Attention, please! This is the Black Friday alarm. 🚨 The deals you’re counting on are about to hit the ground running —  well, kinda, sorta, in a wee bit different way than usual.

Black Friday is routinely the biggest shopping day in the United States, followed closely by its online cousin, Cyber Monday. Black Friday typically conjures images of hordes of frantic shoppers throwing elbows in the Best Buy parking lot, but something interesting happened last year. 

For the first time ever, in 2019 BC (Before Corona, you know), consumers elected to do more shopping online than in store--even on Black Friday, which saw roughly 10M more online transactions than Cyber Monday.

“124M people shopped in stores while 142.2M shopped on retailers’ websites…[and] 75.7M did both.” [National Retail Foundation]

It’s a good thing that more consumers got comfortable with online shopping last year. This is 2020, after all--the Year of Isolation (and compulsory online shopping). 

But considering the obstacles--the pandemic and subsequent restrictions on large public gatherings, the economic precarity in the U.S., and supply chain disruptions--we couldn’t help but wonder: will COVID cancel Black Friday, LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE

It looks like some things will change, but if you’re worried your customers’ annual shopping spree is officially obsolete, we’ve got some good news. 

Black Friday Shopping

Yes, we’re divorcing the crazy Black Friday footage on YouTube.  (Why was that a thing anyway?)

It’s no secret that Black Friday shoppers are notorious for getting a little...zealous. As customers shift their buying to the Internet, the unapologetic consumerism may continue, but the gratuitous dog-eat-dog free-for-all is beginning to die out. 

(With all the chaos currently raging in the world, we’re kind of glad to have one less thing to fight about, tbh.)

Shifting buying patterns, combined with restrictions and caution related to coronavirus means that online shopping is likely going to rule over in-store buying this BFCM. If, historically, you’ve counted on a large chunk of brick-and-mortar sales for your revenue this time of year, it’s time to shift focus to your online presence.

But get this: Shopify merchants successfully replaced 94% of lost point-of-sale revenue with online sales. NINETY-FOUR PERCENT. We pretty much figure that means...

No, Black Friday is not canceled.

You are still the same business owner, your customers are still the same shoppers (mostly; more on that in a bit), and Shopify merchants have been breaking their own BFCM records for years. (Even pre-pandemic, when carefree in-store shopping was still a thing.)

In 2019, Shopify stores raked in $2.9B during the four-day period from Black Friday to Cyber Monday. Black Friday was the most important day, with peak sales of $1.5M per minute at 3:01 p.m. EST. Zowie!

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Shopify merchants make a considerable portion of yearly earnings during Black Friday weekend, according to Shopify’s official data: 

    • 218M people bought something on Shopify in 2019, and 25M of those consumers came on BFCM weekend.

    • Black Friday consumers account for 11.6% of all consumers on Shopify. 

    • Black Friday was the single busiest shopping day of the year. 


TL;DR Shopify merchants continue to crush it. 

But it’s impossible to ignore that this year is different. Although online shopping has become more routine, it stumbled like everything else during the worst of the crisis. While demand may have been there, many merchants struggled with supply chain contractions, logistics disruption, unpredictable shipping, and interruptions to cash flow.

Black Friday Sales

The pandemic also ravaged the financial stability of many, many Americans, with 20.5M unemployed in May and 12.6M still unemployed as of September. (In case you’re wondering, by percentage, that’s more than double the pre-pandemic rate.) 

That means buying power is effectively lassoed, and in response, some outlets are projecting deep, deep doorbusters, even relative to typical Black Friday deals. The Harvard Business Review is projecting that shoppers might wait to do their holiday shopping until Black Friday deals start appearing, since the economic crisis is making many buyers more receptive to discounts.

2020’s Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) will likely take a little extra effort if you really want to capitalize on holiday shoppers in the current climate, but is it canceled? Absolutely not.

How Shopify Stores Can Make the Most of Black Friday in 2020

OK, so we’ve convinced you that BFCM isn’t dead, and that it’s definitely going to be online this year--but you still want to know how to navigate this whole new world. (Sidebar: go watch that. It’s funnier than it has any right to be. But then come back.) 

