The shifting social landscape of Black Friday & Cyber Monday

What should retailers expect for this year's Black Friday? Columnist Chris Kerns dives into the social data to uncover trends that will help marketers plan ahead.

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holiday-retailer2016a-ss-1920The holiday season is approaching, and along with it comes the busiest time of the year for retailers around the globe. Black Friday — the big November push for flash sales and door-busters — has become an annual ritual for shoppers in the US, both online and offline.

I dove into the social chatter around this year’s Black Friday to see what data can tell us about how this year might be different from years past. Should retailers expect a surge in post-election retail therapy, or will uncertainty keep wallets closed? The data shows three major patterns that stand out.

1. Black Friday conversation is falling while Cyber Monday soars

What I’m seeing is that Black Friday conversation is down, year over year, for the month leading into the week before the retail event. That being said, we’ve had kind of a weird year in the US in 2016. A huge amount of the country’s attention — and social conversation — has been centered on politics over the past few weeks.

But when we look at Cyber Monday numbers, we can see a different story.


Cyber Monday conversation has doubled from 2015 to 2016, and when the two topics are grouped together, we’re seeing an uptick in the overall holiday sale conversation vs. last year. So what has shifted the conversation toward Cyber Monday?

2. Younger shoppers are turning toward Cyber Monday

The data shows that Black Friday conversation is growing more diverse. While 2015 was dominated by men (70 percent male vs. 30 percent female), this year is more of an even split across both gender and age groups.

Black Friday conversation on Twitter, 2016

Black Friday conversation on Twitter, 2016

Both men and women in the 18–24 age group are the largest participants in the conversation, but last year’s millennial spikes were much more pronounced, especially with women. That age group, it seems, is part of the move towards Cyber Monday conversation.

Cyber Monday Twitter conversation, 2016

Cyber Monday Twitter conversation, 2016

We see huge spikes in the 18–24 age groups for men and women around Cyber Monday this year. In 2015, the largest age group on the male side was 55+, and women only accounted for 18 percent of the conversation.

This year, we’re seeing not just the overall conversation growing, but more chatter from younger users and a balance between men and women.

3. People feel better about Black Friday


The good news for Black Friday is that we’re seeing a shift in how people feel about the event. Even with conversation down, positive sentiment has never been higher.

This year, we’re seeing six times the amount of positive conversation vs. negative (with neutral filtered out). Last year, the overall conversation was more negative toward the event during the same time frame.

Surge or shift? We’ll know soon enough

Should retailers start to panic about Black Friday? I think not. I expect to see a dramatic increase in Black Friday conversation this week, as the country shifts away from the election and toward the holiday season.

But even with a late Black Friday surge, it would be wise for retailers to learn from the social signals and plan both a Black Friday and Cyber Monday strategy going forward, especially if the 18–24 age group is core to their customer base.

Social data can help marketers discover trends before the sales numbers come in and allow retailers to build a strategy for upcoming shifts in consumer behavior. Make sure you’re taking time at the end of 2016 to use all of your data sources to build a full picture of not only what’s happened this year, but also what’s ahead.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Chris Kerns
Chris Kerns has spent more than a decade defining digital strategy and sits at the forefront of extracting insights from digital data. He is the VP of Research & Insights at Spredfast, a social software platform that empowers enterprise organizations to connect with consumers in an increasingly social world. His research has appeared in The New York Times, Forbes, USA Today and the The Wall Street Journal, among other publications. He is also the author of Trendology, the first book to dive into the advantage brands can build using a data-driven approach to real-time marketing.

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