Black Friday: The Power and Profit of Technology

Black Friday has been known as the biggest day in shopping for decades now. Big sales and discounts entice tens of millions of shoppers every year. This day marks the start of the holiday shopping season and stores that offer Black Friday deals make profits in the billions. Stories of mobs and crowds and customer stand-offs are no stranger to the media.

In 2020, the pandemic seemed to threaten this almost vital aspect of American culture. Many stores opted not to hold this tradition, while others held deals throughout the month to avoid crowds on the actual day.

How did the pandemic impact Black Friday and where is this tradition headed?

Online shopping is a somewhat new aspect to Black Friday. But even before the pandemic, online shopping began to take over the market of Black Friday deals. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), in 2019 there were 93.2 million online shoppers compared to only 84.2 million in-store shoppers throughout the Thanksgiving weekend.

According to the NRF, once the pandemic hit in 2020 there was an 8% increase in online shopping, with 100 million customers filling their carts on sites like Amazon and Walmart. The NRF also reported a significant decline of in-store shoppers in 2020.

Only 58.7 million customers were found shopping in-person, 37% less than the previous year. Health/safety concerns due to the pandemic prompted shoppers to feel safer getting deals from a distance.

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This increase in online shopping proved to be more lucrative for participating companies. According to Adobe, 2019 Black Friday revenue reached 142.4 billion, while revenue in 2020 got up to 188.2 billion.

This trend continued into the 2021 Thanksgiving shopping season. Adobe reported a 13.9% increase in online carts. Why did this happen? Inflation caused discounts found online to be “weaker” (less % off on electronic deals, etc.). There were even supply chain issues, with out-of-stock items increasing by 258% in comparison to 2019.

The pandemic certainly did not deter Black Friday from thriving. Although this new form of Black Friday is unconventional to long-time shoppers, its advantage for businesses is clear.

Black Friday is most definitely not going anywhere, but there will undoubtedly be a change in how stores offer their sales as they shift their marketing to a new generation of shoppers.