads, along with those we’ve been gathering over the year through our content marketing strategy are re-activated just in time for BFCM.
12. Brands will Need to Figure Out How to Stand Out
Nathan Lomax, QuickFire Digital
Black Friday Cyber Monday will likely be much bigger online this year and the challenge for brands will be how to stand out from the crowd. If the majority of e-commerce players are reducing prices then what will entice them to your offering?
For some who have created a new e-commerce side to the business as a result of covid-19, this will be an opportunity to test the BFCM waters. This could lead to new product lines appearing during the period but cutting through the noise will be even more important.
Businesses will need to think hard about their customer communications as emails flood our inboxes. Price reduction subject lines might not cut it so marketers will need to think hard about what will be important for customers for the forthcoming winter season – a new TV might have to wait a year whereas living essentials and Christmas gifts could entice us.
13. Brands will Run Outrageous Promotions to Lure Customers
Milosz Krasinski, Chillifruit
I run an SEO and marketing brand and, one thing I can tell you about 2021 is that you can pretty much forget making any business predictions this year.
I’ve largely been working on post-COVID-19 projects for my clients but, in terms of this year’s BFCM, physical stores will struggle just like they’ve struggled for the best part of the year.
My prediction is that brands will be offering outrageous in-store events and discounts for BFCM this year in order to lure customers through the doors.
BFCM will not be as Dramatic as Expected
14. BFCM Takings will be A lot Flatter
Marcin Muras, Upmenu.com
When it comes to BFCM, lots of people have been forced to tighten their belts this year and, so, I predict that BFCM takings will be a lot flatter than usual, both online and in-store.
I think the only brands which will do really well are those which offer products which are considered necessities – at rock bottom prices.
What the Apps say
Just like in our interaction with eCommerce agencies, we grouped the responses of the eCommerce app experts based on their predictions. And the amazing thing is that their predictions were similar to those of the agencies:
- BFCM 2021 will be bigger than ever
- BFCM will cause a change in shopping behaviour
- BFCM will not be as dramatic as expected
BFCM 2021 will be Bigger than Ever
1. There’ll be More Sales Online and Earlier Shopping
Beatriz Estay, BigCommerce
We are undoubtedly going to see an unprecedented holiday shopping season this year.
The biggest trends will be earlier shopping and more online sales. In light of this, it will be crucial for businesses to optimize their online presence by adding convenience to their holiday shopping.
In addition, more orders means added shipping and fulfillment complexities. This year, it will be vital for businesses to have their operations ready to handle increased demand — including a returns strategy in place. Retailers that can confidently manage their order fulfillment will win big this season.
I am encouraging ecommerce businesses to prioritize their customers through personalized offerings, delight their customers with modern loyalty programs and rewards, and make their customers feel understood with creative marketing strategies.
2. eCommerce Businesses will Experience a Sudden Surge of Traffic
Vineet Gupta, ProProfs
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the entire world by storm, and every business is looking for that magic bullet to stay alive and become profitable again.
No wonder that this year’s Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) will reveal a different story altogether. However, you should not lose hope yet. Many customers have increased their online purchases during the lockdown, which brings a lot of good news for e-commerce businesses.
Though, you need to stay prepared by making sure your inventory management is on point, predict your top products, and make sure they are available in reasonable quantities.
Also, ensure your online store can handle a sudden surge in traffic.
3. Online Sales Won’t Slow Down
Katie Reilly, X-Cart
BFCM is usually the kickoff to holiday shopping, we expect the holiday shopping to start early and be very strong online. The industry has taken a leap forward and online sales show no signs of slowing down. The other big shift we anticipate is the movement away from big site shopping.
As consumers search for products they want to try, they will try micro-marketplaces and navigate to consumer sites to find the gifts they desire.
That said, in preparation, plan your promotional schedule early, provide incentives to shoppers to buy early providing you extra time to process orders and get them delivered. Anticipate the unexpected, those who are nimble and able to move with the market will come out ahead.
4. This will be the Biggest BFCM Yet
Neal Taparia, Solitaired
With everyone’s dependence on online shopping this year, along with a tougher economic climate, this will be the biggest BFCM we’ve experienced yet.
Everyone will be looking for deals and good value. I’d expect companies to out-do each other, and start their sales even before BFCM, which of course can lead to a domino effect.
We plan to start pre-marketing our offerings for BFCM at least a month beforehand. We wanted to get people excited about what we’ll be doing, so when the date comes, we’ll be top of mind and it will hopefully lead to some share of wallet.
5. BFCM 2021 will Skyrocket Online Sales
Saba Mohebpour, Spocket
This year’s Black Friday is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make your mark in the eCommerce world. Pay attention to trends in online purchases for essentials and “new-essentials“. People are more inclined to purchase online than ever before, so use this opportunity to build an online store that retains customers for years to come. Find suppliers and products for your store that give you a competitive edge in both quality and shipping times to win over your competition
6. BFCM 2021 will cause the Biggest eCommerce Spike Yet
Felix Suellwold, PushOwl
On a global scale, so not only looking at the US, we believe that BFCM (with an emphasis on ‘Cyber Monday’ will cause the biggest spike in Ecommerce yet).
Consumers globally are more familiar with the BFCM concept, ecommerce adoption rate is higher than ever before, and the pandemic is stopping people from purchasing offline.
We are adding more features that help merchants to provide more context for their store visitors when subscribing to browser push notifications. Sales events like BFCM are a huge opportunity to gain a following – while margins are typically low due to discounts and high competition.
7. Every eCommerce Industry will Feel the BFCM Buzz
Datis Mohsenipour, HeyOrca
I feel like this year there will be a lot more noise in every eCommerce industry. While eCommerce has grown rapidly over the years, the pandemic has added jet fuel to its growth.
