What will Black Friday 2023 look like?

Editor’s note: Warren Comunale is the account services director at Russell Research. This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared under the title “Black Friday – Beyond the Hype.”

Black Friday seems to be as ingrained in the Thanksgiving holiday tradition as turkey and football. But what exactly is going on in the minds of consumers on that much talked about morning after? It’s critical for marketers to understand consumers’ attitudes and behaviors to guide their marketing strategies.

We surveyed more than 1,000 people from across the United States and, as it turns out, Black Friday isn’t for everyone. While more than half of all Americans say they often or always shop Black Friday, about 16% say they avoid the shopping frenzy at all costs. The most enthusiastic Black Friday shoppers are those between the ages of 18-34 (Gen Z and younger Millennials). The least enthusiastic are the 68% of those aged 55+ who rarely shop on Black Friday or avoid it at all costs.

Who will shop this Black Friday?

Looking ahead to actual shopping plans for the upcoming Black Friday, three of every four consumers say they plan to take part in Black Friday shopping in some way, shape or form (hmmmm…that’s notably higher than the 50+% who say they typically always or often shop it – a case of intentions vs. follow through perhaps?However, a sizable portion (37%) will skip the checkout lines and instead opt for online shopping only. This proportion is relatively similar across age groups. Notably, 18-34-year-olds are more likely than other age groups to double dip and participate in both in-person and online shopping. 

Where are shoppers getting Black Friday information?

When it comes to getting info about Black Friday deals, the top sources of information are evenly distributed, with the following five all playing a primary role:

  • Social media.
  • Brand websites.
  • Word of mouth from friends and family.
  • TV/radio ads.
  • Newspaper ads/store circulars.

It pays for marketers to make sure their brand has a presence on social media as those between the ages of 18-34, Gen Z and younger Millennials, are the most gung-ho about the Black Friday experience and are relying on this medium more than others. 

Why are consumers participating in Black Friday shopping?

Black Friday is serious business not only for retailers but for consumers as well. The main reasons people give for shopping Black Friday? They’re on a mission to find a specific item they’re interested in at a good price, or they are browsing for good deals. The minority of shoppers are doing it for the entertainment value of the experience.

The good news for marketers: A significant proportion of consumers (39%) feel Black Friday brings an opportunity to take advantage of good deals, as opposed to being just hype.

What does this mean for marketers?

Black Friday isn’t a one-size-fits-all shopping spree – it’s a dynamic experience shaped by diverse motivations and preferences. For companies to ace the marketing game, they need to build communications that motivate both mission-driven and browsing-driven consumers, consider the channels and information sources used by different age groups and ensure that what they deliver goes beyond just hype. Giving thought to how to inspire those who do avoid Black Friday at all costs or consider it just hype can also drive creative new strategies and attract a new type of Black Friday consumer.

Data sourced from the Russell Research Omnibus Survey fielded in November 2023 among 1,000 U.S.adults.