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Rosa Hu
VP of Product Marketing at Yotpo
July 19th, 2021

How Enterprise Brands Are Preparing for BFCM 2021

The eCommerce opportunity this Black Friday is immense, but how are retailers planning for the changes in shopper behavior and expectation?

Table Of Contents

Last year’s Black Friday was like no other, but 2021 also presents a unique set of challenges for brands and eCommerce sites as we inch away from the pandemic.

In the first quarter of 2021 alone, eCommerce growth topped out at a whopping 39%. Consumers sheltering in place during the winter surge of COVID-19 didn’t stop shopping — instead, they turned to different channels, subverted expectations about brand loyalty, and looked for more convenience and competitive pricing.

COVID-19 upended the eCommerce industry forever, and brands and retailers are working hard to be ready for the unexpected. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are no exception, and the 2021 holiday shopping season is likely to:

  • Start earlier and last longer
  • Be fueled by pent-up demand left over from 2020
  • Be influenced by brand loyalty driven by shoppers’ desire to engage with retailers that reflect their personal values
  • Demand better and more hybrid eCommerce experiences that include immersive virtual shopping options and conveniences like curbside pickup

We dove deep into these trends to see what enterprise brands are focusing on this Black Friday. Here’s what to expect.

Black Friday/Cyber Monday Shopping Will Kick Off Earlier and Last Longer

Spooked by supply-chain woes that left consumers struggling to get their hands on needed and wanted items, shoppers are likely to begin their holiday buying earlier than pre-pandemic years — and, if 2020 is an indicator, the buying season will extend all the way to year’s end.

With almost half of all consumers buying early, we predict more and more deals showing up earlier and earlier, and extending well beyond December 24th. A quick Google search for “Black Friday 2021” serves up plenty of content offering “early” deals to shoppers, many of whom are eager to get their hands on items that were in short supply in 2021, due to the disruptions of 2020.

As a result, brands won’t wait to start setting expectations and targeting those early-bird deal-seekers who want to get their hands on that special and specific item they couldn’t find in 2020.

In addition, economic uncertainty in 2021 will also drive different spending patterns — 64% of US residents surveyed by Facebook said that planning ahead financially for the holiday season is critical. By presenting shoppers with early deals, and likely a variety of ways to finance their purchases, retailers will show tacit support for consumers’ financial goals.

Brands won’t wait to start setting expectations and targeting those early-bird deal-seekers who want to get their hands on that special and specific item they couldn’t find in 2020.

At the same time, the appetite for holiday shopping remains steady, with 48% of consumers indicating that their spending remained steady in 2020, and 25% even said they’re spending more than prior years.

Digital Expectations Are Higher Than Ever

Brands upped their eCommerce game in 2020, striving to meet the expectations of a consumer base conditioned and willing to camp out all night in search of just the right Black Friday deal, but trapped at home.

The advent of Cyber Monday may have started the transformation of digital storefronts, but COVID-19 cemented the need for a great digital customer experience.

Tutorials, immersive video experiences, and “try it on now” mobile and digital experiences are just a few of the ways brands will engage with post-COVID shoppers for the holiday season. Don’t wait to start implementing these options, because a lot of brands — many of which are natively digital — already perfected the online shopping experience and are two steps ahead. For example, Zappos is a pioneer in using video to guide and support the digital shopping experience, but newcomers like Look Optic and Warby Parker employ augmented reality with great success.

Tutorials, immersive video experiences, and ‘try it on now’ mobile and digital experiences are just a few of the ways brands will engage with post-COVID shoppers for the holiday season.

Shoppers are in love with multichannel, immersive content and experiences, and will continue to expect pandemic-precipitated hybrid experiences that make buying more convenient, like “click and collect” or curbside pick-up (which doubled in sales this year) and expedited delivery.

Multichannel and Discovery Commerce Is Critical for BFCM Success

Speaking of multichannel experiences, brands already invested in alternate channels like Instagram and other social media platforms are going to be way ahead of the BFCM game. According to a recent Yotpo survey, more than 60% of shoppers discovered a new brand or product while using their mobile phones. While the world is beginning to open up to more in-person experiences, the habit of leaning on our devices will only continue to grow.

With the power of technology in their pockets, consumers are ripe to engage with the platforms on which they spend most of their time. As of February 2021, mobile social media penetration in the US exceeded 60%, and more and more consumers are engaging in so-called “discovery commerce.”

Discovery commerce delights consumers who are primed to discover new brands and deals on their social networks. A Facebook survey reveals that 66% of weekly US Facebook users discover new brands or products online typically discover them on a Facebook platform, including on Instagram.

More than half of global shoppers like it when they discover items or brands they were not actively searching for.

That same survey suggests that more than half of global shoppers like it when they discover items or brands they were not actively searching for. Understanding and thoughtfully targeting your audience on social channels can and will result in significant opportunities to drive Black Friday and Cyber Monday conversions.

Brands are embracing emerging platforms, as well as the tried-and-true social players. TikTok is moving into the social commerce arena, and the brand’s powerful influence with Gen Z offers retailers a brand-new audience of digital-native consumers who are ready to buy. Brands like Vineyard Vines and Crocs are amassing hundreds of thousands of followers on TikTok, taking full advantage of influencer marketing and the reach offered by the popular platform.

These same users have extremely high expectations for digital commerce, so be prepared to embrace alternative payment methods like Apple Pay, Venmo, and other FinTech digital-wallet platforms.

