How can retailers get the most out of Black Friday 2021?

06/07/2021 | Article

Black Friday is now one of the world’s biggest and most famous sales holidays. But there is a common misconception about how it got its name.

Legend has it that ‘Black Friday’ stems from the notion that businesses operate at a financial loss, or are “in the red,” until the day after Thanksgiving, when massive sales finally allow them to turn a profit, or put them “in the black.” But this is untrue.

The term actually dates back to the early 1960s, when police officers in Philadelphia began using the phrase “Black Friday” to describe the chaos that resulted when large numbers of suburban tourists came into the city to begin their holiday shopping.

Black Friday got its name from the chaos it sparks. Over seventy years on, the sales holiday can still cause mass disruption – but only for the unprepared.

In the black


For both retailers and consumers, the last eighteen months have been characterised by unprecedented disruption.

COVID-19 has re-written the rules of engagement, changing how people work, shop and socialise all around the globe. A significant feature of this change has been the mass adoption of digital shopping habits from consumers – and the rush from retailers to accelerate their ecommerce capacity to match this surging demand.

This change in shopping behaviour has significantly boosted online retail around the globe.

Consumers in emerging economies have made the greatest shift to online shopping during the pandemic. But even in highly developed countries, e-commerce sales grew at an unprecedented rate during the pandemic. Forbes reported in April 2020 that US retailers’ online year-over-year (YoY) revenue growth was up 68% from 2019.

Ecommerce boasted a global revenue of $3.9 trillion in 2020. Adobe is predicting that global e-commerce sales will reach $4.2 trillion in 2021, with U.S. consumers accounting for close to one-quarter of that spending.

From ‘in the red’ to ready

Online sales are more crucial to retail strategy than ever before. Equally they are now the key to getting the most out of sales holidays. 

This was evidenced recently with Amazon’s Prime Day 2021. CNBC reports that sales are estimated to have reached more than $11 billion over the 48-hour special event. Analysis shows sales during the first day topped $5.6 billion, up 8.7% on Prime Day 2020 and marking it the busiest period for online shopping so far this year. Through this landmark digital sale, the ecommerce giant saw a 28% increase in sales YoY. 

There was a similar story through Black Friday 2020. The November sale hit a new record high in 2020, with consumers spending $9.0 billion, an increase of 21.6% year over year (online sales hit $7.4 billion on Black Friday in 2019), according to Adobe Analytics data.

And as the holiday becomes more digital – it appears to be lasting longer. Sales in the first three weeks of November were up 17% YoY globally, and sales for the Black Friday through Retargeting Tuesday period were also up YoY (+18% in APAC, +17% in EMEA, and +2% in the Americas).

Black Friday is more important than ever. But consumers have developed sophisticated digital habits and have developed equally sophisticated expectations for their ecommerce experience. So how can retailers make the most of this lucrative sales period?

Five questions to answer ahead of Black Friday 2021


The key to winning Black Friday is to begin preparing early. Consumers are beginning to research products and deals earlier – and the retailers who can be there with the right message and right offer first stand the best chance of capturing commerce.

The fundamental factor in a successful retail strategy is understanding your customers. Retailers need to have a clear view of their audience and have a close knowledge of their interests, behaviours and preferences. These insights are the foundation of your strategy – and the best advantage you can have in a competitive market.

Black Friday 2021 will likely be the biggest sales holiday in history – and the key to unlocking it’s full potential is a comprehensive digital strategy. Here are the crucial questions retailers must be asking ahead of Black Friday 2021:

  1. UNDERSTANDING YOUR CUSTOMER. Do you know what people will be buying? How much do you understand about your customer demand? How is your target audience behaviour playing out in trends and searches? How much can you rely on your data? Is it siloed?

  2. PROVIDING THE BEST EXPERIENCE. Are you ready to deliver the best customer experience? What are your load times on desktop/mobile?  Retailers should aim for pages to load within two seconds – 40% of consumers will wait no more than three seconds before abandoning a site. This extends to product display, discounts and the back end logistics. Black Friday historically surges demand – will your website be ready?

  3. THE RIGHT MESSAGE AT THE RIGHT TIME. Is your messaging and campaigns ready? Have you crystalised what each message wants to achieve? Do you understand how these messages will be received? In 2018, people received an average of 43% more emails on Black Friday – so it is important to make your messages stand out – or capture attention way ahead of the sale.

  4. CREATIVE ALIGNMENT. What creative resonates best with your audience? How can you use creativity to direct consumers? Are you distinctive from your competitors? If your messages, tone and timing is similar – a trigger from you can result in a sale for your rivals.

  5. DEFINE YOUR STRATEGY. Retailers need to have a digital marketing strategy and budget defined first. Do you have the right strategy? Do you know your channels? What are the most engaging ad formats? Is your SEO ready? Success in digital sales depends on these fundamental pieces being in place well in advance.



The Black Friday experience has changed dramatically since it got its name from the chaos it caused in Philadelphia. Now shoppers and retailers are much wiser about how to make the most out of the holiday. 

But what hasn’t changed is the potential for the period to supercharge sales like no other holiday. 

Black Friday doesn’t have to be chaotic. In the post-pandemic era, retailers have an unrivalled opportunity to control this chaos and convert it into hugely profitable commerce. 

To learn more about how to prepare your brand for Black Friday, join the team at Cadastra for a free workshop covering the five key questions above to enable the perfect solution at lunchtime on Wednesday 28th July. We look forward to you being part of this, please click here to register your place.