Was Black Friday 2020 A Success: A Global Analysis

Was Black Friday 2020 A Success: A Global Analysis


By Ken Cassar | Head of the Commercial Vertical

Coca-Cola, baseball and jazz are prime examples of bits of American culture that have been successfully exported to the rest of the world. But what about the most American of shopping holidays, Black Friday? Could a shopping holiday that is timed to capitalize on a day that only Americans have off from work possibly have been exported to the rest of the world? The idea of a ‘shopping holiday’ can certainly only exist in the United States. Right?

Powered by an abundance of curiosity, and a global network of 2+ million data collectors armed with Premise Data’s app across more than 100 countries, we thought we’d see to what extent Black Friday is a ‘thing’ outside of the U.S.? And, of course, we wanted to take a global look at what Black Friday looks like amid a once-in-a-hundred years pandemic. 

Gathering the Insights

We conducted this study in two pieces. First, we executed a survey (November 18 to 25) among 2,400+ Premise Contributors across nine countries to understand their awareness of and plans for Black Friday weekend. Our initial research suggested that Black Friday deals have historically existed as a key driver for bringing shoppers into stores. Then we asked a smaller group of around 150 contributors to let us virtually ride along with them on their Black Friday shopping journeys, capturing observations, feelings and photos along the way.

Here’s what we learned.

Black Friday Isn’t Just for Americans Anymore

Black Friday, it seems, has spread well beyond the United States. Sixty-one percent of our respondents—of whom Americans represented only 36%—said they had shopped during Black Friday weekend in 2019. Seventy-one percent of our Brazilian contributors had shopped for Black Friday weekend deals, compared with only 54% of Americans! The image below showcases photos of storefronts outside of the U.S. and the familiar variations on Black Friday deals captured by our contributors across the world.

Photos submitted through the Premise App of Black Friday

Omnichannel shopping behaviors are also surprisingly well entrenched globally. Thirty-five percent of all Black Friday shoppers shopped online and in-store in 2019, compared with 36% that shopped only online and 30% who shopped only in physical stores. 

What does distinguish Americans from other global Black Friday celebrants is our level of intensity. While it seems, people in countries that celebrate Christmas enjoy the sales that represent the annual kickoff of the holiday season, the Americans that do shop Black Friday deals do so with an intensity that puts the rest of the world to shame. We shop at more stores on Black Friday weekend, we are more likely to shop both online and in-store, and we are much more likely to get up early, presumably to take advantage of deals. Perhaps the ‘doorbuster’ pricing strategy has (happily for those outside of the U.S.) thus far defied export. What’s more probable is that Americans are likely to have the Friday after Thanksgiving off, while the rest of the world has to work.

Safety First!

Not surprisingly, our contributors report that their plans for Black Friday 2020 are far more conservative than last year, driven by fears of COVID-19 and a global pinch on wallets. Even among a sample of contributors where 61% reported that they had shopped on Black Friday in 2019, plans to shop in-store for Black Friday deals in 2020 were rare. Only 8% of our U.S. contributors reported that they were highly likely to shop in-store for Black Friday deals this year.

Among those that indicated that they might shop in-store for Black Friday, the key drivers of store selection were all safety-driven. In a reversal of everything that we’ve historically known about Black Friday, only 5% of those who said they might shop in-store this Black Friday said great deals were a significant driver of store choice. Far more important were safety-related considerations: adherence to social distancing guidelines, mask mandates and compliance, and management of customer capacity limits were far more important than the quality of deals.

A Relaxed Black Friday 2020 

What did our contributors experience? Not surprisingly, with COVID-19 cases surging across the globe, Black Friday was a far more relaxed affair than it has been historically. The majority of shoppers that went to stores with parking lots reported that parking lots were half full or less than half full. Only 11% of Black Friday shoppers reported a line in front of the store they were shopping and only 22% of contributors reported stores that were crowded or very crowded. 93% of contributors reported that the items they were shopping for were in-stock, a welcome relief from the manic scramble of years past for the best deals or the hottest toy. 

For those who didn’t make it out to stores on Black Friday, the good news is that our contributors’ submissions suggest that deals were less than dazzling. On a five-point scale, only 27% of contributors reported that deals were incredible (5 out of 5). Two-thirds ranked the quality of deals as either a three or four out of five.

Closing Note

Black Friday 2020 will undoubtedly be disappointing for many retailers, particularly those that operate in the U.S. and have historically depended on doorbuster promotions to drive masses of competitive shoppers out of their beds. On the positive side, we seem to have gotten through this event safely and we’ve still got more than three weeks to complete our shopping. Online retailers…get ready!

If you’re interested in learning more about this data or how Premise can help you collect global insights you can contact me at ken@premise.com

About Ken Cassar

In his new role as Head of the Commercial Vertical, Cassar will focus on the crowdsourced research needs of global for-profit businesses. Cassar was most recently VP of strategy and insights at Rakuten Intelligence, where he oversaw Rakuten’s research agenda, identifying and contextualizing e-commerce industry trends from Rakuten’s panel of 7 million U.S. online consumers. Prior to Rakuten, Ken was senior Vice President, Analytic Solutions at Nielsen, where he collaborated with clients to help them understand and adapt to the impact of e-commerce and digital advertising on their businesses. He has an MBA in Finance and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Connecticut.