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BFCM - Trends and Predictions for the Upcoming Year

BFCM - Trends and Predictions for the Upcoming Year

That’s a wrap on BFCM 2023! To many, the weekend felt “quieter” this year, especially online - perhaps due to more shoppers going back to in–person shopping, less spending with economic trends, or maybe everyone’s a bit tired and “over it”. Whatever the reason, BFCM just didn’t seem to have the same sparkle in comparison to previous years. 

That being said, BFCM is definitely not dead. We noticed some common trends this year: innovative discounting structures, growth in average order value, and customers rushing to press “checkout” right as the clock strikes midnight. Based on these trends and other promotional times throughout the year, we’ve come up with some predictions to get you thinking about what will work best for your business in the coming year.

If thinking about BFCM this year was already stressful enough, we’ve got you covered. Contact us to learn more about how Ask Kenna can ease your holiday promo stress through the remainder of the holidays and the upcoming year.

Chalkboard sign with "BFCM" written on it


Brands are leaning in to a phased approach vs. deep discounting

Sales and deals seem to launch earlier each year. Some brands increase their discounts as BFCM weekend approaches, while others offer different promotions for different products or collections at timed intervals. 

The value of deeper discounts approaching the holiday weekend is that if you have limited inventory, customers who want specific products will shop earlier to score the right size/colour/etc. This approach works well for the apparel industry and other businesses with limited inventory quantities.

Note: We don’t recommend increased discounts over time for low-sku or single item stores. If there’s only one product and the discounts keep getting better, customers will wait until the last minute for the best discount.

Midnight on Black Friday is still a big deal

Even though Black Friday is now a global phenomenon, it appears that the east coast of North America remains the standard for timing of when the holiday “actually” starts - even if two of the three top selling cities are in other timezones. Shopify’s annual BFCM report shows that sales peaked at $4.2M per minute at 12:01am EST on Friday, November 24th, a 20% increase from the year prior. Top selling cities this year included New York, London, and Los Angeles. 

The pandemic has profoundly changed our shopping habits - even 3 years later.

BFCM sales have increased steadily each year, but they increased the most for Shopify merchants from 2019-2020, going from 2.9B to 5.1B that year. We can likely attribute most of this increase to the unavailability of in-person shopping in most places, shoppers being more cautious about large crowds, and the influx of new merchants using Shopify to bring their businesses online.

We might’ve expected to see BFCM numbers decrease for online businesses now that most of the world has dropped the restrictions around in person shopping, but according to this year’s Shopify report, BFCM sales increased this year by 24%. The increase can partly be attributed to Shopify’s growth in new merchants. Since Shopify’s exact merchant count is undisclosed, it’s hard to get an exact year-over-year comparison.

Considering the attitudes and numbers around this year’s BFCM period, it’s clear that consumer shopping habits have profoundly changed - after all, why bother with midnight lineups when you could snag the same deals shopping from the coziness of your own bed?

Hands holding phone in bed

Even from our beds, we’re spending more year over year

In 2019, Shopify reported an average order value of $83 USD over the BFCM weekend. As with overall spending, average order values have steadily increased each year - with the average cart price this year jumping to $107 USD. All the data points to a consistent trend: shoppers are spending more each year on stores powered by Shopify. 

What’s a great way to increase your average order value? Your shipping strategy! While it’s tempting to offer free shipping across the entire store as a BFCM promotion, it’s more strategic to offer free shipping on orders above a certain amount. This way, customers get a deal while also spending more to meet the shipping threshold.


Well established brands will continue get ahead of the BFCM weekend

Large retailers like Amazon and Sephora are smart: they run semi-annual sales earlier in the season to capture spending before the consumer has a chance to take their dollars elsewhere. These retailers have built trust over time by running the same promotions every year. Sephora customers expect that there will be a sale for 10-20% off the entire store sale in April and November, and very few sales that are as all-encompassing in between those times. 

Just last year, Amazon started offering “Prime Big Deal Days” mid-october to complement their existing prime day that they’ve been running every summer since 2015. Although we still see BFCM sales on Amazon over that promotional weekend, getting shoppers thinking about deals and spending early can only be beneficial for Amazon’s bottom line. It’s a smart move to capture consumer spending early.

Creating a store discount

New and creative discounting structures and strategies will continue to emerge

Take for example The Ordinary’s “Slowvember” campaign, where they offer 23% off the entire store for the month of November, except for on Black Friday when they close for both in-person and online shopping. The beauty industry is competitive, and while The Ordinary markets Slowvember as a way to “challenge the concept of Black Friday by promoting educated purchasing” it’s also a very smart business strategy: customers shop earlier and get their beauty needs met before other brands run their sales, capturing the market in a similar way to Amazon and Sephora.

