How has shopping changed with the height of the pandemic in the rearview? How do you reach the new generation of buyers, and what boxes do you need to tick before Black Friday 2022?

Shopping is a different beast not only due to COVID-19 but also shifts in buyer behavior and ecommerce strategy. From the rapid growth of online buying to the explosion of same-day delivery, the pandemic significantly accelerated ecommerce. The U.S. saw a surge of $244.2 billion or 43% in ecommerce sales in 2020, the first year of the pandemic.

Black Friday and, by extension, Cyber Monday perfectly represent the changes in online shopping because the traditional U.S. holiday shopping day has burgeoned into a global event that now stretches days and weeks. Last year, Black Friday saw 28% fewer visitors in stores from pre-pandemic levels as health-conscious shoppers opted to browse from the safety of their homes.

Many shifts in consumer behavior remain, and retailers and brands must contend with a new reality and a new wave of Gen Z shoppers.

To understand the shift in consumer behavior, we will look at some trends and how to take advantage of them before Black Friday 2022. Be sure to download our Black Friday Ecommerce Playbook at the end for a comprehensive checklist.

How to Get Shoppers to Visit Physical Stores

While Black Friday conjures up images of violent stampedes of crowds eager to get their hands on the latest electronics, the current reality is much different. Not only have such chaotic shopping events resulted in serious injuries, but they’re also no longer viable in a post-pandemic world.

Shoppers and retailers should expect much fewer doorbuster deals to draw long lines of people. Instead, aim to stretch out your sales period for a week before and after Black Friday. Offer different in-store deals for a couple of days, and leave your single-day special offers for your digital store.

How to Extend Your Holiday Shopping Season

Retailers have been extending Black Friday to include Cyber Monday, Thanksgiving, and more for the past few years. Today, Black Friday represents several weeks of sales leading up to a grand finale.

This elongated period takes the pressure off retailers by giving them more time to deal with digital and in-store shoppers. Assisting an influx of physical shoppers or hosting an incredible amount of digital traffic can bring unexpected problems.

Extend your sales period, but opt for special days with deals for customers to create a sense of urgency. Use social media to encourage shoppers to sign up for “early access” to sales before spreading the word. Remind shoppers by sending emails ahead of new deals, such as “Psst: We’ve just added a few new styles to our Black Friday sale. You’re the first to know-swipe them before they’re gone!”

How to Ensure Adequate Inventory for Black Friday

Retailers carefully evaluate which products to keep in stock, at what volume, and which products to order ahead of time. Limited storage space, the cost of storing and keeping products up to date, and residual supply chain issues mean a delicate balance.

Artificial intelligence, or AI, is a great way to predict the demand before the holiday season begins. AI can forecast shifts in consumer demand and even automate processes for inventory management, packing, and updating your tech. Here are a few ways to use AI to your benefit this holiday season:

Inventory replenishment: When dealing with fulfillment, making accurate predictions is trickier than forecasting demand. Supply and demand data contain anomalies because of unexpected shifts in each data set. Vendors need to predict where, when, and how customers want to receive their products when planning inventory replenishment.

AI can save the day (and money) by analyzing consumer behaviors and customer fulfillment choices and providing accurate data for fulfilling your store inventory levels.

Predictive rules for stock management: Retailers generally delineate inventory for walk-in sales apart from online sales or other retail channels. However, with the blurred lines of modern shopping channels, general static quantities are no longer enough. Stock levels must dynamically adapt to shifting consumer demand.

Estimated delivery time: A staggering 88% of U.S. shoppers expect their orders to arrive in 3-5 days or less, including 46% who expect delivery within just 1-2 days. Retailers need to know the location and inventory quantity to meet orders promptly. With businesses like Amazon providing guaranteed delivery windows, retailers must let customers know an estimated delivery time in highly competitive times.

Use AI to boost the accuracy of your delivery calculations and meet customer expectations.

How to Reach Gen Z

Gen Z roughly includes people born from the mid-1990s to the early 2010s. While Gen Z shoppers are young, they hold immense spending power already, with an estimated $360 billion in disposable income. Estee Lauder Inc. and American Express Co. Both recently recognized Gen Z as their prime target group.

So how do you reach a new generation of digitally native buyers that grew up with smartphones in their pockets?

Here are a few ways to target Gen Z:

Social media: Did you know that 60% of Gen Z in the U.S. use Instagram to find new brands, services, and products? Use social media platforms favored by the younger generation like Instagram, TikTok, and VSCO to connect with Gen Z. Maintaining an active presence in these arenas ensures you offer inspiration, participate in viral trends, and provide a marketplace for shoppers.

Customer experience: Customer experience reigns supreme across the board, but especially for Gen Z. Approximately 48% of young consumers consider negative reviews when purchasing from a third-party seller. Build a spotless reputation by ensuring a frictionless customer journey before the purchase and beyond into shipping and customer service.

Spotlight on influencers: Influencers have been around for years, but they play a significant role for Gen Z. Unlike their older counterparts, Gen Z trusts influencers more than companies. That means Gen Z looks to YouTube and TikTok to rate whether a particular product seems interesting or not. Consider influencer marketing ahead of Black Friday 2022.

Mobile payments: Naturally, true digital natives like Gen Z expect to buy a product easily—and that means mobile payments. Retailers that offer mobile apps, Apple Pay and Android Pay, are leaps and bounds ahead of their competitors.

Consider someone playing around on their smartphone in bed before falling asleep. Our young Gen Zer may recall they need a pair of running shorts. They find two suitable contenders on two different sites; one offers mobile pay, and the other requires them to get up and find their physical credit card to finalize payment. Which site do you think they’ll choose?

Sustainable shopping: Research shows that Gen Z is 30% more likely to buy from brands that offer sustainable purchasing incentives, like offsetting impact or charitable donations. Gen Z is a generation that cares about social causes, like human rights, animal rights, and the environment. Read about sustainable ecommerce and how to implement sustainable practices and tell your shoppers about it in our blog post.

How to Ensure Your Ecommerce Website is Ready for Black Friday

Our Strategy and Consulting Team put together a checklist to ensure you’re ready for Black Friday 2022. You and your team may be ready to welcome the influx of shoppers to your website, but is your website prepared for the worst-case scenario?

We’ve helped hundreds of brands and retailers over the last 14 years make the most of the sales season. Make sure you don’t miss out on a massive turnover because of a minor technical glitch or a small important thing you forgot on the checklist.

Download your checklist below, and reach out if you’re interested in boosting your revenue this upcoming holiday season.

How To Win Big on Black Friday: The Ecommerce Playbook