Expert Commentary

Black Friday and Cyber Monday: Consumer intentions on two major shopping days

2012 study from Kansas State published in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and customer preferences.

Holiday shopper (iStock)

Winter holiday shopping accounted for 25-40% of total annual retail sales in the United States in 2011 and is expected to grow by 4.1% in 2012, according to the National Retail Federation. 2011 retail sales on Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving and a time when retailers offer limited, one-time deals — broke earlier sales records for the same period. However, sales on Cyber Monday, the online counterpart to Black Friday, rose 20% from 2010 to 2011, leaving retailers and consumers alike struggling to determine whether to invest their time and money at the mall — or on the Mac.

A 2012 study from Kansas State University published in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, “Black Friday and Cyber Monday: Understanding Consumer Intention on Two Major Shopping Days,” compared the motivations of  early holiday shoppers. Researchers surveyed 225 participants from a Midwestern university and a local mall on their Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping experiences.

This research builds on the emerging study of what industry observers and academics often refer to as “multichannel shopping” — the online and offline strategies employed by shoppers in the digital age. The study also usefully reviews much of this research literature, some of which may be helpful for reporters covering year-end shopping trends.

Key study findings include:

  • Consumers surveyed enjoyed holiday shopping overall, but enjoyed shopping in brick and mortar retail stores more than shopping online. “The opportunity to shop with others, see Santa Claus, as well as experience the holiday decorations, makes the mall shopping experience enjoyable.”
  • Participants reported that brick and mortar retailers offer more “coveted products” such as the latest toy or electronics, while online retailers offer a better overall selection of items to choose from.
  • Respondents may prefer the mall shopping experience but a greater percentage of them planned to shop online on Cyber Monday than visit stores on Black Friday. The researchers propose that “consumers shop at the mall on Black Friday, and follow up their shopping on Cyber Monday.”
  • Consumers who shop online during Cyber Monday may do so surreptitiously during work hours; the researchers report that it “can be anxiety-driven when caught shopping instead of working.”
  • While participants reported that both events were perceived as useful, Cyber Monday was much more convenient than Black Friday. “It is probable that consumers use both Black Friday and Cyber Monday for their gift needs.”
  • Men and women were equally likely to shop online on Cyber Monday; women were nearly twice as likely as men to shop at the malls on Black Friday.

The researchers suggest that brick and mortar retailers build on the appeal of Black Friday and better integrate this experience with online shopping opportunities by offering deals on Friday that also apply to Monday online purchases and by better targeting female consumers online.

Tags: consumer affairs, economy