Survey: Consumers Are Taking a Cautious Approach to Black Friday

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With Black Friday just days away, retailers are watching closely for signs of what to expect. Will shoppers hold back on spending, or will the tradition of shopping in-person the day after Thanksgiving be enough to lure them back inside? Will e-commerce replace the in-store experience altogether, or will Covid-compliant options like local delivery and curbside pickup gain even more traction during what is typically retail’s most important month of the year?

Retail sales grew for the sixth month in a row in October, according to the National Retail Federation, but a new consumer survey is painting a slightly less optimistic picture of the month ahead — particularly for those smaller retailers without strong omni-channel strategies.

In a consumer survey by the research technology platform Lucid, 45% of respondents said they plan to shop online-only this Black Friday. From a retail industry perspective, some of Lucid’s other findings paint a complicated picture of what’s to come. More than two-thirds (67%) said they have already started, or plan to start, their holiday shopping ahead of Black Friday, which means retailers may not see the same Black Friday bump as in year’s past. Additionally, Lucid’s survey found that 33% of shoppers are “very likely” to spend more cautiously this Black Friday.

“It’s surprising to see that one-third of respondents are expected to spend more cautiously this Black Friday, but not entirely shocking considering the ongoing effects that this pandemic continues to have on our nation at large,” says Kumar Doshi, vice president of marketing at Lucid.

Much of the spending that takes place on Black Friday will happen inside big-box stores, which are more likely to offer Covid-compliant programs like contactless payments and curbside pickup.

In its new holiday spending insights report, NMI found that 44% of consumers plan to spend primarily at big-box stores on Black Friday. Since it’s nearly impossible for most local merchants to beat out big box prices, that has some local merchants concerned.

Despite the somewhat complicated outlook, there are things retailers can do to change their fate. NMI found that 43% of consumers plan to avoid shopping with retailers that don’t offer contactless payments. Retailers that quickly adapt and add contactless payment options, and then market those changes aggressively over the coming days, still have an opportunity to win back customers who would otherwise be staying home.

NMI’s survey found that 62% of consumers plan to spend at least the same amount as they did in 2019, and 30% plan to spend more. Twenty-nine percent of the consumers in NMI’s survey said they plan to primarily shop in-store, and 40% plan to shop both in-store and online.

Luring shoppers in-store on Black Friday means retailers will have to lean into customer safety. In addition to adding contactless payment options, retailers are also beefing up their local delivery services, adding curbside pickups, and increasing their sanitizing protocols.

Forty-one percent of consumers say they expect retailers to disinfect point-of-sale areas after every customer this holiday shopping season, but merchants are weary of investing any more than they already have in new precautions. NMI found that a primary concern is cost, as merchants are already working with reduced headcounts during what is typically the busiest season of the year.

“The need for agility to gauge customer sentiments has been increasing over the last few decades. And we’re reminded each holiday season of that need,” Doshi says. “Products and services that help companies gauge that faster and more accurately take on greater importance.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.
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