Brands can expect costs to be higher and will need to be very strategic in the delivery of their ads to cut through the noise.
Our customers are the ones helping brands manage their black Friday and Cyber Monday campaigns. They have enough on their plates and for that reason, we will not be targeting them during this time.
8. Digital Goods will Get More Sales
I think BFCM will really kick off for digital goods sales. With higher demand there will be higher competition for the consumers’ attention.
With the global pandemic some specific eCommerce categories have seen a very good growth in the demand.
We work with digital goods and have seen an unusually high demand for content related to learning and self-improvement. We will probably start the communication way early this year.
BFCM will Cause a Change in Shopping Behaviour
Opena Case hit 189% of their $15,000 kickstarter by rewarding early shoppers
9. More Consumers will Shop Online this BFCM
Martin Wong, mailfloss
I think more consumers will shop online on this BFCM to keep up with social distancing. Plus, with things going digital, online marketing channels will be quite important, especially email.
So we’ll keep our customers’ email lists clean so their bounce rates are low and so their emails get front and center when they send out those sales emails.
10. Consumers will Increase Spending Amid Weak Competition
Justina Bakutyte, Yieldify
Based on our research with 400 eCommerce marketers and 2,000 consumers, there seems to be a clear divide between their participation in peak season 2021. 33% of marketers are opting out from peak season activities, while 34% of consumers are planning to increase their spending.
Reasons for increased spending were mainly related to needing specific things this season, gift buying, and better deals. Consumers who said they are planning to decrease their spending cited saving and unstable income as the main motivators.
When it comes to marketers, the biggest challenge and reason not to participate in peak 2021 was related to reduced demand due to COVID-19. Our research shows that marketers are going to be met with increased demand and lower competition this peak season.
11. Expect Consumers to Buy in Bulk
Vikas Kalwani, MeetFox
I anticipate more sales because of the pandemic. People will buy important items in bulk and the items will be purchased in a hurry leading to many products going out of stock earlier than expected.
We are asking the customers to shortlist the products beforehand and have an alternate payment option ready in case their primary mode of payment gets declined.
12. Consumers will Start Shopping Earlier
Madara Zalcmane, Printful
Because of Covid-19, people are shopping online more than ever, and they’re now extra cautious about the possible delays. ECommerce brands should prepare for possible disruptions in their supply chains, especially now when the order volume increases due to holiday shopping.
We predict that people will not only choose online shopping over in-store purchases but also start their shopping earlier—we already see an increase in orders which started going up earlier than in previous years.
With lots of retailers ignoring BFCM in general, small and medium-size brands will also explore other dates during the holiday shopping season to create their marketing campaigns around.
It’s especially important this year for B2B customers to show order deadlines everywhere on their store and in marketing campaigns, so their end-customers know the last dates to place their orders and get them in time for the holidays.
And throughout all, it’s crucial to be transparent with the customers about any disruptions and delays.
13. eCommerce Brands can Expect Savvier Online Shoppers
Sam Wilcoxon, Storetasker
Pre-COVID, 2021 was already projected to set a new high for BFCM online sales. COVID has forced a whole new audience of in-person shoppers to become savvy online shoppers for everyday staples as well as gifts and goods.
The takeaway is that there will be more demand than ever and that the consumer is a savvier online shopper than ever before.
There are 3 things brands can do to prepare their website for BFCM this year:
- Clear and consistent offer messaging across their website, specifically product availability, shipping expectations, and offer details
- Advanced upsell options like gift with purchase, in-cart product suggestions and product bundling on the PDP pages
- Site performance and reliability. Can your site handle the traffic? Are there clear opportunities for improvement? Were there performance issues last year we can learn from?
BFCM will not be as Dramatic as Expected
14. BFCM won’t be as Dramatic as Others
Romas Juskevicius, sixads
For many eCommerce brands the entire 2021 was more like a BFCM. Amazingly good results of the year will be hard to beat during the shopping frenzy period.
Thus I believe 2021 BFCM won’t be as dramatic as it used to be back in the day.
Moreover, competition increased dramatically too as so many brands that were known for being offline-only or not much internet focused became 100% eCommerce centric businesses and are fighting for shopper dollars too.
Visitors you will convert to customers this BFCM have a much wider selection of brands to choose from because of the increased competition.
So this year I believe it is extremely important to focus on the quality of the service the brand is delivering. Starting from acquisition ads and ending with packaging and post purchase communication.
15. BFCM will Lack the Excitement of Previous Years
Darshan Somashekar, Unscrambled Words
With Amazon having their Prime day in October, they are effectively kicking off the shopping season earlier this year. This means come BFCM, it will lack the same degree of excitement.
A lot of people will have done their shopping, and won’t have the same urgency to spend.
To get people excited about BFCM, we want to involve our customers. We’re planning on asking them what are the deals they’d love to have. We think if we get them involved, they’ll be more excited and think about us come the chaos of BFCM.
16. Expect Fierce Competition
Phil Forbes, Packhelp
Online competition is going to be so much more fierce. Your consumer is going to be spoilt for choice, so when you do land a sale, making a good first impression and laying the foundations for a high LTV from your customer is critical.
You can also develop a loyalty program that sees customers that spend more, having more discounts in the future, as well as value-added services, such as free shipping on all orders after your third order to keep them away from your competitors.
The experts have spoken. And while some of their predictions may differ, one thing they all agree on is this year’s BFCM will be in a class of its own. The effect of COVID-19 on businesses and their customers alike will affect the outcome of BFCM 2021. Here’s a quick recap of what each expert had to say: