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Zyro Glossary eCommerce

Black Friday

Black Friday Shop Window

What is Black Friday all about?

To modern consumers, the term ‘Black Friday’ refers to the day after Thanksgiving in the US. It is the country’s biggest shopping day of the year, and it’s quickly becoming a global phenomenon. Most retailers will roll out their biggest annual discounts to shoppers on Black Friday, a day that is not yet an official holiday, although it should be one.

Traditionally, people call in sick to take advantage of the Black Friday bargains.

So hold on, history buffs. We’re not talking about the gold market crash back in 1869 when we’re talking about Black Friday.

Nor are we referring to the start of the Wall Street Crash during the Great Depression – that was Black Thursday, a very different day.

Why was it called ‘Black Friday’?

Thanksgiving is an official public holiday, traditionally held on the 4th Thursday of November in the US. 

The Friday that follows is one great opportunity for shoppers to burn off all that excess food with a trip to the mall. But why does the name sound so grim?

There are plenty of tall tales, but the term ‘Black Friday’ has its origins in 1950s Philadelphia. 

Thousands of football fans would descend upon the city’s stores the day after Thanksgiving and before that Saturday, when the Army and Navy college teams held a match on neutral ground.

People would stock up on home goods, apparel, and giftable items – it was the start of the festive season, after all.

The chaotic scenes that ensued caused huge crowds and hordes of traffic. This annual event was the origin of ‘Black Friday’ and the name has stuck ever since.

Some amazing eCommerce stats on Black Friday

Although you’ll always see videos of customers fighting each other over cheap TVs, Black Friday has moved online:

  • In 2019, over 93 million people shopped online for Black Friday bargains. It sure beats standing in a line outside at 4am.
  • Online Black Friday sales for this single day currently stand at around $7.4 billion. This is a huge event for online retailers.
  • From that figure, $2.9 billion was generated by mobile phone sales. If you do find yourself standing in a line outside at 4am at least you’ll have something to do on your phone.
  • Black Friday is the best day to buy electronics at a knockdown price. Some other categories are actually cheapest on Thanksgiving day.
  • Cyber Monday saw even bigger sales than Black Friday in 2019. The total sits at $9.2 billion.

How long does it last?

Hold on, did we just say ‘Cyber Monday’?

It’s a thing. While the history of Black Friday is that it’s just one chaotic shopping day, the event now leads into a whole season of discount selling.

The exponential growth of eCommerce has enabled retailers to continue discounting online long after the crazed queues of sleep-deprived people have gone.

In recent years, online retail has transformed Black Friday into a long weekend of bargain shopping for customers. 

Cyber Monday – or Cyber Weekend, or even Cyber Week – capitalizes on that hunger for the best deals, and yields billions of dollars in retail sales.

How to take advantage of Black Friday as an eCommerce business owner

For retailers eager to start the holiday shopping season in style, participating in Black Friday is still an absolute must. 

Offering the best online deals shouldn’t be relegated to the following Monday. 

Customers are ready to shop the day after Thanksgiving – often even earlier – so retailers should get ready.

If you’re a retailer, or you’re considering opening an online store, here are our tips.

1. Start campaigning early

It’s a smart move to begin pushing the marketing message for your Black Friday event in advance.

Shoppers are pretty familiar with seeing retailers build momentum via emails and social posts. 

You don’t have to make the messaging overly complex. In fact, the simpler your post, the more exciting it will seem to your loyal and intrigued customers.

Announcing your discounting plans two or three weeks before Black Friday rolls around will ensure people have your store bookmarked.

2. Prep your website

Nobody wants to sit watching a page load, especially not on Black Friday.

With deals everywhere on this crazy shopping day, it pays to make sure your website is well-equipped:

  • You’ll need a scaleable server to cope with a spike in traffic.
  • You should have several payment methods available at checkout.
  • Your site should be completely functional on mobile devices.

3. Be selective with discounts

Unless you’re running a huge corporation, it doesn’t make great business sense to mark down every product in your store.

