Discover Black Friday Buying Trends This Holiday Season

GRIN also recommends this free guide: How to Get ROI from Influencer Marketing.

Black presents wrapped with gold ribbon on a black baground

Over the last several years, Black Friday promoters have done their best to shed the shopping holiday’s reputation for massive crowds, late-night campouts, and box store fisticuffs

The COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated the shift from in-person to virtual shopping as more consumers recognized the luxury of snagging Black Friday deals from the comfort of their own homes.

With more than $843 billion to be made during the U.S. holiday retail season, marketers have every reason to unleash their most fun and innovative influencer marketing campaigns. And with consumers beginning their shopping earlier than ever, there is no better time to start planning than right now, starting with what Black Friday means for you and current and future Black Friday buying trends. 

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What does Black Friday/Cyber Monday mean for your brand?

Black Friday isn’t just a brick-and-mortar affair anymore. Ecommerce rang up $8.9 billion on Black Friday alone in 2021, with the total number of holiday ecommerce sales topping $206.88 billion. Last year’s online holiday sales record was more than double the amount of ecommerce holiday sales reported in 2016. 

But what used to be the shopping day of the year is only the beginning of what is now known as Cyber Weekend—the most lucrative online shopping week of the year. 

Here’s a look at what to expect in 2022:

  • Black Friday (November 25). The unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. Many stores offer highly promoted sales and discounts that occasionally kick on Thanksgiving Day. 
  • Small Business Saturday (November 26). First observed in 2010, Small Business Saturday encourages consumers to support small, local brick-and-mortar and ecommerce businesses. 
  • Cyber Monday (November 28). As the online equivalent of Black Friday, Cyber Monday gives smaller retail websites a way to compete with larger chains with sales that typically carry into the following week. 
Bar graph of US Holiday Buyers Who Made a Purchase During Cyber Weekend, by Day
Image via Insider Intelligence

Transcript: A bar chart depicting holiday buyers who made a purchase during Cyber Weekend by day.

  • Thanksgiving: 30%
  • Black Friday: 81%
  • Saturday: 45%
  • Sunday: 27%
  • Cyber Monday: 54%

With the average consumer spending roughly $448 during the five days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, Cyber Weekend should be a priority for every brand with something to offer to holiday shoppers.

When should you start planning your Black Friday campaign?

Man on his phone buying something on Black Friday demonstrating  Black Friday buying trends

Research from the National Retail Federation indicates more than 40% of consumers begin their holiday shopping before Halloween. As a result, brands need to start planning their holiday promotions at least three to four months in advance. 

When working with creators, you need to reach out with enough time for them to receive product, create content, and post promotions. And because influencers get booked quickly during the holiday season, early influencer outreach is critical to launching a successful initiative. 

Here is a suggested timeline to consider when planning your holiday campaign with influencers:

Preparation & Planning: July-August

Focus on setting the foundation of an influencer campaign. Identify the product, promotion, and influencer. Then start your outreach to lock down creators for your campaign.

Collaborate & Execute: September-October

It’s time for the influencers and brand to collaborate, create, share, and post content. This period is all about increasing brand awareness, building interest, and driving sales. 

Manage & Maintain: November-December

The holiday season is finally here. It’s time to continue running the campaign to drive maximum sales. 

Evaluate & Extend: January

January is when you evaluate the overall performance of your campaigns. Extend your most successful campaigns into post-holiday sales, cross-sells, customer retention, and upsells. 

Black Friday marketing trends for 2022

AR drives purchase decisions.

Augmented reality (AR) gets consumers as close as possible to a “try before you buy” online shopping experience. Roughly 20% of AR users in the U.S. will shop with the technology this year, for a total of 35 million retail AR users. That number is up 19% from last year and will continue to grow. 

Bar graph of Retail AR Share of US AR Users, 2020-2025
Image via Insider Intelligence

Transcript: A bar chart depicting the projected retail AR share of AR users from 2020 through 2025.

  • 2020: 34.5%
  • 2021: 36.7%
  • 2022: 39.2%
  • 2023: 41.6%
  • 2024: 43%
  • 2025: 44.5%

Snapchat is currently the most developed AR platform. Snap Lenses provides users with a “try-on” experience for clothing, glasses, purses, etc. Major brands like Prada and Farfetch have already jumped at the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of Snap Inc.’s new technology. 