SMS Is the New Email: Start Driving Mobile Adoption Now

While email is still a powerful channel for reaching Black Friday shoppers, SMS marketing is quickly gaining traction with consumers. Research shows that the average person looks at their cell phone over 150 times a day, so having a pair of eyeballs constantly looking at the same device is a great way to engage customers this Black Friday — especially when you consider the urgency that comes with BFCM promotions.

On top of these already significant data points, 90% of consumers say they research their holiday purchases on a mobile device, and 89% use that same device to complete their purchase.

More than half of consumers are willing to make a purchase if the SMS texts they receive are personalized. Some other useful data points for retailers:

  • The average SMS open rate is a whopping 98%
  • 90% of SMS messages are read within 3 minutes
  • 51% of consumers are interested in being able to text with their favorite brands

We predict an increase in the desire to communicate directly with a retailer via SMS, and some retailers are already laying the groundwork for an SMS-driven holiday shopping season. In fact, 100 percent of consumers said they’ve already messaged with a brand at least once.

More than half of consumers are willing to make a purchase if the SMS texts they receive are personalized.

Brand Affinity Is Changing, Will Heavily Influence Purchasing Choices

The Gen Z consumers who are obsessed with TikTok are the same buyers who want to build relationships with brands that reflect their values, but that generation is not alone. ​​Almost 80% of all Americans believe that companies have a responsibility to positively impact society. This data indicates that Black Friday/Cyber Monday campaigns that lean heavily into purpose will drive enormous success — and this is all the more meaningful from larger brands that have a significant platform to effect change.

More than 60% of consumers would jettison their existing brand relationship to purchase from a retailer that is transparently purpose-driven, according to a survey from Cone/Porter Novelli. When the audience is narrowed down to Millennials, more than 90% of that generation would eschew loyalty for a brand that aligns with their personal values.

Another survey from Edelman Earned Brand indicates that purpose-driven brand loyalty is a global phenomenon, and buyers who make purchasing decisions based on their beliefs skew to younger consumers, including Gen Z.

Black Friday/Cyber Monday campaigns that lean heavily into purpose will drive enormous success — and this is all the more meaningful from larger brands that have a significant platform to effect change.

In 2020, care, unity, and support for others were some of the main themes brands expressed with their marketing efforts, and 2021 should be no exception. Staying in tune with the mood of the marketplace is key. As we enter a new phase of the pandemic, and begin celebrating life’s milestones and holidays with loved ones again, make sure you’re touching on the themes that matter to the consumers you’re looking to attract.

Patagonia is a stellar example of a purpose-driven brand, with a clearly defined and simple mission statement that is boldly called out on its website, even going so far as to list “activism” in its site navigation.

Influencers Matter: Engage Them Early and Often

With more shoppers turning to social media and peer networks to discover new brands and find great deals, influencer marketing will be a critical part of a successful BFCM strategy for eCommerce brands.

A 2020 study from digital marketing firm A&E reveals that influencer engagement increased dramatically during the pandemic, with these brand advocates and ambassadors driving more engagement from followers than ever before.

With influencers most likely to be discovered via social platforms, we predict an early start to the BFCM build-up for retailers that are engaged in influencer relationships.

Loyalty Programs Kick Into High Gear for 2021 BFCM Efforts

It’s a lot easier to generate eCommerce sales when you’re already working with a loyal customer base. Marketing Metrics reports that the probability of selling to an existing customer is 14 times higher than the probability of selling to a new customer. Accenture reports that customers who belong to loyalty programs generate between 12% to 18% more incremental revenue growth per year than those who do not participate. Retention is a defining aspect of every eCommerce revenue strategy.

On average, loyalty program members in the US and Canada spend $99 more with traditional and online retailers than non-members within a typical three-month period, according to Forrester.

Customers who belong to loyalty programs generate between 12% to 18% more incremental revenue growth per year than those who do not participate.

Programs that support repeat purchases and brand engagement are, as always, a critical part of driving BFCM conversions. However, after a long year spent making sacrifices and coping with the fallout from the pandemic, consumers are looking for ways to indulge. Yuping Liu-Thompkins, Ph.D. Professor of Marketing and Director of Loyalty Science Lab, E. V. Williams Faculty Fellow, Old Dominion University told Wise Marketer that the “hedonistic” reward will be more appealing than ever before.

Putting a strong focus on engaging customers in existing loyalty programs, as well as enticing new shoppers to join, can significantly influence holiday buying choices.

The data gathered via these programs — which offers far more insight into a customer than any third-party cookie ever could — also benefits retailers willing and able to invest in mining that information for new and better ways to reward their customers for maintaining a strong relationship with their brand well after the holiday season.

BFCM 2021 Takeaways

After a paradigm-busting 2020 holiday shopping season, retailers are taking advantage of and building on the transformations forced by an unprecedented global disruption.

In 2021, retailers are focused on getting the most out of BFCM by doubling down on the new experiences that delighted and engaged shoppers, including:

  • An increased focus on SMS-based marketing programs, supporting a personalized and frictionless mobile shopping experience.
  • New and updated loyalty programs that offer value and allow customers to indulge a little, while also providing brands with rich customer data.
  • Hybrid, early-season multi-channel shopping experiences that capitalize on pent-up demand.
  • Engaging with influencers to start building excitement for Black Friday/Cyber Monday.
  • Extending the holiday shopping season to the months before and after the traditional Black Friday/Cyber Monday window.

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