Black Friday 2022: How consumers shopped for bargains ahead of Christmas

We take a look back at the Black Fridays of the past with 2022's blockbuster peak season.
Oct 18
Black Friday 2022: How consumers shopped for bargains ahead of Christmas

We take a look back at the Black Fridays of the past. The best way to understand where you are going is to know where you’ve been. So, using ZigZag’s consumer survey results and finely aged retailer data, we can head back in time to see what happened during peak seasons of old.

This week we look at the Black Friday of 2022. Still revelling in the eCommerce boom that exploded when the world went online in 2020, retail sales were still flying heading into 2022 peak season. Many predicted Black Friday sales to be another increase on 2021, a blockbuster year in itself.

And that’s just what happened. ZigZag highlighted that global returns over Black Friday weekend were up 60% compared to the same period in 2021.

Here’s the blog from 2022….in all its glory.

ZigZag Global the global platform that empowers retailers to turn their returns policy into a true business differentiator, releases data surrounding the busiest time of the year for consumers and retailers, Black Friday. ZigZag’s proprietary data reveals shoppers have been eager to spread the cost of Christmas this year and seek promotions during a cost-of-living crisis as demonstrated by a 60% increase in global returns, and an 8% increase in UK returns specifically, year-on-year over the Black Friday weekend.

Retailers are promoting deals earlier than ever

Despite a reinvention of Black Friday, with some retailers engaging in month-long promotions, consumers have set their sights firmly on bagging only the best bargains this year with the value of goods returned rising by 44% compared to last year globally.

Black Friday returns hit new records in 2022

Al Gerrie CEO and co-founder commented: “Black Friday has been reinvented yet again this year and 2022 shows that we’re more determined than ever to bag a bargain. One thing is for certain: by spreading the Black Friday deals across the month of November, retailers are doubling down on every effort to combat consumer concerns around the cost-of-living crisis and the potential impact this might have on anticipated Christmas spending budgets.”

Consumers are returning more due to the cost-of-living crisis

Al continued, “However, if the trends in returns tell us anything, we can see that the shoppers are becoming more discerning with the purchases they choose to hold onto, and those they choose to send back. There has been a significant jump in global returns compared to last year’s Black Friday weekend which is up 60% for global returns and 8% in the UK. The increase in returns is down to shoppers buying multiple items and then thinking a lot harder about returning items they don’t want. There is also an interesting trend in the value of the returned items being higher than last year – again pointing towards a more frugal shopper this year.”

Retailers are turning to paid returns to recoup costs

Paid returns rose by 159% in 2022 Black Friday

The data also shows a significant increase in the number of paid returns – up 159% this year in the UK – meanwhile, the number of free returns dropped. This reflects recent decisions made by some retailers to begin charging customers for returning items online.

Al Gerrie continued: “The increase in paid returns is a healthy sign for retailers looking to recoup profit on the returns journey, because as the retail industry knows all too well: there is no such thing as a ‘free return’.”

Black Friday is a time where retailers typically opt for free returns. During the sales frenzy, it is vital for brands to either standout from the competition or at least not fall behind. With so many retailers offering free returns, consumers don’t expect to be charged. It takes a level of bravery to charge for returns at this time of year, an important period for boosting revenue. However, with costs rising across the supply chain, it comes as no surprise that retailers are slowly testing the waters, testing consumer sentiment, to see if paid returns are a viable option.

A Very Green Black Friday

Alongside this, UK customers are actively adopting more sustainable practices regarding their returns, with 79% opting for a paperless return when it is offered and an increased likelihood – almost 5 times more (488%) – of returning via a locker this year.  Overall, paperless returns were requested 64% more globally this year compared to 2021.  

Consumers considered going green over Black Friday 2022

Al Gerrie added: “With such a drastic change compared to last year and COP27 being fresh on our minds, we hope to see consumers continuing to adopt these sustainable practices all year-round.”

Padded coats and leggings made up the most returned items over the weekend as shoppers looked to keep warm on a budget. However, one consumer was unhappy with their bargain as the cheapest item returned was a ten pence decorative eucalyptus tree. The number of items returned per order also increased this Black Friday. In July 2021, ZigZag found that a third of online shoppers (33%) engaged in “bracketing”, the purchase of multiple colours and sizes with the intention of returning at least one item. It is evident this practice has continued this weekend with the number of items returned per order also increasing this Black Friday compared to 2021.

Why were consumers returning during Black Friday 2022?

It is vital for eCommerce retailers to understand why customers are returning and use that data to make smart business decisions. Knowledge is power. Finding out why shoppers are making a return improves the customer experience by identifying problem products, highlighting the need for updated sizing guides, product photos, and descriptions; reducing returns, cutting costs, and even helping uncover fraudulent returners.

So, we decided to explore the streets of London during the hustle and bustle of peak season sales to ask shoppers why they return purchases made online. We were lucky enough to catch a range of different eCommerce returners, from the high-returning Fast Fashionistas to the return cautious Eco Warriors.  

Whilst shoppers largely agreed with our survey findings that sizing issues is the biggest contributing factor for making an online return (with 56% of consumers making a return due to poor fit), there was plenty of additional interesting insight we took back to our tech development team. You can watch other ZigZag videos here >>

You’ll have to forgive the old branding…