During the holiday promotion season, most brands rely on email campaigns to reach their audience. It seems there’s always a brand that you forgot about that pops into your inbox during the leadup BFCM weekend! In a sea of emails, how can you make sure your brand isn’t lost in the shuffle? Nutrition22 had a delightful answer to this very question.

When Nutrition22 ran their BFCM promo, their customers didn’t get a simple discount - instead, each email subscriber got an email with a link to a page that randomly generated a discount code between 20-50%. This game mechanic pushed a massive increase in traffic to their store, because the subscribers wanted to know how much they’d won. The psychology here isn’t difficult: we all like to feel like we’re winning.

BFCM Promotions won’t necessarily mean discounts

We all love a deal, but discounts can lose their luster and appeal if we know the store will be offering more throughout the year. After all, if something is always on sale, is it ever on sale? Luckily, discounts aren’t the only way to create hype about an event or shopping weekend. Brands are getting creative with unique offerings, limited edition products, and giftset bundles.

This year, Barnes and Noble ran a unique promotion for BFCM. The book retailer already offers 50% off of different books throughout the year with their “Book Haul” events, so it didn’t make sense for them as a brand to offer more discounts. Instead, Barnes and Noble offered a limited release: 650,000 popular books signed by their authors over the BFCM weekend. This creative promotion allowed the bookseller to participate in the hype of the weekend without having to further discount any merchandise.

Other brands see the opportunity to capture the hype of the BFCM weekend and direct it towards their charitable or sustainability efforts. TenTree rebranded Black Friday to Green Friday and promoted their existing promise to plant ten trees for every purchase. Lush released 14,600 limited edition Orangutan soaps to draw attention to the fact that there were only 14,600 Orangutans remaining in the wild in Sumatra. They then donated the proceeds to the Sumatran Orangutan Society, who was able to buy 50 hectares of oil palm plantation land and begin restoring native forest for the orangutang's habitat. 

BCFM is also around the time that limited edition or gift set products start being released. Gift sets are usually discounted in a “buy more, save more” structure, where the products are cheaper if bought in the set than they would be individually. Some brands also opt for special packaging for their gift sets. For smaller businesses who don’t have the bandwidth for special packaging, offering the set at a discount using a bundling app is an easy way to participate in this type of promotion without breaking the bank. Some merchants will even throw in small promotional items as a “free gift” to encourage customers to purchase the gift set.

Open notebook with "Sale" written in caligraphy

We’ll be seeing more industry-specific sales throughout the year

While it’s unlikely that BFCM is going away any time soon, smart merchants understand that it’s the most competitive weekend of the year. Every brand is vying for the tiniest bit of your attention to encourage you to spend your money. Some brands have taken note of how messy their inboxes get and have opted for a different approach: industry specific discount days.

For example, on “National Ballpoint Pen Day” which falls on June 10th, pen companies offered customers the biggest discounts of the year. Tea companies might offer their biggest discounts in January, which is “National Hot Tea month”. A yoga company might offer a discount on June 21st, which is “National Yoga Day”. If you’re curious about what days might fit into your industry, you can go to the National Day Calendar website to find out more.

To sum it up

While BFCM certainly isn’t going away any time soon, it is shifting and changing - especially as consumers are getting more savvy to marketing and hype. Consumer habits are evolving and continuing to change shape as we continue in a post-pandemic world. In this dynamic landscape, the most successful businesses will be the ones with the highest level of adaptability, creativity, and strategy approaching holiday marketing as a whole, rather than the ones who throw up a discount for the weekend of BFCM - innovation will lead to success. 

Sales and marketing strategy aren’t just for the holidays - we encourage businesses to think strategically year round about promotional strategies, considering factors such as the timing of sales, unique discounting structures, and the value of non-discount promotions. If that sounds like a really big project, let us help! Find out about our Fractional Ecommerce Manager product here

Now that the biggest shopping weekend is over, you can take a deep breath. Take some time to realign with your team and look back: what were your biggest wins? What do you wish you could’ve done better? And most importantly, how will you stay ahead of the curve for next year?


Shopify’s BFCM Report 2023 | Shopify’s BFCM Report 2022 | Shopify’s BFCM Report 2021 | Newswire Article on Shopify’s 2020 bfcm results  | Shopify’s BFCM Report 2019 | Shopify’s BFCM Report 2018 | Shopify’s BFCM Report 2017 | Shopify Revenue and merchant statistics in 2023 - Backlinco | CP24 Cyber Monday 2023 article | Barnes and Noble Article | History of Prime Days

Photos by Matthew Henry and Cindy Malette from Burst 

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