Engagement with Black Friday content has dropped 80% since last year

October 28, 2021

Written by Haley Corzo

With the holidays upon us once again, retailers and shoppers are gearing up for the year’s biggest sales. Similar to other trends we’ve been watching this season, such as Halloween candy and fall flavors, holiday shopping is beginning earlier each year, with Black Friday deals kicking off well before Thanksgiving. 

Black Friday looked a little different in 2020, with the pandemic restricting in-person shopping and increasing online sales, becoming more like an extended Cyber Monday. While more stores will be opening their doors this year, the traditional one-day sale has turned into a much longer event.

We looked back at the level of engagement to Black Friday content in 2020 and how it compares to the media coverage and public interest of what’s expected for 2021. Let’s take a look at the 2020 data before we dive into this year’s forecast.

Public interest in 2020 was notably higher than in 2021

The number of articles about Black Friday in 2020

Leading up to Black Friday in 2020, there were 4k articles written that gained over half a million engagements. The majority of the top stories focused on how companies would be handling Black Friday amid the pandemic. Home Depot, Target and Walmart offered discounts in advance of the annual shopping day in hopes of preventing overcrowding in stores while still giving customers access to the best deals. 

The biggest spike in media and public interest overall occurred on Oct 14 when Ikea announced it would buy back used furniture in order to combat the “excessive consumption” that Black Friday creates. The article by the New York Times had more than 21k engagements and was the top story about Black Friday during this time period.

Engagements to Black Friday content

In 2021 we have seen a substantial difference in the level of public interest to Black Friday vs. this time last year. While a similar amount of articles have been written this year, they’ve received just 100k engagements, around 80% less than what we saw in 2020. However, the peaks of interest are more spread out and have occurred slightly earlier compared to 2020.

The trend of retailers starting their sales early is a continuation of last year’s efforts, but for a very different reason. Stores are having issues with their merchandise getting stuck on container ships due to congestion at ports, while simultaneously there are not enough workers to unload and transport that merchandise from those ships to distribution centers. In an attempt to avoid the chaos, Black Friday deals have already begun, with Amazon and Walmart jumpstarting the shopping season.

Top articles about Black Friday 2021

It’s clear that the supply chain crisis that retailers are facing this year is the most engaging content, as it’s responsible for six of the top ten stories. Business Insider’s article was the second most engaged story about the issue, with over 8.2k engagements. Bloomberg, CNN, and DailyDot’s coverage also made it into the top ten, but with fewer engagements. 

The biggest story comes from Reuters and not only highlights the supply chain crisis but specifically a British labor shortage of warehouse workers who usually arrive to work for the holiday season. This could derail the run-up to Black Friday and Christmas, and has forced warehouses to increase wages. Reuters’ article brought in nearly 10k engagements.

Top articles about Black Friday 2020

The top articles about Black Friday in 2020 focused more on the actual sales that stores were having that year. Walmart’s sale announcements were responsible for six out of the top ten articles, and the official Black Friday website had the most engaged article about it, with over 14k engagements. Other content included news of New Jersey malls staying closed on Thanksgiving day, and the CDC advising people to not go shopping at all during Black Friday. 

Out of the top ten articles in 2020, the first three collectively had more engagements than all of the top articles in 2021 put together. This confirms the large drop in engagements to Black Friday content this year. 

It’s unclear why public interest in Black Friday is lower in 2021, but one certainty is that the holiday is continuing to move away from it’s long-time traditions. In-store shopping is somewhat back this year, although not what it once was due to the lasting effects of Covid and a global labor shortage that is causing an uproar of its own. It’s possible that Black Friday has evolved from a one-day in-person sale, and now encompasses all holiday shopping. We will continue to monitor its engagement as the season continues. 

To read more about the type of content trending for the holidays, check out our 2021 holiday report here.

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