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As early as the first week of November, retailers participating in Black Friday begin sending out emails with subject lines like “Black Friday Hot Deals” and “Sale Starts Now” with multiple exclamation points. Each year, emails seem to appear in the inbox sooner than the previous year.
Black Friday, which previously required queuing outside malls and department stores to get door deals, has changed over the years with strict safety standards amid the pandemic and continued advancements in e-commerce capabilities.
With Black Friday just around the corner, major retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, Target, and Walmart have already announced their holiday deals. What trends or hits can shoppers expect from this year’s holiday?
Early Deals are here to stay
Black Friday is no longer just Black Friday Friday, which is positive and negative for retailers and shoppers. It started with just Black Friday and then crept into late Thanksgiving and eventually Cyber Monday. Now, it has been extended for the whole month.
This extended holiday is likely because “retailers are trying to extract the process and decompress themselves,” said Ant Duffin, a senior trade analyst at Gartner.
In early November, ahead of what Amazon calls its “Black Friday event,” the e-commerce giant began offering deals. Target also announced a bunch of Black Friday deals for a week before the important retail holiday.
Shoppers can expect early sales to continue for as long as Black Friday is around.
Brick and mortar lose out on black friday
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers were beginning to take advantage of the potential of e-commerce. While the holiday still draws people to malls and stores, a large percentage of people will be shopping from their smartphones and laptops on Black Friday.
According to research by Wunderkind, 71% of American consumers will commit to online shopping this holiday season.
Popular Christmas gifts such as game consoles, laptops, and cell phones may require more work to find this year due to ongoing supply chain strains and subsequent chip shortages affecting the availability of electronic products. However, that’s not the only thing stopping shoppers from buying the perfect holiday gift.
Oftentimes, shoppers compete with automated programs on e-commerce websites. Online shopping bots, often used by people hoping to get a good deal before reselling an item for a profit, are becoming more sophisticated.
These bots use programmed software to facilitate online purchases by performing automated tasks such as completing checkouts or searching for restocks. While these bots mimic human behavior, they are much faster than human consumers.
Shopping bots may make adding everything from exclusive sneaker releases to new game systems to your virtual shopping cart more challenging this year.
Curbside pickup, easy return
Amid a shift in shopping habits this holiday season, the way consumers interact with retailers is also changing. In 2020 and 2021, retailers had to get creative during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fewer people were shopping in stores, and more people were browsing websites for the best deals and fastest delivery times. This year, with inflation soaring, consumers may be adding an item to their virtual shopping cart before realizing shipping is $20 and changing their mind about delivery.
The advent of curbside pickup and “buy online, pick up in store” (BOPIS) is helping smaller brick-and-mortar retailers meet their needs and get people into the stores. Compared to 52% in 2019, more than 65% of retailers now offer curbside or BOPIS.
Delivery fees aren’t the only thing stopping users from buying online without the BOPIS option — the barriers to returning an item can be tricky, too. To make shopping even more convenient, Amazon has opened Returns Centers at Whole Foods and Khole’s across the United States.
This will make holiday returns easier this year, as hubs don’t require printing a return label, repackaging the item, or taking it to the post office. You simply bring the item to the hub, show the return QR code, and they do the work for you.
Restocking Fee: No more free returns
Retailers are rethinking their return policies, especially throughout the holiday season. According to the National Retail Federation, retailers can expect to return more than $150 billion in holiday sales this year. Many retailers do not want to cover this loss.
Instead, retailers shorten the return period or apply a restocking fee. Popular department stores like Dillard’s and retailers like Urban Outfitters charge between $5 and $10 for mailed returns. While these costs do not cover all losses, they do help deter consumers from returning items.
Be sure to read our reprint policies and the subtleties in your Black Friday buying decisions.
With experts predicting that chip shortages and supply chain issues will continue into 2023, the items you’re looking to gift this year may not be in stock. If they are available, they may be more expensive.
“The entire supply chain is currently a huge question mark,” said Priya Ragobir, professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business.
Like last year, shipping delays could make it difficult for retailers to prepare for the busy shopping season. However, many have adjusted their ordering schedules and strategies and are starting to prepare for the season early.
The upside to an unpredictable supply chain is that retailers may be left with excess inventory that can benefit bargain shoppers after the holiday season.
Even with the new Black Friday trends and obstacles, 76% of American consumers plan to take advantage of deals this year. This equates to the $158 billion US shoppers spent during Black Friday alone.
Image credit: JEAN-BAPTISTE PREMAT / Shutterstock.com