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As October ends and the winter holiday season comes around, Americans start to get excited for a few things: pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving, and of course, Black Friday.

Since Q3 2021, 36% of Americans think the US economy is going to get worse, and 66% think their personal finances are going to do the same. But looking at their spending habits you’d never guess this, as spending levels have been around the same.

Black Friday, and other holiday deals such as Cyber Monday, are not immune to changes in the consumer landscape. Many consumers are choosing to do holiday shopping from the comforts of their home so they can skip the traffic, the crowds, and the lines to instead shop in their pajamas from home. 

But even though the way consumers are shopping might be changing, Black Friday is still a popular event. 56% of Americans plan to do at least some shopping on Black Friday, and half of these shoppers say their spending level will match last year’s. With residual supply chain issues, brands need to make sure they are well-stocked in the weeks leading up to the holiday season. Because for many, Black Friday shopping is as much of a holiday tradition as hanging up decorations and watching holiday movies.

While Americans love a deal, it’s not the only important factor to them when choosing a brand. So, no matter your brand, here’s what you need to know about Black Friday this year.

Santa Claus is coming to town, economic crisis or not

45% of US consumers say they spend time looking for the best deals, and it’s one of the most popular consumer sentiments in the States. It’s become even more important in the past year as the cost of living crisis has made consumers more aware of their spending habits. We can see this through the increase in spending tracking apps. Budgets are tight, and many are looking to make a few dollars go a long way.

Even though adapted budgets may have prevented the usual evening dining out, or impulsive clothing purchases, gift-giving is customary for the holiday season. And so Americans are looking to get the most bang for their buck.  Compared to last year, Black Friday shoppers are 31% more likely to be shopping for gifts, and over half of Black Friday shoppers will be looking to purchase gifts this year.

While gift-giving is up, most other categories are down from last year.

Only 18% of US consumers say they wait for major sales events like Black Friday to make major purchases, down 11% from Q2 2020. 

Among those more likely to be shopping for gifts are Gen X and baby boomers. Both generations are more likely to not be sure what they’re buying quite yet, but our data suggests that clothes could be a popular gift this year.

51% of Black Friday shoppers are thinking about purchasing clothes, an increase of 10% from last year. Headphones and earphones are also a possible choice, with 26% of Americans having bought some in the last 3-6 months either in-person or online. 

Parents with children aged 18 and under in their household are one of the most likely groups to shop on Black Friday (75%), but unlike older generations, they seem to have specific items in mind. They’re more likely than the average Black Friday shopper to plan on buying a gaming device and personal electronics, both of which match up with some of the most desired gifts from US kids aged 8-15. Talk about saving Santa some dough this holiday season. 

Black Friday is online, but some are returning to stores

Americans prefer shopping online, and this hasn’t changed in the past two years.

Black Friday shopping is no different. 42% of American shoppers say they’ll do their Black Friday shopping mostly, or exclusively, online. Baby boomers are the surprising leaders of this trend, with 18% saying they’ll do all of their Black Friday shopping online, the highest of any generation.

Over 75% of Black Friday shoppers say they think they’ll shop on a retail website, a 6% increase from last year. Online retail websites like Amazon remain the top shopping location for Black Friday shoppers this year. In the US, Amazon captured about 18% of all Black Friday purchases last year, and with even more purchases planned online this year, we expect online retailers like Amazon to see more growth.

But not everyone’s going to be shopping online. Small businesses have struggled in the last two years, however, with Covid-19 concerns dipping nationwide, local stores could be set to benefit from Black Friday shopping. While they might not be as popular as online retailers, this year Americans rank local stores (37%) almost equal to malls (38%) and brand websites (38%).

This being said, all brands and retailers should be preparing for the majority of shopping to be done online. Improving consumers’ shopping experience should be the number one priority. A quick and easy checkout is a super important part, both brand websites and apps should be easy to navigate. Detailed size and fit descriptions are also key – they are the most common reason to return an online purchase. Making online shopping a positive experience is a key way to ensure consumers complete their purchases.

Social media and SEO: the keys to outreach

With a majority of Black Friday shopping to be done online, brands need to re-evaluate how consumers discover them.

Social media ads and posts are among the fastest-growing brand discovery channels. Letting consumers, both new and existing, know about Black Friday deals via social media should be a priority for brands and retailers. 

Posts or utilizing the “stories” feature is one way to update shoppers on Black Friday deals, as Black Friday shoppers are 36% more likely to find out about brands and products via updates on social media pages. 

Shopify also estimated that email campaigns are most effective during the Black Friday season. Brands should take advantage of this by sending out early access via email. The consumers most likely to shop Black Friday – Gen Zs, millennials, and those with children ages 18 and under in the household – are more likely to advocate for a brand if they feel they have access to exclusive content and insider knowledge.

Search engines are a top way for Americans to discover brands and products, and “Black Friday” is already seeing growth in Google searches in the past 30 days. With more Black Friday shoppers looking to buy gifts this year, brands ought to prioritize keywords that tie back to gift ideas.

Consumers are also using social media to search for deals, and brands should look into popular hashtags like “#blackfridaydeals” and “#blackfridaysale” on platforms like TikTok and Instagram to reach out to prospective consumers. Hashtags can be an effective way for brands to improve the consumer purchase journey and increase social media impressions for products. 

Planning usually starts a week out

55% of American shoppers say they start planning for Black Friday about a week or less in advance.

But, not all consumers who are planning to shop on Black Friday this year will wait until the week before. Some will start planning earlier. Shoppers with children ages 18 and under in the household are 20% more likely to scour for Black Friday deals 2-3 weeks out. Singles are among the most likely to not plan for Black Friday at all. 

Although Gen Zs are not spending as much time looking for deals compared to other generations, and are the lowest to say they’re price-conscious, they are the most likely to plan their Black Friday shopping. 40% of Gen Z shoppers say they start planning two weeks or more in advance.

This can be attributed to some generational attitudes that are unique to Gen Zs. They’re 63% more likely to say they’re not decisive, the highest of all generations, but they’re also the most influenced by trends. They need to keep up with the times, be that the latest clothes or gadgets but need to plan around the best sales to make the most out of their time and money. 

Checkout: what you really need to know

Black Friday and holiday sales events are good displays of both current and future shopping trends. We’ll be monitoring these trends so you can be ready for what’s to come.

For now, here are some key takeaways you can add to your cart for this year’s Black Friday:

  • American shoppers are looking for gifts, not for themselves. Consumers are planning on increasing their gift shopping by 31% this year compared to last, while most other product categories fell in planned purchases. But, consumer spending is projected to stay the same. Shopping budgets have shifted from other goods to gifts.
  • Online retailers will be dominant, but don’t count out in-person shopping. Over 75% of Black Friday shoppers are planning on shopping on a retail website, and Amazon is their main target. As Covid-19 concerns dip, consumers are going back to in-person shopping, with emphasis on local stores and department stores.
  • Concentrate on social media to get the word out. Consumers are looking to social media ads and posts to discover brands and hear about sales these days. Brands should utilize posts and the stories feature to let consumers know about what sales they have. Posts should start several weeks out for awareness, and then increase in the week prior to Black Friday as consumers start to plan for sales.
  • Gen Zs, millennials, and parents are key groups. Younger consumers use Black Friday as a time to get gifts for loved ones and find deals for themselves. Gen Zs and millennials are likely to plan ahead and are on social media the most, so outreach via posts and stories are essential for these groups. Parents with children ages 18 and under in the household are also likely Black Friday shoppers, as they’re looking to get gifts for the kids. The most requested item this year? Video games and clothing.
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