Pinterest has also launched Try On for Home Decor. This AR tool enables users to virtually place more than 80,000 items in their homes from retailers like Crate and Barrel, Walmart, and Wayfair using a Pinterest Lens camera. The platform has already launched lipstick and eyeshadow AR tools over the last two years.

Subscription boxes are in.

Box subscription services are now commonplace in the ecommerce landscape. According to the GRIN consumer survey, more than 70% of consumers say they have tried a box subscription service, and more than 65% say they renewed their subscription after its first use. 

Subscription boxes are prevalent in every niche, from pet products to food and alcohol. Even if your brand doesn’t typically offer subscription box services, you can still take inspiration from successful brands to provide your customers an option for a little surprise package during the holiday season.   

Supply chain issues are a concern.

Out-of-stock messages were up 169% in November 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels. Lack of inventory will continue to be a concern during the 2022 shopping season as inflation, supply chain woes, and global unrest continue to affect industries everywhere. 

But some experts are optimistic that some of these issues could be resolved by the end of the year. “We should see better supply-side news as shipping bottlenecks slowly clear, input shortages diminish, and Americans return to the job market,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, lead U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, in a research note reported in TKer

Regardless, brands should prepare for the worst and hope for the best in 2022. Be sure to give yourself plenty of wiggle room for shipping mishaps and have a backup plan in place if consumers should fail to receive any products. 

Most ecommerce sales go to Millennial and Gen Z consumers.

It’s official—no other generation spends like the new working ages of 25-44. Brands that want to stay connected with Millennials and Gen Z-ers must reach them on channels where they are most active, like Instagram and TikTok

Table of Digital Buyers in the US, by Age, 2019-2025
Image via Insider Intelligence

Transcript: A chart depicting how Millennial and Gen Z consumers make, and will continue to make, more online, mobile, and tablet purchases than any other generation by the percentage of total. 

People 14-17

2019: 5.2%

2020: 5.1%

2021: 5.0%

2022: 5.0%

2023: 5.0%

2024: 4.9%

2025: 4.9%

People 18-24

2019: 13.2%

2020: 12.7%

2021: 12.7%

2022: 12.6%

2023: 12.4%

2024: 12.3%

2025: 12.2%

People 25-34

2019: 20.2%

2020: 19.7%

2021: 19.8%

2022: 19.7%

2023: 19.7%

2024: 19.6%

2025: 19.5%

People 35-44

2019: 17.0%

2020: 17.2%

2021: 17.2%

2022: 17.2%

2023: 17.3%

2024: 17.4%

2025: 17.4%

People 45-54

2019: 15.9%

2020: 15.4%

2021: 15.3%

2022: 15.1%

2023: 14.9%

2024: 14.7%

2025: 14.6%

People 55-64

2019: 14.5%

2020: 14.4%

2021: 14.5%

2022: 14.5%

2023: 14.5%

2024: 14.5%

2025: 14.6%

People 65+

2019: 13.6%

2020: 15.7%

2021: 15.5%

2022: 15.9%

2023: 16.3%

2024: 16.7%

2025: 16.7%

Note: internet users who have made at least one purchase via any digital channel during the calendar year, including online, mobile, and tablet purchases

Transcript: A chart depicting how Millennial and Gen Z consumers make, and will continue to make, more online, mobile, and tablet purchases than any other generation. 

Millennials are the first generation to embrace digital tools in every facet of life, while Gen Z-ers are the first generation to be born into a digital society. 

That’s why omnichannel sales/marketing is critical. Consumer demand for frictionless shopping requires brands to establish a strong ecommerce presence and ensure that all other channels sync for a uniform, premium customer experience.

A positive customer experience is essential.

Have you double-checked the customer experience on your website recently?

A 2021 GRIN consumer survey revealed roughly 65% of online shoppers believe that a website’s ease of use is the most important aspect of the ecommerce experience. 

Before starting your holiday promotion, go through your website the same way a consumer would and make sure everything runs smoothly. Be sure to check your search bar and checkout flow, specifically. You might even consider having some family or friends go through the process and give their feedback. 

Ideas to kick off your Black Friday marketing

Offer giveaways and gifts.

Everybody loves a giveaway. They’re simple and drive tons of engagement. A well-executed giveaway guarantees increased brand awareness and racks up plenty of likes, shares, comments, and follows for your brand during the most crucial shopping season of the year.

