Don’t Sleep on Small Business Saturday: A look at U.S. Holiday Shopping Trends

Maybe you skipped Thanksgiving dessert this year to go stand in line for those early Black Friday deals. Or maybe you passed on Black Friday shopping all together for Small Business Saturday or waited for Cyber Monday to splurge.

No matter how you shopped over the past week, chances are that you bought something! According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), an estimated 164 million people planned to shop between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday. Unsurprisingly, the largest portion of respondents (71%) expected to shop on Black Friday, while the next largest group (41%) expected to make their major purchases on Small Business Saturday to support local stores.

Following these shopping events is the global charitable campaign, Giving Tuesday. The campaign, which launched in 2012, harnesses the power of social media to raise money for organizations and individuals around the world, a philanthropic balance to the consumer push surrounding the rest of the extended weekend. Last year, Giving Tuesday raised over $270 million for charities across the globe. With the help of social media and a viral engagement campaign, the day quickly gained traction, encouraging consumers to take a break from their holiday purchases and put some funds toward charitable causes instead.

There was a time when Black Friday owned the post-Thanksgiving shopping landscape. Small Business, Cyber and Giving are all newer entrants to the holiday arena. As someone who focuses on communications and branding, I’m often curious to see the share of voice that viral brands and events garner in the media. This year, I decided to explore the data a bit and see if the perceived hype of the days aligned with actual turn out and media share of voice.

So how much of the market did each shopping day really draw? It turns out the NRF was on point — between November 21 and 28, Black Friday was mentioned over 150,000 times in U.S. media. Coverage ranged from articles about long store lines to words of advice from local police on safely navigating Black Friday crowds. While Black Friday was the biggest day for shoppers throughout Thanksgiving and the following week, the next highest shopping share of voice didn’t follow NRF’s predicted spend. There were about 67,000 mentions of Cyber Monday but only 9,914 mentions of Small Business Saturday. Giving Tuesday brought up the rear with about 8,000 media mentions — which is interesting since estimates show donations may have reached as high as $363 million.

From a communications perspective, the Thanksgiving shopping season is chock-full of media moments. It’s the perfect time for companies to buy in to traditions and build a brand that consumers are excited to support. Determining how to cut through the noise and stand out in a crowded marketplace is the key to success for any organization, especially during the holidays.

While Black Friday may still be the most popular opportunity for scoring holiday deals, it’s the day’s evolution that’s carried it so far. Traditionally, gift purchases have been done at shopping malls and department stores, but online retailers have made a big splash in the gift space. Black Friday shopper turnout has slowed down in recent years, mostly due to the rise in online retailers like Amazon. Fifty-five percent of consumers expect to shop online this holiday season, which works in shoppers’ favor when retailers offer the same in-store and online discounts from Black Friday through Cyber Monday.

Companies need more than great deals and the promise of savings to keep their customers engaged. The media can play a large role in how consumers interact with brands. Whether it be great advertising campaigns that draw consumers in, employee stories to add that personal touch, or joining the Giving Tuesday movement to show their charitable side, mediable moments are the ideal way for companies to attract potential shoppers and earn consumer trust. No matter the message, each brand has to find the tactic that best resonates with their target audience, earning their company the media attention it needs to stay relevant in a crowded space.

With the ever-shifting media landscape, share of voice can drastically change over time. In the above chart, it’s clear that media mentions of Cyber Monday spiked on the day of the event, but unlike Black Friday, Cyber Monday coverage wasn’t as relevant in the days following. As companies change their holiday shopping event strategies, the media share of each day is sure to evolve over time.