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BFCM 2022 shopping trends: 8 strategies for success

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It’s that time of year again – and Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) is taking no prisoners amid record economic uncertainty, labor shortages, and an ongoing supply chain crisis. Whether retailers will survive or thrive during the upcoming 2022 holiday season hinges on two key traits: Flexibility and cost-effectiveness.

As consumers and merchants alike continue to adjust to the realities of post-pandemic retail, enabling greater choice and control over the shopping experience is central to success. Whether it’s earlier access to seasonal products or enhanced omnichannel shopping capabilities, consumers are expecting brands to eliminate friction at every touchpoint.

So without further ado, here are the 8 trends set to influence BFCM and the 2022 holiday season:

BFCM meaning

But what is BCFM? Put simply, BCFM stands for ‘Black Friday Cyber Monday’ and is used to refer to the entirety of the biggest shopping event of the year.

Once upon a time, in-store Black Friday sales were the only promotional events that took place during the Thanksgiving holiday. But the rise of online shopping has resulted in a longer sales period thanks to the birth of Cyber Monday, Black Friday’s e-commerce cousin. Over time, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have blurred together into an omnichannel holiday season event collectively referred to as the BFCM weekend – and it’s well worth your marketing efforts.

In the weeks leading up to the holiday season, Black Friday Cyber Monday is a powerful promotional tool to prime customers to begin fulfilling their gifting obligations. BFCM promotions provide that push for shoppers to snap up the best deals and sought-after products. In sum, it can be a make-or-break moment for holiday sales or your brand.

8 BFCM shopping trends that brands should pay attention to in 2022

1. Earlier access to seasonal inventory and promotions

So-called ‘doorbuster’ deals and tight shopping windows over Black Friday Cyber Monday weekend have been swapped out in favor of earlier access to Black Friday deals over the past couple of years. In an industry-shaping move, Amazon chose to move 2020’s Prime Day to October 2020, before switching back to its regular mid-July slot for 2021 and 2022.

Why? Because economic uncertainty concerns about inflation are driving consumers to shop even earlier for holiday gifts to avoid the worst of the price hikes.

A survey by 4Over found that 31% of consumers plan to start their holiday shopping by November, but that nearly a quarter (23%) are planning to buy gifts as soon as they see something suitable.

In sum, we’ve long since reached the end of a clean Black Friday Cyber Monday sales week. The retail holiday season begins not with Black Friday deals, when shoppers decide they want to start buying – which is now.

In an uncertain economic climate, this new BFCM strategy requires brands to drive sales by offering holiday promotions by the end of the summer – at a time when many retailers are thinking about Back-to-School promotions. As consumer spending spreads out into less of a holiday ‘peak’, brands must respond in kind by targeting early holiday shoppers with the right messaging and inventory to encourage holiday purchases.

Yet moving away from a short, intense holiday shopping season does have benefits for retailers. It enables brands to manage ongoing supply chain issues more effectively, utilize longer, less expensive shipping methods, and retarget customers multiple times in the lead-up to Christmas.

2. BOPIS and curbside pick-up

BOPIS might have seen a drop in usage since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but online to offline (O2O) retail has proven that it’s here to stay. Nearly a fifth of online orders placed on Cyber Monday in 2021 were for curbside pick-up, a sign that online shoppers are not averse to store visits.

Moreover, BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick-Up In-Store) offers some undeniable advantages when shoppers are watching their wallets. The cost of home delivery quickly adds up during the holiday season, especially with the added burden of peak season surcharges. As a result, we can expect more shoppers to make use of in-store pick-up methods during the 2022 holiday season to save money.

Store-based retailers are moving fast to expand their BOPIS capabilities ahead of peak season.

Kohl’s has expanded its BOPIS services to all of its 1,100 stores across the U.S., while BOPIS now accounts for a quarter of all online sales at Ulta Beauty – up from 20% the year prior.

Plus, more store-based pick-up means increased foot traffic, which boosts the odds of more sales taking place at your storefronts during the holiday season.

3. Short-form video as a powerful promotional tool

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock this year, you’ll know that social media platforms are all about promoting the power of short-form content. Inspired by the success of Gen Z powerhouse TikTok, both YouTube and Instagram have launched their own short-form video tools to compete. But TikTok continues to be the powerhouse for video campaigns.

Now racking up over 1 billion monthly views, TikTok has become one of the most powerful brand and product discovery engines. Its viral hashtags and powerful organic reach means that even small ecommerce brands can find an engaged audience on the platform, without the high cost of social media ads.

The 2020 Holidays on TikTok study found that a third of TikTok users use the platform to keep up with the latest trends, while 42% use the app primarily for product discovery. In sum, it’s the perfect recipe for promoting your BFCM deals.

Want some proof? TikTok’s BFCM shoppable livestream campaign in 2021 accumulated 29.6 million views, while orders for new sellers jumped by a whopping 257%. Play your cards right, and TikTok e-commerce could be your secret weapon this BFCM weekend.

4. Offering a range of payment methods

As consumers come to expect a greater range of personalized experiences in e-commerce and retail, payment methods have emerged as a key touchpoint to enhance customer loyalty. By offering shoppers their favorite options during the holiday shopping season, you can increase the likelihood of future purchases.

In sum, it’s no longer enough for payment options to be limited just to Visa and Mastercard. Studies show that younger consumers in particular are moving away from credit cards in favor of debit-based options, with 60% of millennials and Gen Z viewing credit cards as ‘too risky’.  

