Black Friday and Cyber Monday amid COVID-19

Every year millions of shoppers in the US and elsewhere are treated to 2 mega events within the span of a single extended weekend. Black Friday and Cyber Monday require little introduction. However, 2020 is not just any year. Courtesy of the pandemic we grapple with many restrictions. Here is a peek at what these festive events would look like this year.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday - COVID-19 - coronavirus
Image created by Market Business News.

Black Friday

It is organized on the day after Thanksgiving, and rings in the annual Christmas shopping season in the US. Black Friday is observed as a national holiday in several US states including California, Florida, and Texas. The event holds much importance for both retailers and shoppers.

Retail firms struggling to meet their sales targets throughout the year attract droves of customers on Black Friday with jaw-dropping discounts. In fact, the event was fondly named so by big retailers whose account books go from being in the red (loss) to black (break even or profitable) on this mega day.

People still line-up outside malls and retail outlets. Most shoppers have however turned to ecommerce portals to snag the newest deals and offers. A recent study conducted by eConsultancy found that during Black Friday ecommerce portals see an average surge in web traffic of more than 220%.

Online retailers report an increase in revenues of 240% on average. Adobe Analytics reports that in 2019 online sales on Black Friday crossed $7.4 billion. Brick-and-mortar retailers don’t fare poorly either. CNN reported that in 2019 Target and Macy’s brought in as much 35% of their annual revenues on this single day.

Many shoppers wait and plan through much of the year for Black Friday deals. Migrants in the US usually send money online as remittances to their families back home. However on Black Friday they check items off their gift lists in advance of a visit to their home countries.

Cyber Monday

In 2005 the National Retail Federation (NRF) came up with the moniker Cyber Monday for the Monday following Thanksgiving. The idea was simple –give online retailers a ‘marketing hook’ to boost sales in the vein of what Black Friday does for offline stores. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a part of the same Thanksgiving weekend. With the growing shift to online shopping some have come to call it the ‘Cyber Week’.  However there are some key aspects which set the 2 events apart.

Business Insider believes it is down to the difference in products. Black Friday offers better deals on ‘big ticket’ items like laptops, smartphones, gaming consoles, other appliances, and the like.  Smaller ‘gift-able’ items such as watches, perfumes, earphones, and fashion accessories have the best deals on Cyber Monday. In just 15 years, Cyber Monday has dwarfed Black Friday in revenue terms.

Adobe Analytics reports that in 2019 Cyber Monday sales hit a record $9.4 billion. Shoppers spent approximately $12 million per minute during peak shopping hours.

Black Friday 2020

The bigger question this year is how these cash-cow festivals will fare amidst the ongoing crisis. Black Friday will be celebrated on November 27 this year. It will most likely lack some of the usual dazzle and the bombast of past years. Many shoppers have become wary of crowded spaces. Some states are allowing gatherings of 50 people (Georgia, Illinois). Others are allowing crowds of up to 150 (Connecticut) and even 250 (Indiana, Virginia). A recent Deloitte survey into consumer insights found that 45% of shoppers are no longer interested in shopping in stores.

Smaller stores may open on Black Friday with precautions and physical distancing. Most major retailers who get swamped by mobs of enthusiastic shoppers each year won’t open at all. Retailers like Macy’s, Best Buy, Costco, Dick’s Sporting Goods, GameStop, JC Penney, Kohl’s, Wal-Mart, and Home Depot are moving all of their best deals online.

In addition, many online retailers have announced early deals. They are aiming to turn a single-day event into a month-long affair. Some stores do plan to open on Black Friday, albeit in a limited capacity and with restrictions. Target has announced early-morning shopping hours as well as deployment of over 1,000 contactless self-checkout kiosks across all their stores. There will be 8,000 additional parking spots for contactless curbside pickups. Certain stores are considering allowing in-store shopping only by appointment.

Cyber Monday 2020

Cyber Monday falls on November 30 this year. Unlike its sibling festival Cyber Monday is predicted to largely remain unaffected by the current pandemic. This is because most shoppers (73% as per Adobe data) use their mobile devices and computers to shop on Cyber Monday. The only missing element this time round will be the lack of in-store and personal shopping experiences.

Major e-retailers like Amazon and Wal-Mart have already announced deals that would last over the entire Cyber Week. Sports labels such as Nike and Adidas have shifted to online-only sales. They have announced offers with up to 70% discounts on select merchandise. Going by past numbers analysts at predict Cyber Monday sales to cross $10 billion this year. Shoppers should expect possible shipping delays owing to logistical issues arising from COVID-19 related restrictions.

About the author

Hemant G is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When he’s not writing, he loves to travel, scuba dive, and watch documentaries.

Interesting related article: “What is e-commerce?