Retailers can identify different objectives for discounting items for Black Friday. It might be that they want to sell stock from an older range, or promote a newer range, or attract new customers to their bestsellers.

Whatever the motive, bear in mind that taking a huge loss on Black Friday kind of negates the whole objective for retailers. Be selective on the deals you choose to run.

4. Take inventory

Knowing what to discount and knowing what stock you have: the two go hand in hand.

You should have an idea of what you have in your inventory if you have decided on your deals. An overstocked range that didn’t do so well might have been top of your list.

But you could have identified some key Black Friday sellers that are limited in availability.

Check out the status of your stock so that you can be upfront with customers on the big day. Or, if you have the time, make sure you have extras.

5. Please your new customers

If you’re lucky, some customers will stumble upon your website on Black Friday while hunting for the best deals on the products you sell.

Take this opportunity to hook them into your brand with a clear incentive. Providing new customers with an automated introductory discount is a great move to pull on Black Friday. 

Sure, you’re already pushing some sweet deals on your products. But offering 20% off on their first purchase is an easy way to make someone like you even more.

6. Keep your old customers

The shoppers most familiar with your brand will likely boost your profits the most on Black Friday.

Whether or not you choose to extend your deals into the long weekend like other retailers, it’s a good idea to keep existing customers happy both before and after the event.

Shoppers tend to stay loyal to retailers who offer points and incentives – the term ‘loyalty points’ rings true. 

Pepper some additional discounts or add-on offers in those emails sent before Black Friday. Offering things like double points won’t cost you much.

How to take advantage of Black Friday deals as a consumer

A lot of people are jaded when it comes to Black Friday deals.

Aside from not wanting to wake up early the day after Thanksgiving, some shoppers also don’t want to feel like they’ve been conned by their favorite retailers.

There are some pitfalls to shopping on Black Friday, so if you’re thinking about splashing your cash, check out how to do it properly.

Don’t:

  • Focus on the ‘doorbuster’ deals. These are the stacks of TVs and other overhyped deals that are often super limited and will be sold out within the first few hours of trading. You can find better quality products elsewhere.
  • Brave the November weather by shopping in a physical store. Black Friday shoppers can be aggressive; you’ll be tired, and it’ll be hard to be discerning with your decisions in that kind of environment. 
  • Assume every deal is a good deal. It most certainly pays to do your research when you’re shopping on Black Friday. Just because an item is discounted, it doesn’t mean you’re getting the best value. 
  • Start spending without a plan. Think about how much you can afford to spend. Make a list of which products you want or need to buy in the holiday shopping season. There’s no point in struggling for the rest of the year over Black Friday deals, no matter how good they seemingly are.
  • Skip Black Friday for the cyber weekend. While Black Friday sales figures have been dwarfed by Monday’s alternative event, you could miss out on some one-day-only bargains if you ignore Black Friday completely.

Do:

  • Check the price history of products you’re interested in. There are websites you can use to find out how much an item costs before Black Friday. Plenty of retailers will make out that you’re getting a good deal when you’re not.
  • Compare prices with other, similar retailers. This is easier to do with name brand products like appliances and cosmetics. But you can compare like-for-like items, too. Don’t forget to be discerning.
  • Look at the small print. Has the retailer changed its returns policy? When was the product last on sale at full price? Occasionally, stores will be vague in their wording while shifting Black Friday deals.
  • Bear in mind which products you should be buying. Some categories will always have heavier discounts at other points in the year, like apparel and sportswear. Only take the time to shop on Black Friday for relevant products.
  • Put your feet up and shop online. You have the whole world at your fingertips. Now that Black Friday is becoming a global phenomenon, you can join the rest of the world online. Forget about that 4am queue for good.

Written by

Author avatar

Olivia

Olivia is a writer for Zyro and an eCommerce know-it-all. Having spent many years as a retail buyer, she loves writing about trend forecasting, brand building, and teaching others how to optimize online stores for success. She lives in London and spends a lot of time exploring the city’s parks with her whippet.

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