Just who are the Black Friday shoppers?

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By: Bryan Pearson |

Posted on November 21, 2018

The three wise men invented the concept of gift giving, but retailers invented door-busting sales. If the two were to cross paths today, the camels would need reinforcement.

As the traditional kickoff of the holiday spending period, Black Friday has become not only a cornerstone of commercialism, but of retail one-upmanship. Sometimes, that comes at the risk of the shopper experience.

Indeed, research shows that more holiday spending is moving to before and after Black Friday weekend. Nearly 30% of all holiday spending occurs in the four weeks before Black Friday, according to the 2018 Holiday Spend report by data marketing technology firm Cardlytics.

As a result, retail marketers are kicking off their promotional campaigns earlier, in hopes of adding incremental sales throughout the season. They might succeed, but more retailers would better benefit from understanding the preferences and motivations that guide the behaviors of their Black Friday shoppers. Based on the surveys released so far, here is a sampling of 10 characteristics that define this year’s Black Friday customer.

1. They spend billions.

In 2017, Black Friday shoppers generated $7.9 billion in online retail sales alone, nearly an 18% increase over 2016, according to research by Adobe Analytics. Of that, $1.2 billion was projected to be spent via mobile devices. In 2018, Black Friday shoppers are expected to spend an average of $472 per shopper, online and in-store, among those surveyed by BlackFriday.com.

2. They can reproduce little shoppers.

Among women, 71% plan to hunt for deals on Black Friday, reports Finder.com. That compares with 77% of men. Many of these men and women will likely be joined by family members, as the post-Thanksgiving sales day has become a family event, particularly because so many people travel from out of town and are apt to plan a full day of events, including shopping.

3. They’ll be a little more generous this year.

Those who shop during Black Friday weekend plan to spend $60 more in 2018 than they spent in 2017 — $803 from $743, according to RetailMeNot. More than a quarter of shoppers, 27%, will start their holiday shopping on Black Friday or later.

4. But many are less frequently in stores.

Six in 10 shoppers think Black Friday is overwhelming, and 59% plan to skip it, according to holiday research by the Harris Poll and OpenX, an advertising technology provider. Instead, 6% have shifted their holiday spending online to take advantage of digital deals, Cardlytics states in its 2018 Holiday Spend report. Six in 10 shoppers plan to hit the stores before Black Friday, reports RetailMeNot.

5. Instead, they’re mobile.

In 2018, up to 46% of all Black Friday online orders are expected to take place via mobile, up from 42% on Black Friday 2017, reports Salesforce.com. Mobile orders also are projected to dominate online orders for the entire season, at 46%.

6. The hardcore shoppers will be in store.

The shrinking segment of shoppers who do most of their shopping on Black Friday, called “Black Friday Warriors” by Cardlytics, spend an average of $1,596 throughout the season, and 80% of that is in store. Traditional retailers can capture those dollars by promoting deals both in-store and online.

7. They all buy a lot of electronics and clothes.

Black Friday is the highest-trafficked shopping day for 16 of 20 reviewed product categories, including TVs, computers and video game consoles, Bazaarvoice reveals in its 2018 holiday report. Separately, apparel sellers in 2017 saw a jump in new customers the week of Black Friday, according to Cardlytics.

8. They experiment. 

Black Friday shoppers are more likely to try new brands than many others, spending an average of $499 at 4.3 new merchants during the holidays, Cardlytics reports. Steady shoppers may visit more new brands — 4.8 on average — but spend just $401, while harried procrastinators visit fewer new brands (4.1) but spend more — $500.

9. Most prioritize quality, for now.

Price still takes a back seat to superiority among Black Friday shoppers, but not as much as in 2017. Nearly 45% of shoppers told BlackFriday.com they are most interested in quality while deal hunting, compared with 36% who place a priority on low prices. However, in 2017, 46% placed an emphasis on quality, and just 30% on price.

10. Many are in their 20s and 30s.

The lion’s share of Black Friday and Cyber Monday spenders in 2017 were millennials, with 61.9% saying they would shop on those days, per 2017 research from Finder.com. They were followed by Gen Xers, at 49.5%, and then by Baby Boomers, 27%. In 2018, however, 79% of Gen Xers and 55% of boomers plan to spend, Finder.com reports. (It does not predict a millennial figure.)

Regardless of age, income and gender, all Black Friday shoppers will have one characteristic in common: They want to enjoy the experience. As retailers prepare their displays, promotions and seasonal staff, they should ensure that all shoppers leave their stores, physical and online, feeling a little lighter in step, as well as wallet.


Bryan Pearson a Featured Contributor to The Wise Marketer and is the President of LoyaltyOne, where he has been leveraging the knowledge of 120 million customer relationships over 20 years to create relevant communications and enhanced shopper experiences. 

This article originally appeared in Forbes. Be sure to follow Bryan on Facebook and Twitter for more on retail, loyalty and the customer experience.