It should come as no surprise that online sales have been trending upward the past several years on Black Friday.

The holiday season in general marks, for almost all retailers and online stores, their most profitable period.

But Black Friday has long held the distinction as the single most lucrative day of the entire year — at least in terms of foot traffic and in-store sales.

But will its reputation remain, or will other days (and other channels) around the holiday season emerge for retailers to prioritize? Last year’s data reveals interesting implications that marketers should be aware of as, indeed, the bedrock seems to be shifting.

Here are 5 things we learned from Black Friday 2018, and takeaways for you to incorporate this holiday.

1. Black Friday sales continue growing, period.

The good news for retailers is that Black Friday sales continue growing. 2018 sales — which totaled $6.2B — were up 23.6% from the year prior.

Thanksgiving online shopping weekend graph Bloomberg
Black Friday sales are steadily rising each year, second only to Cyber Monday. Source: Bloomberg
twitter Last yr, #BlackFriday sales were up 24% from 2017 – look for that trend to continue CLICK TO TWEET

Online shopping is popping.

On Black Friday 2018, growth in digital visits to e-commerce websites grew 13% (comscore). Global digital spending on Black Friday 2018 also grew a hefty 36% from 2017.

Digital Commerce spending on Thanksgiving Black Friday Cyber Monday
Compared with 2017, the three biggest days during the holiday season all yielded +28% in revenue via digital commerce.

But, unless you’ve been hiding in an igloo all year, you likely know that online holiday sales are exploding. ShopperTrak reported a 1.7% decline in Black Friday footfall compared to 2017.

Source: SaleCycle

Takeaway: Don’t neglect Black Friday. Continue focusing on creating deals, promotions, and targeted campaigns. But skew your focus/efforts toward connecting with customers online where they go first — and urge them to come in-store if it makes sense for you.

Learn 5 killer growth strategies to supercharge your holiday marketing.


2. Don’t neglect mobile.

Mobile accounted for 67% of all online action last Black Friday. If more than ¾ of consumers are using mobile to browse, build shopping carts, and buy, the advantage goes to brands that have optimized the entire online customer lifecycle (and who can handle the surge in traffic that’s sure to peak during the holiday season).

Mobile also accounted for 49% of all orders. Interestingly, Instagram and Pinterest also spiked in terms of driving sales (73% and 45% growth respectively).

Cart abandonment is high on mobile devices

Cart abandonment is a big issue for retailers on Black Friday. In 2018, the global average for cart abandonment rate on mobile devices was 78%. But, this number spiked in the U.S. to 86%.

cart abandonment rates Black Friday Barilliance
Cart abandonment rates are high on Black Friday — especially in the U.S. and on mobile devices. Source: Barilliance
twitter #CartAbandonment is an issue on #BlackFriday, especially via #mobile, as 86% of U.S. consumers abandon carts CLICK TO TWEET

Takeaway: Be sure to incorporate mobile and social not just as a part of, but as the starting point or core of your holiday marketing efforts. And it’s crucial to leverage abandonment campaigns that get finicky consumers back to your website and buying.

Free download: How Digital Marketers Can Prepare for the Holidays: 10 E-Commerce Experts Weigh In [PDF]

3. Black Friday: a truly global holiday.

If it wasn’t 5-10 years ago, Black Friday has most definitely evolved to become a worldwide sensation of epic purchasing proportions. While its grown in popularity in North America by almost 50%, it’s absolutely skyrocketed in popularity in Europe and the Middle East:

  • In the U.K. by 242%
  • In Germany by 900%
  • In Italy by 3,233%
  • In Turkey by 4,900%
  • In France by 4,900%
global Black Friday deals
Black Friday popularity is spiking across the globe.

Google’s data suggests that in the last five years, the global Internet interest in Black Friday has more than doubled.

Takeaway: Black Friday is officially a worldwide holiday. Any e-commerce brand has an incredible opportunity to rake in sales not just domestically, but globally. Consumers across the world will be looking for the best deal… so create personalized interactions that deliver, win, and retain them.

Leads, one-timers, and repeat customers require different growth strategies.


4. Embrace promotions and free shipping.

The value of knowing each customer is at no time more important than during the Holidays. Personalization, right-time messages, and right appeal is crucial to win business. Here’s three tips to keep in mind for Black Friday 2019.

Free shipping. 58% of consumers said that free shipping was the most important factor related to online retail shopping. During last year’s Thanksgiving season, 81% of transactions and 90% of desktop dollars were spent on transactions that included free shipping.

Black Friday free shipping
Like most brands, ALDO and rue21 try to earn the business of customers by enticing them with either totally free (or tiered-levels) shipping.
black friday
Emarsys customer Sur La Table offers free shipping at a threshold.

black friday email

Early promotions. More companies began to push Black Friday campaigns well before the actual “holiday” last year. Amazon’s “Black Friday Deals Week” epitomizes this trend — why wait until the day after Thanksgiving if consumers are clamoring for that perfect deal as early as a week or two out?

Personalized incentives. Customized discount codes add a special flare of personalization that might just be the key to pushing customers over the hump toward purchase.

Black Friday is the perfect opportunity to leverage personalized discount codes.

Not only do these special codes make customers feel like individuals, but they allow for easier tracking than mass promotions.

Takeaway: This is not the time to skimp on personalization, free shipping, and amazing creative to support it all.

5. Expect higher revenue and units per transaction but not necessarily greater AOV.

Emarsys client data reveals a couple interesting points.

  • Expect overall revenue spikes during the week of Black Friday. A typical Emarsys customer did around $447k in revenue during Black Friday week 2018 — a 13% increase from the median revenue in 2017 which sat around $388k.

Emarsys Black Friday week chart

  • Units/items per transaction was up a few percent in 2018 vs. 2017. Expect customers to order 2-3 items per transaction this year.
  • Black Friday week revenue was much higher than the weeks leading up to it. Median revenue is roughly 77% higher than the preceding weeks in 2018. This value was around 60% in 2017. Expect to see an increase in your Black Friday revenue in 2019.
  • AOV generally didn’t go up. Our data suggests that the median of weekly AOV hasn’t increased near Black Friday or Cyber Monday in 2017 or 2018.

Takeaway: Plan for increased demand and have things clicking on all cylinders. You will likely see an uptick in website traffic, purchases, items purchased, and revenue.

Final Thoughts

It’s clear that Black Friday is no longer a single-day event — it’s a week long extravaganza of deals, promotions, and online commerce. The lines are becoming increasingly blurred between Black Friday, Thanksgiving, and Cyber Monday sales.

Big retailers like Target, Amazon, Walmart, Macy’s, and Apple have always owned Black Friday. But with the online sphere (and martech as the great equalizer), SMBs and niche players can have the same impact with customers.

This Black Friday, be sure to embrace mobile, focus your attention toward your global, online audience, and leverage personalized deals and incentives.

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