Black Friday 2018: 4 Lessons and 1 Prediction

The weekend after Thanksgiving is the Super Bowl of commerce. Deep discounts, big ad budgets and innovative tactics… for just a few intense days, shopping is as big as Jesus.

The Part and Sum team spent the holiday consuming deals, data and stuffing. Now, having recovered from our turkey-and-shopping hangover, we’ve put together a list of critical lessons, from Black Friday through Cyber Monday.


1. For businesses big and small, Black Friday is way more popular than Small Business Saturday.

In principle, Small Business Saturday is brilliant: It’s a chance for indie retailers to differentiate themselves from the big-box crowd, build customer loyalty and engage with their communities. And there’s no reason not to participate with special Saturday discounts. But consider structuring your offers to include SBS and Black Friday, which—like it or not—is still one of the biggest shopping days of the year. While some customers might hold out to shop small the following day, reduced consumer acknowledgment of Small Business Saturday puts you at risk for losing out to Friday’s deals.

 A Facebook comment posted to a promotional ad launched on SBS.

A Facebook comment posted to a promotional ad launched on SBS.

 Google Trends - Since its launch in 2010, Small Business Saturday has decreased in popularity.

Google Trends - Since its launch in 2010, Small Business Saturday has decreased in popularity.

 Google Trends - Compared to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, SBS is far less recognized by shoppers as a shopping holiday. (And if you think about it, this makes sense: Big-box stores and national chains plaster the internet with promotions for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, whereas promotion for SBS comes from mom-and-pop shops with much smaller online footprints.)

Google Trends - Compared to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, SBS is far less recognized by shoppers as a shopping holiday. (And if you think about it, this makes sense: Big-box stores and national chains plaster the internet with promotions for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, whereas promotion for SBS comes from mom-and-pop shops with much smaller online footprints.)

Make Black Friday a branding moment

If you want to avoid Black Friday altogether and reserve your discounts for SBS or Cyber Monday, consider creative solutions that will attract customers while reinforcing your brand’s personality. For example, you could offer a special gift with purchase, introduce a loyalty program (or give extra loyalty points with purchase), unlock a VIP shopping experience, invite customers to an in-store event, put a coveted item on pre-sale and so on. Whatever you choose, be sure to offer enticing discounts on SBS or Cyber Monday to help compensate for any losses incurred by non-participation in Black Friday.

2. Whether you’re shopping or selling, you need to start early.

If you’re planning to run a paid promotion, it’s best to start before Black Friday or Cyber Monday so your ads have time to optimize. Many retailers launch their ads before Thanksgiving, allowing them to test messaging, creative and budget allocation in order to get maximum ROI.

 The difference a day makes.

The difference a day makes.

 Shopify’s 2018 Black Friday report.

Shopify’s 2018 Black Friday report.

Thanksgiving is a particularly good day for testing ads, since most people are at home with family, are not working and are often passively using mobile devices (when Uncle Joe starts talking politics, you’re going to reach for your phone to distract yourself). Presenting persuasive offers to audiences while they're at home for the holiday is also an opportunity to convince people to make purchases for their loved ones.


Black Friday and Cyber Monday are high-volume shopping days, but keep in mind that they’re extremely competitive days, too. From an advertising standpoint, that means the cost per purchase can be higher than normal. Testing campaigns earlier in the week will enable you to achieve cheaper conversions while making sure that only the most profitable ads run on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

cost per purchase

3. Promises, promises: Your landing pages must fulfill whatever promises your ads make.

It’s critically important that your landing page(s) support and continue the story your ads tell. Whether it’s a promoted post on Facebook or a banner ad on a popular news site, when a customer clicks through, they need to land on a page that’s consistent in terms of content, calls to action and visuals. If the landing page doesn’t align with the ad—for example, it has different offer messaging, or it looks and feels like it’s part of a different campaign altogether—you will experience higher bounce rates and lower conversion rates. Be sure all advertising assets point to consistent landing pages; if you have a wide variety of ad messages and styles, consider building multiple landing pages to support them.

4) Time product launches for maximum impact.

What goes up must come down, and many retailers experience slumps after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. One way to mitigate this is by launching new products in mid-October and early November, so demand for the new item will continue past the holiday. It can also be helpful to launch new products shortly after Cyber Monday, giving you an extra boost before Christmas.

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Mid-late October is also a good time to release gift guides and best-of-the-year products, as 69%* of people have already started making their holiday gift plans by then. Pinterest, of course, remains a popular gift planning tool, so be sure to share your gift guide content there.

*Open X | The Harris Poll, Sept 6 2018

5) To do in2019: Test different daily deals.

Now that we’ve taken a look back at the 2018 Black Friday shopping season, here’s a tip to try in 2019. This year, we saw many direct-to-consumer companies release a 24-hour unique deal each day of the sale period—all with unique messaging and creative assets. These deals included incremental increases in the offer (for example, 20% off two items on one day, then 30% off three items the next day), new-to-sale items and other discounts. With only 24 hours to take advantage of the deal, it’s important for the messaging to convey a sense of urgency, e.g., that stock is running out, so people shouldn’t wait for a better offer. We predict more retailers will experiment with these “disappearing deals” next year—and get even more creative with them, too. (Watch-and-it’s-gone platforms like Instagram Stories seem like a natural fit for this approach!)


Talk turkey with us.

Did you see any great Black Friday marketing this year? Any that was terrible? Did you score some sweet deals online or off? What do you wish you had done differently during the Thanksgiving shopping season? How many pieces of pie did you eat? Do you agree with us that apple is the best pie? Get in touch: hello@partandsum.com.