Why Black Friday Will Never Be The Same and How To Prepare for Peak 2020

Around August of each year, I am asked to prepare some analysis and thoughts around Black Friday and what it might look like in that particular year. Typically, it will be an evolution on the previous year, with some observations on new innovations or opportunities which have arisen in the past nine months.

This year, we seem to have experienced a decade of change in the space of 12 weeks. Trying to predict what will happen next Tuesday is tricky enough, so being asked to accurately predict what Black Friday 2020 might look like to retailers seems a long shot. However, I think there are some clear signs of what is to come, and some obvious measures that businesses should be putting in place to ensure they’re not caught out by unexpected events.

The rise of eCommerce

The shift to online retail has taken a massive upswing following the lockdown of the UK in Q2 of this year. In spite of economic worries and uncertainty, people have been unafraid to spend on eCommerce, finding things to pass their time with families and at home. DIY, electronics and gaming were the biggest winners as people came to terms with spending more time confined to their houses. On the other hand, we’ve seen food, drink and hospitality make rapid and fundamental changes to survive, with digital at the centre of new business models.

A significant volume of this new online custom has been from people who were previously hesitant to buy online, and for some, this transition will be permanent. Certainly, during the rest of 2020, where people are likely to be actively avoiding crowds and may even be under some form of localised lockdown during Black Friday, there is going to be a compelling reason to shop online more than previous years.

Economic uncertainty

Counter to this, there is significant uncertainty around the economy which is likely to reduce how much people will want to spend on themselves over the Black Friday period. Unless the government follows through on suggestions for a one-off payment to jump start spending again, it is probable we will see the per capita spend for Black Friday reduce on previous years. However, I strongly suspect this won’t mean overall spend is lower, due to the number of people buying online being so much higher.

2020 wildcards

One potential wild card in the 2020 Black Friday mix is the crafts and hobbies sector. Lockdown has seen people take up new hobbies and become self-sufficient through crafts (and banana bread). For those who choose to continue with their new hobbies into 2021 and beyond, there may be a surge in seasonal buying for new equipment, gifts for Christmas and supplies.

Opportunities are there for retailers in these sectors to nurture customers who have shown signs of starting a new pass-time, upgrading them to long-term enthusiasts through targeted marketing and personalisation, as well as relevant content and support.

Logistic and deliveries

One area of concern for retailers and consumers alike as we head into the peak season should be logistics and delivery. In the event of a surge in online demand in November and December, it is likely we will see disruption to the supply chain.

Coupled with the fact that deliveries are more complex in a non-contact, post-COVID world, we could experience delays to orders while retailers become vaguer in their delivery promises than they have been in previous years. Indeed, we may see named day and next day deliveries become far more scarce as the consumer realises that they’re at home to receive their deliveries most of the time now anyway.

In summary, this year is likely to be unique in whichever form Black Friday and the Christmas peak takes. While there are likely to be headaches and frustration due to the restrictions in place and the uncertainty of the situation, an agile and responsive business should be able to capitalise on the sudden growth of the eCommerce market. If you need a helping hand to get your website prepared for what peak 2020 may bring, get in touch with Team Pinpoint.