Report: Black Friday Is Back — With a Vengeance

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The Black Friday shopping tradition is back — with a vengeance. According to the findings of a new survey commissioned by UserTesting and conducted by the market research company OnePoll, 43% of shoppers say they miss the frenzy of in-store Black Friday shopping and 42% say in-store shopping is more important now than pre-pandemic.

The results echo recent forecasts from the National Retail Federation, which estimates holiday retail sales during November and December will grow between 6% and 8% over 2021, to between $942 billion and $960 billion. That’s despite recent inflation concerns, which are causing stratification with consumer spending between households at different income levels. 

“The data is clear: Americans are ready to get back to the traditional, in-store, Black Friday shopping experience,” says Janelle Estes, UserTesting’s chief insights officer. “For retailers, this means they should prioritize making that in-store shopping experience as seamless and convenient as possible.”

UserTesting’s survey found that consumers prefer to shop in-store for a variety of reasons, including instant gratification, better deals, fewer shipping costs, and the ability to know exactly which items are in stock.

Although retailers found ways to adapt their business models while shoppers were unable to come inside stores during the pandemic—for example, adding curbside pickup and same-day delivery—UserTesting’s insights point to a new opportunity for brands to draw more customers in this holiday season using “experiential features,” like smart shopping carts, augmented reality, live video shopping, digital kiosks, digital coupons, and self-checkouts. 

UserTesting also found that despite inflation, the majority of consumers anticipate spending “as much or more” this holiday season than in previous years, reinforcing the longing for pre-pandemic Black Friday in-store shopping experiences with the convenience of online shopping.

Estes hopes that retailers will consider the insights from UserTesting’s survey as they design their future marketing strategies, keeping the thoughts and opinions of consumers in mind. She says the data clearly shows that the majority of consumers consider in-store Black Friday shopping a tradition and that instant gratification is a top motivator.

When asked what online shopping features they wished they could bring into a store with them, 51% of shoppers said they’d like to see where items are located in-store and 47% said they’d like to use promo codes or digital coupons. 

“The data provides retailers with an idea of how to effectively reach and support customers based on their holiday shopping plans,” Estes says. “You see that this shopping season retailers should be focusing on both in-store and online experiences. And not just as standalone channels; in fact, these channels should be seamlessly integrated.”

Understanding that instant gratification will be a major motivator for in-store shoppers this holiday season, Estes says it’s especially important that retailers are transparent with customers about product availability and expected delivery times. Retailers should also take the time to  improve the customer experience for shoppers making shopping a smooth journey, and they should utilize tools like real-time inventory updates by location and smart shopping carts to make the retail experience simpler.

“The pandemic has certainly made many people nostalgic for the in-person Black Friday experience, but it’s also heightened their expectations. This year, we will have the opportunity to blend the physical and digital experiences,” Estes says. “Implementing phygital tools and strategies, such as supporting consumers who may see a product on social media and want to purchase at a local shop, will be paramount.”

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.