Is Black Friday Dead? Insights From This Year's Data

Business.com / Sales / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Evaluating the results of a survey conducted, it seems many factors have determined why shoppers have abandoned Black Friday to shop online.

For retailers all over the United States (and now even the world) the combination of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is a sales event that companies begin planning for months in advance.

The planning doesn’t just sit with the marketing teams since every team from security to HR to even the cleaning staff needs to pitch in to prepare for a time when stores are filled to capacity with customers grabbing products off the shelf.

However, this year marked a huge shift in how customers took advantage of the holiday of discounts, since according to the National Retail Foundation more customers bought online than in the store.

It will probably be a long time before we no longer see hours long lines of customers waiting to get into stores, but the transition to online shopping means that Black Friday’s days are numbered. 

Related Article: The 5 Types of Sales Beasts & How to Spot Them in the Wild

To try to understand this shift and how customers have adopted online shopping, I conducted a survey using SurveyMonkey Audience and received 380 responses. The respondents were chosen completely and random from a pool of millions of users and the sample size is representative for the population of the US at a 90 percent confidence level and a four percent margin of error. Basically, these conclusions should be accurate.

Below are three key insights I learned from the survey.

More People Are Shopping Online

Thirty-four percent of users said they will be doing more than half of their holiday shopping online this year and this jumps to 48 percent for people that are current subscribers to Amazon Prime.

Shockingly, despite the seeming big shift in shopping behavior from Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year there were still 29 percent of respondents that will be doing less than 10 percent of their shopping online. This is still quite a significant number, so it is certainly not yet time for retailers to shutter their physical locations and move their operations online.

More Than Half of Shoppers Are "Showrooming" 

Fifty-five percent of respondents admitted to showrooming which is the practice of going to a retail store to physically examine a product and then purchasing it online. This indicates that for the majority of shoppers they may be completely comfortable buying and shopping online but they aren’t entirely confident in the product they will receive in their online purchase until they physically get to hold it. 

Shoppers Want Deals Online—And Free Shipping

When presented with a choice of the most important requirements in making online shopping decisions, price (47 percent) was the number one determinant and it was closely followed by free shipping (40 percent). Surprisingly, only four percent prioritized free return shipping; however, this does make sense when considering that users seem pretty confident on exactly what the products is that they are buying.

There were also some interesting data points when I broke down the results by gender and income. Females (7 percent) prioritized the ability to return an online purchase to a physical store higher than males (5 percent). Showrooming was the highest in the 30-44 age bracket (62 percent), and even in the lowest bucket of those 60+, 46 percent still admitted to showrooming. 

Related Article: Why Mobile Shoppers Are Dominating Black Friday and Cyber Monday

The Dramatic Landscape Shift

The most important conclusion from the survey and this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday numbers is that consumer buying trends have shifted dramatically in a short amount of time. Whereas a few years ago, product marketing teams might have battled with retail purchasers to get an extra two feet of shelf space at a retail establishment, they now need to talk to a CRM campaign manager to have their products featured in a weekly sales email.

The rise of mobile and the connected home has made online shopping so convenient, purchasers can even buy with just a quick click of the Amazon’s Dash button. Based on the success of Amazon’s efforts at making it so easy to shop it is likely that other online retailers will try to do the same. Nonetheless, there is not a complete transformation as there are still shoppers who are shopping in physical stores, so Black Friday isn’t dead just yet.

Part of Black Friday’s appeal is that it comes on a day that many people are off from work and spending time with the family. If customers can make all of their holiday purchases while sitting in their living room or at their office computer, they can go shopping at any time that is convenient for them. In a world where people walk into a store to check out a product and then buy it online to save a few dollars, competition is everywhere and in many cases the lowest price will win. Customers aren’t just looking for deals on one day, they are looking for deals every time they go shopping.

Even more, they aren’t just trying to save money and time when they buy holiday gifts, they want the same benefits when they buy their regular household goods too.  What should scare retailers even more than Black Friday dying is that in this new paradigm, every day becomes Black Friday.

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