From Red to Black: The Digital Transformation of Black Friday Shopping

September 19, 2023

Black Friday is more than just a catchy shopping event; it's become an integral part of consumer culture. This shopping extravaganza has a fascinating history that dates back several decades, and it's a prime example of how marketing and consumerism have evolved over the years.

The Birth of Black Friday: The 1960s

The term "Black Friday" was initially coined in the 1960s, but its origins are somewhat disputed. One popular theory is that it referred to the day when retailers would finally turn a profit for the year, moving their financials from "in the red" to "in the black." Another theory suggests that it was named after the heavy pedestrian and vehicle traffic that would congest the streets and sidewalks the day after Thanksgiving.

The Evolution of Black Friday: The 1980s and 1990s

During the 1980s and 1990s, Black Friday continued to grow in prominence. Retailers began opening their doors earlier and offering limited-time deals to lure in shoppers. The idea of camping outside stores overnight to snag a bargain became a common practice, with dedicated shoppers forming lines well before dawn to get that TV that was on sale.  Sidebar - the amount of strategy with buying a TV on Black Friday is underrated - from the car you have to drive to fit the thing in to ensuring the place you’re going to actually has the deal, Black Friday is a real mission!

The tradition of early morning shopping on Black Friday gained traction, with major retailers like Walmart, Best Buy, and Target opening their doors as early as 5:00 AM. People would brave the cold November weather, armed with flyers (remember those?) and a strategic shopping list, all in pursuit of discounted TVs, electronics, and toys.

The Digital Revolution: Black Friday but online

The rise of the internet revolutionized Black Friday. Retailers expanded their reach by offering online deals, allowing shoppers to participate in the frenzy from the comfort of their homes. Cyber Monday emerged as the online counterpart to Black Friday, featuring exclusive web-only discounts.

With the advent of smartphones, mobile shopping apps, and e-commerce giants like Amazon, Black Friday has become more accessible and competitive. Shoppers can now compare prices instantly and receive notifications for limited-time deals, intensifying the shopping frenzy.  And with apps like TikTok making it even easier to swipe and shop, we’re currently seeing a brand new evolution of Black Friday unfold before our eyes.

Black Friday's Dark Side: Chaos and Controversy

As Black Friday gained popularity, it also became associated with some negative aspects. Reports of stampedes, fights, and injuries marred the holiday shopping experience. The rush to secure limited-quantity doorbusters often led to chaotic scenes, and the pursuit of bargains sometimes overshadowed the spirit of Thanksgiving.  A simple search on X (Twitter) will give you all the video evidence you need of this.

Critics began to question the ethics of Black Friday, with concerns about overconsumption, environmental impact, and the treatment of retail employees who were often required to work long hours on Thanksgiving Day and into the early hours of Black Friday. In response, some retailers chose to close their doors on Thanksgiving, prioritizing family time for employees.

The Shift to Extended Shopping Seasons

In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift away from the traditional Black Friday frenzy. Many retailers have adopted a more extended approach, offering deals and promotions throughout the entire month of November and into December. This approach aims to reduce in-store crowding and encourage a more relaxed shopping experience.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift toward online shopping, with more people than ever choosing to shop from the safety of their homes. Retailers have responded by bolstering their e-commerce platforms and offering even more online deals, further changing the Black Friday landscape.

Black Friday Today: Everyday is Black Friday in November

Today, Black Friday has evolved into a multifaceted shopping event. While the traditional early morning store openings and doorbusters still exist, they now coexist with online shopping, extended sale periods, and an increased emphasis on convenience and safety.

Retailers have also embraced the concept of "Small Business Saturday," encouraging shoppers to support local businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This day celebrates the uniqueness of small, independent shops and promotes community engagement.

It’s undeniable that Black Friday has become a cultural phenomenon, now expanding around the world.  If love is a universal language, shopping is right up there with it.  It doesn’t matter what country you live in, Black Friday has become the icon for shoppers around the world who love their deals.

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September 19, 2023