How To Win Black Friday Weekend: Strategies And Stats From 13 Retail Experts

The wait is nearly over: the critical period anchored by Black Friday starts in just a few days. The National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics predict that 164 million people will shop between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday.

As it has historically, Black Friday will remain the busiest shopping day of the extended weekend, with 116 million people making purchases, followed by 75 million on Cyber Monday. Small Business Saturday will attract 67 million, while 34 million will shop on Thanksgiving and 32 million on Sunday.

Retail TouchPoints reached out to 13 analysts and solution providers for their advice and predictions about the behaviors shoppers will exhibit during the make-or-break kickoff to the holidays, and how retailers can work to maximize their potential sales. The topics covered include:


  • How to use shopper psychology to maximize sales and margins;
  • Mobile’s dominant role in holiday shopping;
  • Pitfalls to avoid in customer service and fulfillment; and
  • What the holidays will look like for brick-and-mortar stores.

Understand The Psychology Of The Shopper

  • Consumers are in the mood to buy: “All signs point to a successful holiday season, and consumers are ready to spend this year. Not only are they starting earlier, they’re spending more. We asked why shoppers planned on increasing their gift budget, and 47% say it’s because they earned more income, and 35% are shopping for more people. Smart retailers will capture consumers interest with strategic discounts and easy experiences.” — Marissa Tarleton, CMO, RetailMeNot

  • Take advantage of positive consumer trends while they last: “Holiday sales online and offline will be strong in Q4. Why? Consumer confidence is high, unemployment is low and many retailers have been on a strong trajectory for much of the year. They have years of experience now capturing sales during the Thanksgiving timeframe, and they learn more every year.
  • Whether this momentum continues into 2019 is unclear, especially as tariffs on consumer goods and higher inflation will likely have an impact, but for the short-term, retailers should expect a nice gift of their own from shoppers in the form of good sales.” — Sucharita Kodali, VP and Principal Analyst, Forrester

  • Impulse purchases don’t spoil careful shoppers’ experiences: “When we look at the psychology behind why and how consumers shop on Black Friday it appears as though it is methodical and calculated – they are specifically saving money and creating a shortlist of items they want to buy. And while 56% of shoppers said they purchase something not on their list they still walk away feeling excited, accomplished and satisfied.” — Paige Musto, VP, Corporate Marketing, UserTesting

  • Reach out to Millennials, the most promotion-focused shoppers: “On Thanksgiving and Black Friday, watch for Millennials to be the most motivated shoppers. Our research shows they’re going to be hitting the deals up to 14% more than their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts. Retailers need to have a strategy in place for appealing to this decisive group of consumers on these winner-take-all shopping days.” — Brent Franson, CEO, Euclid

  • Make up for discounts with upselling and cross-selling: “While brands and retailers must often discount aggressively to meet and capture consumer demand, Black Friday also provides an opportunity to leverage this deal-hunting mentality that drives upsells and cross-sells. E-Commerce channels offer the best opportunity for this. For example, brands and their retail partners can easily structure bundles or packaged discounts (spend X, save Y) on their e-Commerce sites, where the consumer gets a discount but ultimately spends more than they would have had they purchased one product alone.” — Danny Essner, SVP of Marketing, NuORDER

Plan For A Mobile-Heavy Holiday

·        Mobile screens will be critical for holiday sales: “Mobile growth has been strong and relentless, gaining share every year. Within the first 12 days of November, smartphones alone have contributed to over 28% of online sales, a 30.2% increase from the year prior. Consumers are driving this change as more daily activities are moved to smartphones, but retailers are also enabling it by meeting consumer needs on a smaller screen. This includes everything from easier checkout to an improved interface that helps drive impulse purchases.” — Taylor Schreiner, Director, Adobe Digital Insights

·        E-Commerce retailers should prepare for Thanksgiving mobile orders: “Shoppers are making mobile their favorite shopping device, as this will be the first year they place more orders on a phone (46% of all orders) than a computer (44%), and far outpacing tablets (9%). Mobile is the switch that turns on the shopping season as shoppers reach for their phones early and often. In fact, Thanksgiving is now the 4th biggest shopping day of the season, and shoppers literally push back from the dinner table and drive the most mobile traffic share at 4 pm.” — Rick Kenney, Head of Consumer Insights, Salesforce

·        Expect virtual assistant usage to continue growing: The availability of a virtual assistant to meet one’s shopping needs is still a relatively new concept: 13% of shoppers today use assistants like Alexa. But with smart speaker ownership increasing, retailers expect this number to grow rapidly — not just year over year, but holiday over holiday. The fact that Gen Xers (22%) and not just Millennials (17%) are leading adoption should be a signal across retail that all generations can become digital taskmasters.” — Leslie McNamara, CMO and Head of Workforce Development, Citi Retail Services

·        SMBs can compete by using automated email marketing and the personal touch: “There’s tremendous competition playing out in consumer inboxes during the holiday season. To break through, marketers of all sizes need to send the right message to the right person at the right time. While that might sound tricky for a small business to do, the reality is that email marketing automation and personalization tools are making it every bit as easy for a small business to achieve as a big box retailer. It’s a marketing equalizer.” — Dave Charest, Director of Content Marketing, Constant Contact

From Search To Delivery, Shoppers Have Zero Patience For Inconvenience 

  • 54% of e-Commerce shoppers will abandon a purchase if they can’t find what they’re looking for: “With countless options at their fingertips, most consumers make split-decisions when searching for a product. With Amazon a click or tap away, retailers and brands must provide straightforward navigation, clear product banners and photography and relevant search results. It is especially important to deliver a mobile-optimized web site, automated product recommendations and fast checkout, or you risk delivering a poor customer experience, which will ultimately lead to cart abandonment.” — Ed Kennedy, Senior Director of Commerce, Episerver
  • Get delivery right, or pay the price on social media: “Social media plays an incredible role in today’s society. When I think about this, consumers love to post on social media and put themselves in the public eye. When other consumers see this, the ‘pile-on’ effect occurs.  When one person posts negatively, it’s not a big deal.  But five, 10, 100+ negative comments, that’s incredibly troubling for a retailer.  We’re talking 78% of consumers sharing negative experiences and that figure is very difficult to overcome.”— Keith Phillips, President and CEO, Voxware

Brick-And-Mortar Stores Can Take A Turkey Day Break

  • Brick-and-mortar won’t suffer by staying closed on Thanksgiving: “It’s likely that taking a day off for Thanksgiving won’t hurt a retailer’s bottom line this year, because foot traffic data points to your customers doing the same. Stores that stayed open on Thanksgiving in 2017 only saw a 0.7% increase over average holiday foot traffic on that day. So ask yourself: Is that worth missing the pumpkin pie for?” — Sarah Ohle Vice President, Marketing Insights, GroundTruth

  • The experience is why 88% of holiday shoppers will visit a shopping center: “Consumers crave the experiential nuances of holiday shopping that can’t be replicated online, so it’s no surprise brick-and-mortar stores are expected to see strong results. Because of this demand for experience, we continue to see shopping centers and malls remain the hub of holiday shopping.” — Stephanie Cegielski, Spokesperson, International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)

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