The even better option? Enabling your customers to defer payments via a Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) plan.

Thanks to inflation and tighter consumer spending, we can expect to see BNPL utilized at an even higher rate than the 2021 holiday shopping season, where stimulus checks and higher household savings helped to pad out household cashflows.

In fact, Pymnts’ BNPL Tracker study discovered that 71% of BNPL users making over $100,000 per year had increased their BNPL usage in the past twelve months. This is a clear sign that Buy Now, Pay Later is becoming a default payment option even for wealthy consumers who can afford to pay upfront.

In sum, adopting a Buy Now, Pay Later option is less about getting ahead, and more about making sure that your business doesn’t fall behind. With marketplace penetration growing at a rapid rate, it’s never been easier for consumers to vet retailers based on BNPL availability.

Check out our dedicated post on the pros and cons of BNPL for retailers.

5. Seamless returns

While online shopping is designed to be as easy and seamless as possible for consumers, the returns process often isn’t. Whether it’s having to pay for return shipping or waiting for weeks to obtain a refund, a poor post-purchase experience reduces the odds of holiday shoppers becoming loyal customers.

According to Loop’s recent consumer survey, 97% of respondants said that retailers with ‘flexible and extensive’ return policies care more about their customer base than those who don’t. In sum, seamless returns are essential to avoid consumers avoiding your brand during the holiday shopping period.

Return volumes undergo a massive spike in early January as gifts are exchanged or returned, which increases the likelihood of bottlenecks in the return process. It’s estimated that 16.6% percent of the total merchandise sold during the 2021 holiday season ended up being returned. Without a streamlined return process, returned products can begin piling up in distribution centers, delaying refunds and reducing resale opportunities.

BORIS (Buy Online, Return In-Store) removes friction from the returns experience and enables retailers to make refunds and have items back on the shelf almost instantly.

Best of all, in-store returns give customers more reasons to spend time in your stores. According to Google, omnichannel retail tactics like BORIS result in an 80% higher rate of store visits. Processing returns and refunds in the same transaction also presents some great upselling opportunities for your store associates.

For ecommerce sellers, using a third-party return solution is an excellent way to manage returns effectively. Return portals use the power of automation to resolve return requests quickly and automatically enforce your chosen return policy, such as longer return windows or exclusions on clearance items.

6. Offer free shipping to increase sales

Consumer expectations for free shipping aren’t new, but they’re especially sought-after during the holiday season. 81% of consumers surveyed by Ware2Go say they are planning to conduct at least some of their holiday shopping online this year, with 56% listing free shipping as their most sought-after BFCM deal.

With many shoppers watching their wallets thanks to inflation, it’s not surprising that shipping costs will prove to be a make or break for online sales this BFCM shopping weekend. However, there is some relief at play. Ware2go going that fast shipping is only preferred by 42% of consumers surveyed, indicating that consumers are showing less interest in shipping speed due to the higher cost. While free and fast shipping is always preferable, the former will prove more influential to encourage customers to purchase.

However, merchants are set to face a huge burden this year in the form of peak season surcharges targeting residential delivery. Merchants will need to look for alternative ways to offset the additional costs of offering free shipping. Implementing a free shipping threshold or introducing a paid shipping program are great ways to prevent free shipping from eroding your profit margins.

For more on offering free shipping during the holiday season, check out our full guide.

7. Social commerce

Rather than redirecting shoppers from social media to your e-commerce website during BFCM weekend (and potentially losing some along the way) social commerce enables brands to offer browsing and purchasing capabilities directly within the app. 

Social commerce has gained widespread popularity as consumers shift to discovering brands and products on social media, rather than online search. 79% of people say that social media content impacts on their purchasing decisions, while nearly half of millennials and Gen Z between the ages of 18-34 have already made a purchase through social media.

Social commerce will be a key tool this holiday season to meet shoppers where they’re already browsing and hunting for other promotions. As demand for frictionless mobile shopping grows, social commerce is the ultimate funnel to turn followers into loyal customers. For example, starting an Instagram store that showcases your top holiday picks or most popular products is a great way to boost sales and offer a smooth checkout experience.

8. Mobile shopping (and associated tools) are king

Mobile commerce (also known as m-commerce) has only been heading in one direction since it first emerged. Almost 43% of 2021 Black Friday sales happened via smartphones and mobile devices, a huge source of traffic that no brand wants to miss out on.

But while online shopping offers convenience and flexibility, being unable to test/try products ahead of purchasing can be a significant point of friction in the shopping experience. As a result, there’s been an uptick in consumer demand for augmented reality tools that assist with purchasing decisions. According to a study by Vertebrae, 45% of consumers surveyed said that the ability to zoom, change orientation, and ‘place’ items within their surroundings would enhance purchase confidence.

Combining the power of mobile with new technologies designed to streamline purchasing is the best way to eliminate the pain points faced by mobile shoppers.

This year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday event is set to be an expansion of the pandemic-fuelled trends we first experienced in 2020. With ongoing supply chain challenges and the new threat of rising inflation, consumers are eager to start their holiday shopping earlier than ever in an effort to secure favored products and avoid price hikes.

As a result, holiday shoppers are also going to be especially sensitive to any additional costs, such as shipping and return fees, and much more likely to pursue deferred payment options like BNPL to manage cashflow.

By investing in more flexible retailing, from omnichannel selling to additional payment options and generous return policies, merchants can eliminate friction from the shopping journey and enhance the customer experience – all paving the way for stronger customer loyalty and retention into 2023 and beyond.

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