Why Some Shoppers are Opting Out of Black Friday This Year


With our early reading showing a sales decline in stores this Black Friday, we wanted to understand why some shoppers chose to stay home this year after braving the Black Friday mayhem in 2014.

We scoured our database of shopping trips from our consumer panel of over 300,000 Americans to isolate people who shopped on Black Friday in 2014 but failed to make any Black Friday trips in 2015. While this group of “defectors” may have had the patience last year, over 40% decided the crowds and lines were just too much this year.

Why stayed

We also looked at which retailers these Black Friday defectors felt compelled to shop last year to understand who’s losing out on their Black Friday $’s in 2015 and found out that Walmart, Target, Costco and Sam’s Club lost the most and may be responsible for the negative shopping experiences that drove them to sit on the sidelines this year.


So, this begs the question. If they’re not shopping on Black Friday, when do they plan on doing their holiday shopping? It turns out about half plan to do more online gift buying than last year, and specifically, 32% are looking forward to shopping online tomorrow during Cyber Monday.




Here at InfoScout, we’ll continue to monitor on and offline shopping trips throughout the season, but the early signal is clear. Black Friday’s importance continues to wane as the holiday deal landscape becomes more fragmented and digital.


About the Data

These insights were powered by InfoScout’s ability to trigger real-time surveys based on observed shopping behavior. The data in this article was sourced from a survey completed by 101 of our 300,000 active panelists, triggered on Saturday, 11/28/2015 to shoppers who made Black Friday purchases in 2014 but did not shop on Black Friday 2015 (11/27/2015).

Shoppers Have Already Made Gift Purchases Ahead of Black Friday

Yesterday, we asked our panelists how they are preparing their holiday gift shopping, going into what is undoubtedly the most important shopping event of the year: Black Friday.

To our surprise, the majority (66%) answered that they’ve already bought their first gift. Only (12.8%) say that they’ll be buying their first gifts of the season during Black Friday Weekend.

A factor at play here might be the fact that every year, special sales events happen before Black Friday, like Sam’s Club pre-Black Friday sale last weekend.

What type of gifts are shoppers getting this early in the season, and for whom? Over half of those gift purchases (53%) were considered the primary gift for the recipient. So these early buyers aren’t just accumulating stocking suffers, they’ve already knocked off some of the most significant items on their list, Of those recipients, 56% were children and 44% adults.

Also of note is that 46% of those early gift purchases made by our panelists were made online. This is a noticeably high number when compared to the normal ratio that online sales have against brick & mortar stores, which either indicates that early holiday shoppers tend to shop online, or that online retailers are in for a very healthy 2015 holiday season.


About the data:

The insights for this writing are powered by a pre-Black Friday survey completed on November 17, 2015 by 250 of our over 300,000 active panelists. To find out more about this shopping season, stay tuned for our real-time coverage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Press contact for additional insights or data to support custom stories: CJ Acosta cjacosta@infoscoutinc.com

Client contact for real-time insights throughout the holiday shopping season: Ben Ahn ben@infoscoutinc.com

Why Back-to-School Shopping Is A Royal Pain


As a retail market researcher, I was excited by the opportunity my wife recently presented me:  “Would you like to take care of the kids’ school supply shopping?”  I jumped at the chance to conduct an experiment while wearing both “parent” and “researcher” hats.

I first prepared by combining three kids’ school supply lists into one master shopping list, and then crafted my strategy: I would cherry-pick items on-sale at CVS, then move on to Walmart for everything else.

At CVS, I found my first pitfall: in an attempt to rack up $3 in Extra Bucks, I spent over $10 on Crayola products. What felt like a good deal at the time was still overspending compared to the ‘everyday low prices’ I found on the same products at Walmart.

Shopping at Walmart presented its own disappointments: the aisles were cluttered, disorganized and picked-over, looking like a tornado had just whipped through. I did the best I could, but simply couldn’t find one-quarter of the items I needed – especially particular types of binders and folders.  After my wife’s visits to Target and Office Depot still left our list unfulfilled (‘multicultural crayons’ anyone?), we agreed that next year, we’ll be doing our back-to-school shopping online.

After such a disappointing experience, I decided to ask some questions of our Shoparoopanelists (who donate shopping receipts to their children’s schools) to find out if I was alone in my frustration.  With 5,438 responses to 15 questions triggered by the purchase of school supplies, it appears that our experience may actually be the norm.

Like myself, 78 percent of parents begin their school supply shopping armed with lists (although only 18 percent created them via mobile apps). For 69% of the shopping trips studied, school supplies had been the primary purpose of the shopping trip and the reason that particular store had been selected. Yet only 14% of parents were able to complete their back-to-school supply shopping in a single trip.  Worse yet, over 50% of parents anticipated taking three or more shopping trips to fulfill their lists.

