This year, the pandemic forced many retailers to shift their Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales promotions from in-person to online. ‘Sale periods’ have stretched from single days (Cyber Monday, Black Friday) to weeks or months ahead of time (Black Friday Days or Cyber Week). But with access to products and deals all the time as well as COVID-19, will this impact the future of these major eCommerce sales days?
A History of Black Friday & Cyber Monday
The phrase ‘Black Friday’ has a history of both fact and fiction that has evolved over time. Did you know the phrase, which had nothing to do with shopping, was originally coined because of the crash of the U.S. gold market in 1869? In more modern history, there is a complicated history of the phrase ‘Black Friday’ and how it correlates with shopping. History.com wrote an unfiltered and illuminating account of the negative connotations this holiday spurred from. By the 1980s, national retailers turned Black Friday into a more positive association and created the completely in-person sales event.
As the role of technology grew, shopping behaviors started to change too. In 2005, the National Retailers Federation (NRF) noticed an increase in online sales on the Monday following Thanksgiving. The Senior Vice President of Research and Strategic Initiatives, Ellen Davis coined the phrase, ‘Cyber Monday.’ Their subsequent press release mentioned the phrase and it stuck.
COVID-19 Changed Shopping
Due to social distancing precautions, retailers had to rethink their strategy when it came time for the biggest sales days of the year. Target, for instance, dedicated the entire month of November as ‘Black Friday Now.’ The retailer promised some of its lowest prices of the year well before the traditional Black Friday-Cyber Monday sales days.
“Trends were advanced faster in 2020 because of the pandemic,” says Shane Ragiel, Senior Director of Digital Strategy at Chacka. He further explained that with the increase in work-from-home in recent years (and because of the pandemic), online shopping is seeing an increase this holiday season. As a result, online and brick retailers had to reevaluate their Black Friday- Cyber Monday approach.
“While most are taking the expected approach of having deals run longer and encouraging users to buy online, we should expect to see more innovative approaches to the holiday sale week in future years provided more planning and growth with online shopping.”– Shane Ragiel, Senior Director of Strategy, Chacka Marketing
The Future: More Questions Than Answers
One must look at the future and ask a few key questions: In a world where we can pick and choose the best deals with the click of a button, what will become of Cyber Monday? Should Black Friday turn back into a visit your local retailer day? Also, do we even need a Cyber Monday if customers are shopping the days prior? These may seem like simple questions, but the answers are not simple.
Big box retailers like Walmart and Target need to fight back from the online dominance of Amazon to survive. The pendulum swung wildly this year to eCommerce. The question is: how far, if at all, will it swing back? If it seems like there are more questions than answers, things are constantly changing. Who would have predicted what would have happened this time last year? If we look back on 2020 predictions released in 2019, I doubt any of them considered what would happen if a global pandemic struck. It is not to say another calamity will strike in 2021, but to say that we should look to the future as a place of possibilities and not a certainty.