Black Friday, traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year, provides an opportunity to analyze consumer shopping behaviors and derive insights that can help retailers and marketers plan for the remainder of the holiday season and beyond. This year, with COVID-19 cases on the rise and business restrictions changing by the day across the United States, the stakes are higher than ever. As stores compete for limited foot traffic and seek to adjust digital marketing tactics to draw in as many shoppers as possible to their websites, examining location data to understand in-store visitation patterns and shifting consumer behaviors could help retailers gain a much-needed edge in 2021.
Here are four trends gleaned from Black Friday 2020 that can help inform marketing strategies throughout the remainder of the pandemic:
1) Younger shoppers are more likely to brave the stores in-person.
The majority of Black Friday shoppers visiting stores in-person this year were between the ages of 25 to 44 (38%), which is a slight but notable increase compared to Black Friday 2019, when the same age group made up 35% of overall shoppers. Unsurprisingly, consumers over the age of 55 were slightly less likely to visit shops and services this Black Friday compared to last year. Of note, in-store Black Friday shoppers were also likely to be parents of young kids, with data showing that Black Friday in-person shoppers were more likely to frequent toy stores, kids’ stores, and indoor play areas compared to the average U.S. consumer.
The takeaway: Marketers can tailor messaging and promotions to better connect with the people most likely to be out-and-about at the shops — for example, offer deals on items geared towards parents, or tweak advertisements to resonate with millennials.
2) Shoppers prefer one-stop-shopping over browsing
Location data shows that consumers who did shop in-person on Black Friday made fewer stops. In fact, 40% of Black Friday shoppers in 2020 only visited one store, and only 36% of Black Friday shoppers visited 3+ stores (down from 36.8% in 2019).
With shoppers making fewer stops, it’s not surprising that the most visited retail categories this Black Friday were larger format shopping experiences like big-box, hardware, and department stores. Meanwhile, less than one percent of Americans visited a specialty store — such as kitchen supplies, jewelry, paper supplies, book and toy stores — this Black Friday.
The takeaway: Niche stores, which can’t compete with the variety and convenience of large format retailers, might consider focusing marketing efforts on e-commerce, as consumers seem to be reserving their in-person visits for one-stop-shops.
3) DIY and hardware stores dominate
Falling in line with the larger 2020 trend of growing consumer interest in DIY and home improvement, hardware stores like Lowe’s and Ace Hardware, as well as craft stores like Hobby Lobby and Michaels, all saw upticks in the percentage of consumers visiting stores on Black Friday. Outdoor supply, sporting goods, and electronics stores were also amongst some of the most-shopped categories this Black Friday, consistent with pandemic macro retail trends.
However, clothing stores saw fewer Black Friday visits compared to last year — less than ten percent of Americans visited a clothing store on Black Friday this year.
Many department store chains — which fall between big-box and clothing stores on the retail spectrum — did experience a boost on Black Friday after a tough year due to the pandemic. Kohl’s saw the most notable spike in visits this Black Friday, with visits up 24% as of November 27, while foot traffic to JCPenney stores actually returned to pre-pandemic levels this Black Friday.
The Takeaway: In addition to focusing marketing efforts on e-commerce this year, specialty stores can consider deploying data-driven competitive conquesting based on the places people are going in the physical world this holiday season. Such an approach can help retailers influence shoppers along their path to purchase, target consumers, visiting competitors’ locations in real-time and encourage them to visit your store instead, and much more.
4) Shoppers hit the stores early — and kept in-store visits short
Black Friday shoppers visited stores even earlier this year compared to last year — with 37% of foot traffic taking place before 1 p.m. this year v.s. 32% last year. This aligns with a trend we’ve seen throughout 2020, with consumers shopping earlier in the day to avoid crowds.
Location data also tells us that consumers spent less time shopping in stores this Black Friday compared to 2019. For example, 24% of Best Buy visitors spent less than 15 minutes in stores this Black Friday, compared to 18.5% of shoppers last year.
The takeaway: One possible contributing factor to the shopping-time-decline: in-store pick-up and curbside services. This may also suggest that shoppers were doing their browsing online ahead of time to cut down on time spent in a potentially crowded store. Retailers should consider beefing up such offerings and adjusting operating hours, staffing, in-store displays, and safety protocols to fit changing consumer preferences.
This year has been undoubtedly challenging for brick and mortar retailers, but analyzing consumer behavior through location data can help marketers and brands refine their outreach strategies and even adjust store operations to make the most out of this holiday shopping season. What’s more, location-based insights can help retailers plan ahead for 2021, as many of these consumer behaviors are likely to continue until people feel safe returning to old habits.
Editor’s Note: Foursquare analyzes foot traffic patterns from millions of Americans that make up our always-on panel. All data is either anonymized, pseudonymized, or aggregated and is normalized against U.S. Census data to remove age, gender, and geographical bias.