Let’s start with some strategies that will give you a competitive edge without hurting your bottom line, according to science:

In 2019…

    • 49% of shoppers said free shipping was the biggest reason they’d make a purchase they were otherwise hesitant about

    • 39% of consumers sought out marketing emails for information on deals and promotions (rather than traditional advertising circulars)

    • 36% of respondents said they made purchases because of limited-time sales or promotions

    • 21% reported that an easy-to-use website or mobile app encouraged them to buy

    • 20% listed the ability to order online and pick up in-store--a feature our friend Rona has necessitated for brick-and-mortar retailers--motivated them to make a purchase. (Yet another reason it’s critically important for all retailers to have a website...ahem.)

What Else?

Beyond those basic strategies, here’s a short list of must-haves that we’re confident will set you up for success during BFCM 2020. 

    • Mobile: Optimize your site for mobile, as 70% of Shopify orders come from mobile devices. We know we sound like a broken record with this, but it’s still stunning how many stores don’t function well on mobile devices.

    • Subscription Promotions: Subscriptions are hot hot hot. Take this opportunity to boost your subscription revenue, and position yourself for long term success well into 2021. Think creatively--which aspect of your business could be turned into recurring revenue?

      Consumable products are a no brainer, as are items like cosmetics...but what if you offered mini subscriptions of, say, 3 months? What would have been a one-time purchase of 3 pairs of socks is now a three month customer journey of one (or more) pair(s) per month...with plenty of opportunities for upselling and cross selling along the way, for as long as you keep the consumer engaged with your brand.

      Subscription products and services grew 34% to $187.6 million in 2019. ReCharge and Bold are two industry leaders that will help you sell jazzy, customizable, user-friendly subscriptions--easily.

    • Brand Loyalty: Returning customers still make the most difference when it comes to recurring revenue. Brands that focus on loyalty solutions like Smile are seeing a 25% revenue increase compared to other strategies. Smile is our favorite and most recommended app due to the speed and ease of set up.

    • Email Marketing: Remember that 39% of consumers looked to marketing emails for information on deals and promotions, proving that a stellar email marketing solution is a really good idea. (Psst...we do that.)

      Worried it’s not worth the investment? It’s actually more important than ever to focus on email marketing. According to Hubspot data (2020), 80% of marketers have seen an increase in email engagement over the past 12 months.

      (Maybe we’re all just so bored to tears being stuck inside that we’re checking our email 800 times a day, instead of only 400, BC.)

    • Other Ads: “Traditional” advertising has undergone a monumental shift in the last several years, but ads shouldn’t be an afterthought. Consider these stats from a 2019 Adobe study:

      • Paid ads drove 24.4% of total eCommerce revenue 
        • (up 5.2% YoY)

      • Direct traffic accounted for 21.2% 
        • (down 0.6% YoY; though Astound Commerce reported that more shoppers are bypassing third-party sellers to directly seek out brands online)

      • Email traffic contributed 16.8% 
        • (up 8.9% YoY) (That’s another vote for email marketing, btw.)

      • Social media had minimal direct impact on sales with only 2.6%, but it’s a prominent traffic source for many brands.


Shameless Self Promo 📣: We write regularly about the strategies that will keep your business firmly attached to its jetpack, during BFCM and beyond--customer portal customizations, how and why to set up subscriptions on Shopify, how to effectively use the dreaded pop-up (and other ads), how to stay motivated in eComm, and more. We love visitors to the Tako Stand!

The Quick Takeaway (Box)

If you’ve only got the time and resources for quick wins before 2020’s BFCM, focus on shoring up your email marketing and loyalty programs. If you have the bandwidth for even bigger impact, get your mobile responsiveness issues handled stat, and consider shaking things up with a subscription.

If you’re a Shopify merchant worried that this holiday shopping season will be severely affected by the current chaos, we feel you. Viral and economic catastrophe notwithstanding, you’re still a business owner, and you still want to be successful. 

Fear not! Armed with a little data and your handy BFCM checklist, BFCM for eComm 2020 may be the first thing this year that even remotely resembles business as usual.

Just make sure to check that list twice. (...sorry.)