The COVID-19 pandemic may have changed the way consumers shopped, but it didn’t slow them down. Online spend during Black Friday 2020 surged nearly 22%, hitting a new record, according to data from Adobe Analytics, pushing more people to shop from the sofa and avoid crowded stores and malls.

If you’re a retailer looking to ramp up your planning for the 2021 Black Friday holiday shopping season, we’ve identified the top five trends from 2020 that we believe could impact 2021.

The trends below are backed by data from having analyzed 263k publications from 3.8k different retailers, generating 1.8BN actions across 7MM users from October 12th to December 6th, 2020. We used this information to determine changes in pre-shop planning behaviors for Black Friday 2020.

We also conducted a survey from April 23rd to 27th, 2021 of 1,000 U.S. residents above the age of 18 to identify consumer shopping trends, preferences, and purchasing drivers, under COVID -19 restrictions.

TL;DR: Our Partner Insights and Analytics team have been living and breathing Black Friday to map changes in shopping behavior. The five trends below summarize what they discovered to help retailers win in 2021. 

Trend #1: Promoting content over a longer period

Due to the pandemic, 2020 saw a huge shift in major retailers’ sales offerings. Black Friday was no longer a shopping day, but a shopping season. Sales events were spread out over several weeks, giving shoppers even more flexibility to take advantage of deals. We expect this to be the case once again in 2021. Retailers should treat the promotional period as a marathon rather than a sprint, optimizing their budgets to start promoting content earlier and for an extended period of time.

Trend #2: Early kickoff to the shopping season

In 2020 we saw the holiday shopping season kick off in mid-October with major retailers releasing their Black Friday offerings earlier than ever before. We expect this trend to continue in 2021, given that shoppers quickly welcomed this change by shifting their planning and shopping cycles. Retailers who missed out last year should plan to publish their flyers/ads in this same window for 2021 if they want to capture shoppers’ attention.

Trend #3: Adopting a hybrid approach

COVID restrictions impacted store trips for nearly all of 2020 but this impact was amplified during Black Friday, going from a baseline of -24% YoY to -46% YoY. More shoppers opted for online shopping and delivery for their holiday goods, looking for extras like free shipping and free gifts in guiding their decisions. As vaccines are rolled out across Canada and the U.S. this year and restrictions are eased, we can expect a ramp up of in-store trips as shoppers are eager to return to a sense of normalcy, but still expect e-commerce platforms to support their shopping for Black Friday deals.

Retailers should adopt a hybrid approach, offering deals both online and in-store. It’s important to include clear information on your flyer/ad specifying which deals are available where. For retailers promoting on Flipp, enabling eCom feeds and taking advantage of our eCom Content Creation services will make for a streamlined shopping experience.

Trend #4: Catering to high-demand product categories

Last year, we saw trending searches resonate with shoppers’ desire to improve their homes, upgrade their home offices, and stay healthy. The most increased searches were in the following product categories: tools, household appliances, exercise & fitness, and computers. Retailers should stay on top of shopper trends and create sales stories that meet shopper needs at specific points in time. Retailers promoting on Flipp can leverage up-to-date data and our Content Advisory services to help shape their content strategy.

Trend #5: Adjusting content frequently

2020 proved the importance of being able to adapt and adjust content quickly. Digital flyers/ads give retailers this flexibility. Thanks to much shorter lead time in comparison to traditional channels, retailers can stay current on Flipp with dynamic content that can be easily adjusted to capture shopper trends or reflect changes in inventory.

If you want to learn more about how Flipp can help you craft your strategy for the 2021 Holiday shopping season and beyond, contact Vice President of Business Development, Garrett Royds at

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