Another tactic is offering a gift with a purchase. It doesn’t have to be anything too fancy. Even just a simple product thrown in with the sale adds a lot of extra value for the consumer. 

Experiment with ‘wrap it up’ content.

Brands who want to put a spin on the traditional “unboxing” videos can have their creators post “wrap it up” content. If you have an exclusive gift to feature over the holiday season, send one to your influencer and ask them to post a video showing how they wrap presents. You could even feature the freshly wrapped gift in a holiday giveaway campaign.

“Wrap it up” videos are a perfect way to gather user-generated content (UGC) by encouraging followers to share their own holiday stories and gift wrapping “tutorials.” It’s also a great opportunity to have your influencer hype your product up to their audience before wrapping it.  

Utilize scarcity.

It’s important to add scarcity wherever possible. A couple of effective ways to do this are adding a timer to the checkout flow or notification to let shoppers know how many items remain in stock. Anything to let the consumer see something they’re interested in might run out soon is a great way to compel them to complete the checkout process. 

“When confronted with scarcity, a lot of research shows that people’s IQs can drop as much as 13 points. Since people’s attention span is going to be more limited, you’re going to need to look at your marketing and make sure it’s as simple and easy to grasp as possible.”

— Shirin Oreizy, Founder and President of Next Step, from the GRIN Gets Real podcast 

Make returns easy.

U.S. holiday shoppers returned more than $100 billion worth of merchandise in 2020. Returns will happen, so make sure your policy is simple and clear. Remember, buyers take a chance on things like size when they buy online, and it’s not their fault if they get it wrong. You could lose a customer for life if you make it too difficult to return or exchange your product, so nail it down before the holiday traffic picks up. 

Retarget existing customers.

When done correctly, retargeting existing customers leads to guaranteed sales—especially during the holiday shopping season.  

Before starting your campaign, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which of my customers are active?
  • Which customers are at risk of being lost?
  • Which customers have we lost?
  • How was each customer referred to my site? 

Once you answer each of these questions, you can market to each segment directly. 

Examples of successful Black Friday marketing campaigns

REI

REI amplified its core values and brand story with its highly successful #OptOutside campaign. In 2015, the outdoor store decided to close its stores on Black Friday and encouraged people to get outside and shift their focus toward nature and away from shopping. 

The company relied on its employees as brand ambassadors to lead the campaign, which accumulated more than 1.4 million Instagram posts in its first year. It has since become a national campaign adopted by a host of popular outdoor influencers and nonprofit agencies.

Walmart

@zachking A little surprise goes a long way! Use the @walmart effect to reveal your Black Friday deal. #UnwrapTheDeals #ad ♬ original sound – Zach King

Walmart “brought Black Friday to TikTok” in 2020 with its hugely popular #UnwrapTheDeals campaign. The campaign featured a shoppable Black Friday AR filter that revealed Black Friday deals and gave customers a chance to win them. 

Walmart partnered with TikTok stars like Zach King and Zahra Hashimee to help spread awareness for the campaign. The #UnwrapTheDeals campaign generated more than 5.5 billion views and produced roughly 1 million pieces of UGC. 

Kopari Beauty

Teamwork made the dream work for Kopari Beauty’s holiday campaigns in 2021. In addition to partnering with influencers, Kopari Beauty collaborated with other brands to hold giveaways for all kinds of fun holiday gift ideas. 

The approach enabled Kopari to extend its reach into other similar niches while setting a foundation for future holiday collaborations. The sense of urgency the brand and its partners presented during the campaign also encouraged fans to take advantage while time allowed. 

Key takeaway: Leverage creators to enhance your Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions to take advantage of Black Friday buying trends this year

Black Friday is just as competitive for brands looking to cash in on the holiday sales rush as it is for the consumers who flood retail and ecommerce stores. The most successful brands have their Black Friday influencer marketing strategy ready months in advance. They recognize the time it takes to cultivate authentic creator partnerships and a clear set of campaign goals. By planning ahead and selecting the right creators, your brand will be primed for a massive weekend this November. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Apple AirPods Pro was the most purchased item on Black Friday in 2021, according to USA Today

Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year for retailers, followed by “Super Saturday” in December. 

Black Friday preparations should start at least three months in advance. Starting early gives brands enough time to plan their campaigns, find influencer partners, and execute efficiently. 

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