Guest Column | October 19, 2018

What Are Consumers Telling Us About Black Friday?

By Brian Elliott, Periscope By McKinsey

Shopping Crowd

No longer a one-day shopping extravaganza, Black Friday kicks off an extended discount period running through to Cyber Monday that’s become an established feature of the retail calendar on both sides of the Atlantic — one that has dramatically changed the way people shop in the run up to Christmas.

This is the third year Periscope By McKinsey has looked at the shopping behavior of consumers, how they prepare, and the categories they plan to spend in during Black Friday. Once again, we are seeing how consumers are changing the way they view this key event. Event awareness was exceptional among U.K. (92 percent) and Canadian (91 percent) respondents, outstripping even that of U.S. shoppers (88 percent) for whom the concept of Black Friday discounts is a long-established tradition. Similarly, it’s clear that Black Friday is a growing trend in Germany, where 78 percent of shoppers had the event on their radar.

With retailers outside the U.S. now participating in Black Friday and Cyber Monday, discounting practices are stimulating ever greater consumer participation in the annual shopping event. For example, in Europe just 19 percent of U.K. respondents had participated in Black Friday back in 2015 — compared to an impressive 54 percent in 2017. It was a similar story in Germany, with 9 percent of consumers getting involved in 2015 — jumping to 43 percent in 2017.

How Will Consumers Be Spending Their Money?

Regardless of stating a clear intention to participate in Black Friday, consumers appear to be keeping their options wide open when it comes to exactly which items they will buy — and from whom.

When asked to evaluate their pre-Black Friday shopping preparations, the vast majority of respondents in all countries surveyed said they were doing very little to no pre-planning when it comes to which stores or products they’ll shop with or for on the day. This indicates that consumers are prepared to “wait and see” in anticipation of truly tempting offers that capture their attention or incentivize them to make a purchase.

When the event kicks off, the ease and convenience of browsing retailer websites held the greatest appeal for the vast majority of consumers looking to hunt down ideas for their Black Friday purchases. But browsing in-store came a close second for U.S. (45 percent) and Canadian (47 percent) shoppers and held a strong attraction for 41 percent of German and 35 percent of U.K. consumers.

Just 12 percent of U.S. shoppers expect to be shopping exclusively online — with 21 percent saying they’ll be mostly making digital purchases. Shoppers in all countries surveyed exhibited strong omni-channel inclinations. In the U.S., 48 percent of respondents intend to shop both online and in-store — and it was a similar story for around a third of consumers in Canada (39 percent), Germany (32 percent) and the U.K. (30 percent).

This year’s findings reveal the percentage of consumers intending to shop only in-store is extremely low across the board — and was highest in the U.S. and Canada (4 percent each).

The Categories Of Choice For The Black Friday Shopper

Clothing moved ahead of all other categories to take the top spot on consumer shopping lists in all the countries we surveyed, bumping Consumer Electronics into second place. While digital remains strongly ahead as the primary method consumers plan to use when shopping for Consumer Electronics, 50 percent of shoppers in Canada and 54 percent in the U.S. still favor offline shopping when it comes to selecting new clothes.

However, consumers are still voting with their feet and heading in-store when it comes to Grocery and Beverages, with an average of 45 percent of all respondents stating that they prefer to shop offline for these items and the same number saying that they don’t plan to shop for them at all on Black Friday.

In Summary

With consumers clearly eager, ready and willing to participate and shop this Black Friday 2018, retailers and brands looking to extract maximum value from this “golden” opportunity should ensure they prepare the right promotions for the right customers to ensure they attract high numbers of shoppers — and secure big basket orders.

Consumers have already set aside significant budgets to fund their Black Friday 2018 shopping sprees and have clear purchasing intentions when it comes to who they will be buying for and which product categories they will be prioritizing. But beyond that, they’re adopting a much more spontaneous approach in relation to what items they will actually purchase — preferring instead to sit back and see which promotions and offers most entice them to spend on the day. It will be fascinating to see how the consumer evolves yet again in 2019!

For more information on this research, download the report “Black Friday 2018 Shopping Report: Consumers are Eager, More Digital, and Willing to Spend” via this link.

About The Author

Brian Elliott, Founder, Senior Advisor & Head of Innovation at Periscope By McKinsey, explores the behavior and attitudes of consumers toward this year’s Black Friday shopping event.