Black Friday is always a spectacular affair, but things will look quite different in 2021. After last year’s holiday season at the height of the pandemic, shoppers and retailers are now looking to get back to normal while holding on to some new habits.
In 2021, consumers will shop like never before—both in how much they buy and how they do it.
Here are 20 trends to look for on Black Friday 2021:
- In-store shopping is back. Almost all Black Friday shopping in 2020 took place online, but this year consumers are eager to get back in stores to buy physical items. Stores that offer exclusive in-store deals or unique experiences will draw in customers.
- Local is in. Customers want to buy items from local businesses as a way to support homegrown companies and cut down on shipping delays. Given the choice between a mass-produced item or a local product, customers will increasingly buy local. American-made products will also see more sales in 2021.
- Gen-Z is getting in on the fun. Shoppers will be younger, with the biggest chunk of Black Friday customers coming from the 18-44 age group. To reach younger customers, brands need to double down on digital shopping and marketing.
- Staff shortages change in-store experience. Staffing struggles across the country have caused stores to get creative in how they attract new employees and use them on Black Friday. With fewer greeters and in-store associates to guide customers, brands will increasingly rely on signage and apps to customize and support the in-store experience.
- Customers have already started. With supply chain woes, the majority of consumers plan to start and finish their holiday shopping earlier than normal. That means customers will likely have already started before Black Friday instead of it acting as the holiday kickoff in years past.
- Brand loyalty is out. More consumers are shopping around for the best deal instead of automatically returning to their favorite brands. The lack of loyalty creates opportunities for brands to bring in new customers with great deals, personalization and convenient experiences.
- Buy now, pay later. Customers want the modern approach to layaway where they get the item now but have months to pay it back. Brands big and small are getting in on the trend as a way to reach customers who may feel limited with their current finances.
- Return flexibility matters. Even as customers look for great discounts, they are also thinking ahead to how to possibly return the items. The flexibility to buy online and return in store or an extended holiday return policy are enticing to indecisive customers.
- Customers will balk at shipping costs. Many consumers are used to getting fast free shipping through services like Amazon Prime and Walmart+. The idea of having to pay shipping costs could turn shoppers away from online retailers or make them look for different ways to pick up their items.
- But shipping is still more expensive. USPS and other delivery companies are adding holiday surcharges, which must either get passed onto customers or be eaten by retailers. That could lead to higher prices while still offering “free” shipping.
- Customers seek out sustainability. Brands that reuse materials or sell sustainable and environmentally friendly products will see a boost on Black Friday 2021. In many cases, customers are willing to spend more or see a smaller discount to buy a responsibly made item they can feel good about.
- Shopping is social. Black Friday is a social occasion where customers gather to be physically near products and other shoppers. Customers will look for a strong social experience in 2021, even when shopping online. That means brands need to find ways to build connections between customers, both in person and online.
- Shoppers will use multiple platforms. Most customers will shop across multiple platforms, including in-person, online and through an app or voice assistant. Using numerous channels is convenient and allows customers to get all the deals, including doorbusters exclusive to apps or physical stores. A consistent omnichannel experience has never been more important for brands.
- Big-box stores are leading the charge. Consumers say they are most likely to shop at physical chain stores like Walmart and Target in 2021, both online and in store. Coming in closely behind are e-commerce brands.
- But Amazon will still set the tone. Customers are comfortable shopping on Amazon and will take advantage of the site’s many Black Friday deals. Even as many shoppers look towards local brands and ways to avoid shipping, Amazon is still the main competition.
- Curbside pickup continues to shine. For many customers, it’s the best of both worlds—being able to shop online without having to wait weeks for an item to arrive. Curbside pickup picked up during the pandemic and will be a strong competitive advantage come Black Friday.
- Deals matter. Even as the pandemic lessens in many places, budgets are still tight. Many customers will be more budget- and deal-conscious than in years past, which means the lowest price could be the deciding factor.
- AR and VR bring products to life. More than ever, tools like AR and VR will help customers see the items virtually and test them on their person or in their space to make informed buying decisions.
- It’s a month-long event. Most big stores are launching deals weeks before actual Black Friday this year. Although 2021 is expected to shatter sales records, retailers are no longer as reliant on Black Friday and instead focus on the holiday shopping season as a whole. But a longer shopping period could lead to shopper burnout.
- Stores will be closed on Thanksgiving. In-store deals used to start on Thanksgiving afternoon, but with big retailers like Target, Best Buy and Walmart closed on Thanksgiving this year, in-store deals will start on Friday. That could push sales online and lead to bigger crowds on Black Friday.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker and the author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. Be part of the brand new Customer Experience Community here.