Guest Column | November 8, 2018

Black Friday Doldrums: Why U.S. Consumers Are Shopping From Home

By Janelle Dieken, Genesys

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Only 37 percent of 1,000 adults surveyed plan to brave the mall crowds this year.

The American love affair with the shopping mall is continuing its downward spiral. The convenience of couch-shopping continues to disrupt what used to be America’s biggest in-store shopping day of the year, as a growing number of people turn in their physical shopping carts for online icons on Black Friday.

Notorious for its aggressive consumer behavior, Black Friday is no longer the brick-and-mortar extravaganza it was even a few years ago, as more shoppers move online. Black Friday 2017 went down in digital sales history, with American shoppers spending a record $5 billion in 24 hours online, to be followed by record-setting $6.59 billion in web-based sales on Cyber Monday.

This year, there are likely to be even fewer manic, overcaffeinated shoppers in line at dawn, determined to snatch up the last discounted handbag or home appliance. We recently surveyed 1,000 people over the age of 18 in the U.S. and found that only 37 percent intend to visit physical stores on Black Friday this year. Why?

Savings Without The Stress

Shopping has become as much about the experience as the purchase. The decrease in attraction of the Black Friday experience is not specifically an in-store customer service issue — only 8 percent of respondents cite a lower standard of service as their primary reason to avoid physical stores. Instead, there is a general agreement amongst survey respondents that despite the appeal of the price reductions, physical stores are far too busy (67 percent) and are just not worth the hassle (31 percent). Some other survey insights include:

  • The Black Friday retail experience holds the least attraction for Americans who have the most experience with it. Only 25 percent of those aged 55 and up plan to brave the crowds, while 60 percent of 25 to 34-year-olds will be diving head-first into the chaos.
  • American men are more likely than women to shop in person on Black Friday, with 44 percent planning to visit stores versus only one-third of female respondents (33 percent).
  • The trend spans all regions of the United States, with only 31 percent of respondents in the Southwest likely to show up in person on Black Friday, versus a nation-wide high of 40 percent in both the Northeast and Western states.
  • Forty percent of Americans say that smaller, independent businesses still offer the best customer service.

Convenience may be king, but online shopping can still be a mixed bag of hassle and frustration. Shopping is not exactly stress-free if customers are met with difficulties making payments, have trouble finding what they want, get inaccurate responses via live chat, or are alarmed by pop-up security warnings.

When online interactions aren’t handled expertly, they can leave cyber shoppers waiting impatiently or screaming profanities at overwhelmed contact center agents or repetitive chatbots. In fact, some of the biggest customer service gripes reported by consumers when calling in for support include being put on hold (42 percent), given incorrect information (37 percent), and presented with too many automated options before reaching an agent OR resolving their issue (36 percent).

Yet, advancements in artificial intelligence and multiplying channels of communication are making it easier to receive great support from retailers, both large and small. Companies can either fall victim to the digital chaos of holiday shopping or harness the opportunity by ensuring that communicating with customer support is an easy, pleasant experience — on both ends.

And what’s at stake if they don’t? Quite possibly their business, considering a positive brand reputation is inextricably tied to delivery of good customer experiences — both in-person or online. In our survey, 72 percent of respondents say they have sometimes or always bought something from a business based solely on its reputation for customer service. And a whopping 89 percent of respondents have acted as a direct result of poor customer service.

Online shopping is reconceptualizing the retail world. To adapt with the changing times, companies must employ the right systems and people to ensure that the entire buying experience is personal and friendly for the consumer. When retailers do this, the benefits are year-round and not just a Black Friday bump.

About The AuthorJanelle Dieken, Genesys

Janelle Dieken is the senior vice president of product marketing for Genesys, the global customer experience and contact center solutions provider. Contact her at