11 November 2020

Will Covid-19 change Black Friday for retailers this year?

Black Friday Sale

At the start of the pandemic 8 months ago there was a lot of uncertainty, but we were hoping it would be over by winter.

Well here we are, nearly in winter with the peak shopping season round the corner going into our second national lockdown. In the month of one of the biggest sales events of the year, will Black Friday be the same? Or will the retail industry be looking to up their game? 

Consumer changes

Consumer habits are forever changing, now more than ever. With online retail growing at a significant rate as the use of high-street stores has decreased or completely stopped, retailers have focused their attention and spend on their online strategies from social media ads to email targeting.

Due to the closures of non-essential retail stores, Black Friday sales will be driven by the younger generation who are more tech-savvy, price conscious and less brand loyal. It can be harder to make sales from the younger audience as they are more likely to do online research on products before they purchase them, by looking at customer reviews and comparing similar products to each other so they get the best value for money.

The uncertainty of 2020 has more people shopping online than ever, shown when 87% of all households admitted to having shopped online at least once in the last 12 months. This is the highest online purchases penetration rate in the last 11 years. These stats aren’t predicted to drop anytime soon, as even without the second national lockdown people are still worried about going into crowded shopping centres and are opting to shop online rather than in-store. The decrease in confidence shopping in-store has allowed for an increase in confidence shopping online, as Visa recorded just over a third (31%) of Britons shopped online for the first time during the first lockdown in March.

With the increase in consumer confidence shopping online, retailers need to acknowledge the importance of online customer experience. A survey conducted by Jeff Toister in October 2020, showed that 88% of 3,200 participants expected a response to a query within 60 minutes. Making sure employees are free to handle customer queries quickly and efficiently has become increasing important, especially within the Black Friday period where people are going to want responses extra fast as they will be worried about securing products before they go out of stock.

How has Covid-19 affected the peak shopping season?

Lockdown has forced customers to adapt their shopping behaviour, from the massive increase in non-store sales, to online grocery shopping nearly doubling in a few weeks. It’s safe to say customers are drastically changing the way they shop forcing businesses to innovate, specifically their online strategies. Google’s Global Head of Ads Research and Insights, Justin De Graaf stated that almost three quarters of shoppers in the UK say they plan to shop online during this peak period. However, our own Twitter Poll found 58.2% of people aren’t planning on making a purchase this Black Friday. This could be due to the uncertainty around job security during the second lockdown.

Black Friday will look very different this year, as lockdown or not, social distancing will not allow for the usual fights over TVs and long queuing for in-store discounts. Without the usual hype and media buzz, is Black Friday being forgotten this year as the focus is on the state of Christmas? Whatever the case, retailers need to focus on how to reach online shoppers and persuade wider audiences to shop online in order to boost sales.

Online retailing has become the ‘new normal’ for a lot of people. However, others are hesitant due to data breaches and misleading product images or information. Having flexible policies such as a longer time to return online purchases – especially around the peak season where delivery of products will take longer than normal – might help new customers feel more confident. It’s also important organisations are transparent about how customer data will be used to put their minds at ease.

Going into a second lockdown will require businesses to once again focus on their online presence, as customers will be reliant on online retailers for their Christmas shopping this year. Even before the second lockdown was announced our research showed that 39.5% of customers were going to do their Black Friday shopping online. Businesses will have to focus on their digital strategies, making sure their website can keep up with demand. Amazon and other online retailers have already started there Black Friday sales, 3 weeks early and expect the sales to last the whole month of November instead of just the weekend commencing the 27th. This is to help spread out the number of customers on the website, allowing customers to shop their Black Friday sales with ease and no rush. 

Be there for your customers

With employees burdened by various admin tasks it is hard for them to focus on the customer’s needs. However, the right HR and payroll software can help to automated query processing and other admin tasks like creating rosters and timesheets to save you time and allow employees to focus on your customers.

Changing your recruitment

With more people moving online, organisations will need to re-evaluate their recruitment processes to deal with the seasonal rush. Whilst high street stores might see reduced footfall, many organisations may need to boost the recruitment of warehouse operatives and delivery drivers to support the influx in online shopping.

Keep your employees engaged to boost productivity

With a changing workforce, and more people in disparate locations, whether they’re delivery parcels, processing orders in the offices or packaging your products in the warehouse – more engaged employees are proven to increase productivity levels.

HR and payroll software can also help with engaging your employees from around the business. Self-service features allow employees to manage their profiles, book holidays and access documents easily, via mobile and desktop, whenever they need to.  This can also help employees feel like a valued part of the business, ensuring they’re kept up to date with company news.

We’re here to help!

No matter how complex your requirements are, MHR’s HR and payroll software can simply and accurately transform your HR and payroll needs.

The retail industry is enduring an uncertain time, let us ensure you’re certain about your HR and payroll.


*MHR’s research was carried out via a series of Twitter polls.

Ellena Frost

Ellena Frost

Ellena is a Field Marketing Manager at MHR.

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