• eCommerce

Black Friday 2021 Predictions: Shopping trends in the new norm

The COVID-19 pandemic has radically altered the global shopping trends of consumers. A different consumer landscape has emerged as restrictions limited people’s mobility and high street shops were forced to lockdown. The mayhem surrounding the traditions of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with people piling into shops and fighting over the next must-have gadget, appeared to have subsided. The economic fallout for retailers in 2020 has meant that the usual day-long Black Friday frenzy stretched to a month, as retailers invented innovative ways to recoup their losses in a difficult trading year. Consumers turned to online shopping in their droves and smartphones became the window into the high street. In the USA, the birthplace of Black Friday, a total of $3.6 billion of the $9 billion sales in 2020 was made from SmartPhones, up 25% on 2019 figures. As the light at the end of the tunnel flickers even brighter for consumers and retailers alike, what are the likely Black Friday 2021 predictions and trends on the horizon and will we see a return to the hedonistic shopping days of pre-pandemic times?

Will Black Friday 2021 predictions set the scene for a blockbuster end of year sales for retailers?

Global Black Friday online sales sky-rocketed in 2020 as consumers embarked on shopping sprees from the comfort of their own homes. As the lead-in time for sales turned from days into weeks, the scene was set for an impressive month of online purchases. As retailers announced their bargains in early November 2020, it provided consumers with the impetus to shop earlier, so much so that global sales in the first three weeks of November were up 28% year on year. Global Black Friday sales in November 2020 more than doubled to 168% from October of the same year although were dramatically lower than in 2019 which saw increases of 213%. The positive trends were mirrored in many of the larger European economies with the UK witnessing a sales growth of 33% year over year during the first three weeks of November and a whopping 263% increase from sales in October. France posted sales growth of 66% while the increase in Germany was more measured at 11% from sales between the 1st and 21st of November, but Black Friday sales rose to 168% compared to the October before.

Retailers have faced shipping delays and supply chain issues as exemplified in March 2020 when shipping giant Amazon announced to sellers and vendors that it was suspending shipments of non-essential items to its warehouses. Instead, it prioritised medical equipment and high-demand products until the 5th of April of the same year. The shift seems clear: the pandemic has turned Black Friday and Cyber Monday into more of a shopping marathon than a shopping sprint. The spread-out approach in favor of the grab it and bag it is likely here to stay and will define the future trajectory of these two mammoth shopping events in 2021. Black Friday 2021 predictions are likely to provide a litmus test for the future of shopping. The landscape has been radically altered over the last two years as people turn to their smart devices for a less time consuming shopping experience and high street retailers embrace hybrid sales models.

Will retailers continue to stretch out Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales in 2021?

Retailers are likely to tread with caution as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc and create uncertainty. Retail outlets can be closed at a moment’s notice on government orders, and businesses are acutely aware of the cautionary tale: that they cannot rely solely on high street sales during these uncertain times. More and more retailers are opting for hybrid sales models with a focus on online sales to protect their income streams and entice customers.

This has created the perfect shopping storm. Consumers are worried about stocks and delays while retailers face the prospects of labour shortages and shipping bottlenecks which will likely push out the length of the holiday sales to attract and maintain customers. The seamless supply of goods, or the lack thereof, cannot be overestimated. In June 2021 a major outbreak of COVID-19 at one of China’s biggest ports caused shipping disruptions around the world. Concerns mounted as it looked like the latest must-have goods would be unavailable to feed the insatiable appetite for online products in Europe and North America. Supply chains are becoming more uncertain and complex, leading to shopping anxiety for consumers and the prospect of empty shelves for retailers at key holiday times. This is likely to fuel longer lead-in times for shopping extravaganzas such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and of course Christmas. But, the upbeat mood of retailers and consumers after the gloom of the pandemic has Black Friday 2021 predictions of a bumper year.

What trends are likely to emerge to fuel the Black Friday and Cyber Monday hype in 2021?

Customers’ concerns about shipping delays and supply issues have created the “early bird catches the worm syndrome.” They are shopping earlier than at any time in the previous decade to ensure that their wish lists on Black Friday arrive on time. Events such as weddings, graduations, and baby showers that were postponed or severely curtailed are now making a comeback. People can travel again and the opening up of global trade and leisure is fuelling the purchase of many products which during the pandemic had all but disappeared from people's radar.

According to Conductor, a marketing platform that specialises in search traffic, searches for luggage items such as “Chanel Bags 2021”, “Simply Southern Tote”, “Bogg Bag accessories”, and “Packing Cubes for travel” increased by more than 1,000% in 2021. With couples across the globe now being able to tie the knot as the shackles of restrictions dissipate, one of the biggest item searches in late 2021 was for “cocktail dresses for weddings” which has surged by 1,000% compared to 2020. Black Friday sales predictions are likely to be characterised by a huge demand for products that served no practical purposes during the pandemic and as such will set 2021 apart from previous years.

Why will Black Friday 2021 be so different from previous years?

Three words are likely to have a huge impact on purchases this Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which might go over many of our heads; Global semiconductor shortages! Why? Even before the pandemic global shortages had become an issue. They are used in everything from computers, smartphones, and even electric toothbrushes. According to STMicroelectronics CEO Jean-Marc Cleary, we won’t “return to a normal situation before the first half of 2023.” This will affect consumers’ ability to buy these much sought-after products and will leave retailers with the headache of sourcing reliable supplies of the latest must-have gadgets.

For UK shoppers the big elephant in the room causing consumer and retail anxiety is around, dare we mention it again, Brexit. Since leaving the EU labor, fuel, and food shortages have become more pronounced. The UK has been one of the worst-hit by global supply chain issues as thousands of EU workers left the UK, and strict immigration laws have made it extremely difficult for workers to get back in. In 2021, British newspapers widely reported the massive shortage of HGV drivers and that the UK needed 100,000 drivers to fill the void. This will have a direct impact on goods being shipped across the UK and is likely to create __delays for eager shoppers determined to snap up Black Friday bargains. __

Black Friday 2021 predictions that are not in dispute and we can all agree on is that the shopping extravaganza will almost definitely become a whole month. Black November 2021 will see consumers embrace the new norm of shopping with a few clicks of a button. Retailers have had to adapt at lightning speed to consumer behaviours that are technology-led and have blossomed during uncertain economic times. Comprehensive online sales strategies and tailor made Black Friday advertisements have emerged to ensure that retailers continue to peak consumer interest for the month-long shopping spree and not just for one day as it was in pre-pandemic times. This has involved selling different products on specific days to influence shopping trends rather than offering an A-Z product line all at once. It has become a juggling act of selling at the right time while striving to maintain momentum for longer periods of time to entice the tech-savvy customer. Retailers are embracing hybrid models to boost sales, focusing on online sales using tailor-made advertisement strategies to maintain the marathon and not collapse during the sprint. As delivery and supply problems continue to fuel uncertainty for consumers, versatile and reliable online shipping solutions, such as Packlink, will play a significant role in alleviating delivery woes for the manic shopping holidays to come.

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