Why are brick-and-mortar retailers failing to capture the business of parents with such laser-focused intent, and itemized lists of what they need?   Not carrying the desired items, not carrying enough of them, along with failures in keeping the shelves replenished and organized are among the primary reasons.   And when asked the open-ended question, “What would have made your school supply shopping better?” parents rattled off areas for improvement ranging from the logical, “Better organized aisles,” “More cashiers,” and “More items in stock,” to the wishful: “Free supplies,” “My son’s cooperation!” or, “Doing it kid-free.”

Although 64 percent of parents did zero online shopping for school supplies this year, I suspect that we’ll see significantly more online activity next year – especially as pre-bundled back-to-school kits catch on.  If I were a retailer, I would be focused on experiences and incentives that make my stores the one-stop-shop for back-to-school.  Partnering with schools and teachers to make sure items on their supply lists are stocked, increasing staff during peak season to keep the shelves tidy & replenished, and creating more bundled kits would be a start.

If you’re interested in learning more about this study and the purchasing data behind it,drop us a line; we’d be happy to share our findings with you!


Shopper Insights In Action


I just attended the Shopper Insights in Action conference in Chicago and thought I’d share a few takeaways from what was one of the best conferences I’ve been to in a long time.

My single biggest observation from the event was how much practitioners in the retail market research industry rely on surveys.  I had heard that 80% of all market research data was generated from surveys, but after attending all the presentations at this conference, one could easily conclude that the actual percentage could be much higher.   But what really amazed me is the fact that brands still need to question shoppers about where they shop, when they shop, and what they buy.  Shouldn’t brands already have that purchase data to facilitate more targeted and insightful survey questions about WHYthose particular purchases were made?

More than one of the conference’s presenters highlighted the need for a next generation of intercept surveys.  In particular, they noted the benefits of leveraging mobile technology to lower the costs of reaching hyper-targeted respondents in more locations with the added benefit of knowing the respondents’ longitudinal behaviors.  At InfoScout, we couldn’t agree more!  New approaches like this will only improve our collective ability to generate truly actionable insights.

Take new product launches for example.  What’s the best way to quickly & efficiently survey people who just bought your new item?   Today’s approaches involve asking tens-of-thousands of professional panelists whether or not they’ve recently bought the item, or by asking thousands of random shoppers the same question as they exit specific stores.   Neither approach is efficient, nor do they offer the benefit of knowing how the respondents previously shopped the new item’s category.  Moreover, there’s almost no ability to measure respondents’ repeat purchase activity thereafter.

By comparison, consider InfoScout’s approach.  We track every purchase made by tens-of-thousands of consumers on an ongoing basis.  This allows us to trigger surveys immediately to people who not only meet certain demographic & psychographic profiles, but who have also purchased a particular product in a particular store.  With full knowledge of their actual shopping activity, more insightful questions can be asked to understand the ‘why behind the buy’.

If you are ready for a new & better approach, let us know.  We’d love to show what we’re capable of!

The Usual Suspects


One of my all-time favorite movies is The Usual Suspects starring Kevin Spacey.   In the movie, his character turns out to be the mastermind behind a magnificent heist, yet the investigators let him go because they mistakenly assumed that he simply couldn’t be the culprit.

But it’s not just criminal investigators who are guilty of assumptive profiling.   The same could be said of brand marketers who, in the absence of data, tend to assume that the mom is the shopper and decision maker they must market to – particularly when it comes to grocery purchases.   However, recent data suggest that men play an ever-increasing role in grocery-related purchasing decisions.

Moreover, today’s brand marketer turned investigator is often left with gross assumptions as to the motives of shoppers and consumers alike.  At best, brands rely on focus groups and opinion panels in rough attempts to understand the nature and motives of their would-be consumers.  At worst, the job is left to intuition and rules-of-thumb as a natural response to the high costs, long latency and overall inadequacy of the tools of the market research trade.

Just as fingerprinting and DNA technologies revolutionized forensics, traditional market research tools will rapidly be swept aside by a new set of technologies that leverage the ubiquitous signals of a marketing landscape that is increasingly digital, social & mobile.  These new tools will fundamentally change market research – NOT by simply providing better measures of ‘what’ happened, but by explaining ‘why’ it happened.

At InfoScout, our motive is clear: to explain ‘why’ behind the ‘buy’.  If we’re successful, we’ll be guilty of making brands better marketers – a charge we’ll gladly accept.