Black Friday 2023 by the Numbers: Retail Trends & Car Wash Industry Takeaways

January 23, 2024

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Despite stubborn inflation and looming economic uncertainty, Black Friday 2023 was another one for the record books. Overall, sales were up a modest 2.5% over 2022, but Adobe Analytics reported e-commerce sales increased 7.5% from 2022, for a total of $9.8B in spending. Cyber Monday added another $12.4B, a 9.6% increase from 2022. In total, almost 170M Americans shopped online or in-store over the Black Friday weekend. 

Here are some of the key trends that defined Black Friday 2023 and what they mean for your business. 

Black Friday Wasn't Just for Gifting 

Only 70% of Black Friday spending this year was on gifts. Savvy shoppers also use this time of year to stock up on products they use year-round at a discount. If you know you're going to be purchasing a particular brand of protein powder or your favorite cologne throughout the year, why not get a lower-cost 12-month supply when the opportunity arises, especially given the economic uncertainty 2024 seems poised to bring? Smart retailers tapped into this thinking by diversifying their messaging with traditional gift-giving appeals interspersed with more generic, savings-focused calls to action. 

Car Wash Takeaway: Knowing that customers are looking not only for gifts but also for ways to capitalize on bargains for themselves, this can be an opportunity to run a promotion on your memberships or wash books.  

Retailers Went Big on Email 

Brands large and small began prepping their customers via email and push notifications for upcoming sales well before Thanksgiving, even if their hottest deals didn't drop until Black Friday. Many continued their campaigns until the Friday after Cyber Monday, looking to scoop up those stragglers who had yet to buy.  

For example, outdoor retailer Filson sent a whopping 18 emails between Nov 14 - Nov 30 promoting their Black Friday sales and surfacing gift suggestions. While this is an unusually high number of emails, and Filson has the benefit of a large catalog of products to draw from to keep things fresh, the underlying principle holds true. For everyone looking to drive holiday sales, email early and (more) often than you think you need to. This is one time of year when no one ignores their inbox. 

Car Wash Takeaway: You need to build the right foundation to execute this type of email push. First, you need to have a strong email list. Make sure you’re collecting customer emails all year long. You can do this by offering a discount off a wash to those who sign up for email updates. Or you could implement a spin-to-win game where customers input their email addresses to play to win free washes or other items. Second, you need to make sure you have a platform in which to send these emails. These are elements you need to put in place as soon as possible to be ready for holiday promotions. 

Search Drove the Most Traffic, but Don’t Discount Brand Equity 

Search and direct traffic were the two biggest drivers of website visits over Black Friday according to Salesforce, emphasizing the obvious need to be highly visible in organic and paid search engine results. The prevalence of direct traffic as a driver of visits, however, hints at shoppers making a point to check in with their favorite brands to see what their big offers were, which highlights the need to build year-round engagement to be top of mind when it comes to Black Friday crunch time. 

Car Wash Takeaway: If you haven’t had an SEO audit of your website lately, make that a goal for early 2024 and make necessary adjustments before the next holiday rush. Don’t forget to build brand equity via social media so you’ll be top of mind when customers are searching for Black Friday deals. 

Be Mindful of Mobile 

Salesforce also reports that almost 80% of digital window shoppers visited brand websites from their phones, continuing a year-over-year trend of mobile steadily increasing as a share of overall e-commerce and making it clear to brands that if your website isn’t mobile-first, you’re missing out on significant revenue. 

Car Wash Takeaway: Make sure your website is mobile responsive, or better yet, have a mobile app to enhance customers’ mobile experience. 

Consumers Had a Budget, but Didn't Spend All of It 

On average, consumers planned to spend $567.00 this Black Friday, but ended up spending an average of $321.41, which could be an indication that the deals just weren’t as tempting as they expected.  

Overall, Americans are planning to spend $620 in total on gifts this holiday season, which includes presents for everyone from Grandma to their mail carrier. This means it's important to make sure your holiday promo has options that fit within that budget– typically that $50 upper threshold for extended family or coworkers– knowing that consumers will be trying to stretch their dollars as far as possible.  

Car Wash Takeaway: Car wash gift cards make the perfect Christmas gifts because customers can decide what amount fits in their budget, and as little as $25 can provide a recipient with a quality wash. Plan to have compelling gift card promotions during the holidays. 

Black Friday Car Wash Trends 

We also looked at the data across SUDS clients to pull out some Black Friday 2023 metrics specific to the car wash space: 

The bulk of Black Friday through Cyber Monday sales recorded in the industry were online purchases. If you don’t have a strong e-commerce presence, this is something to work on in 2024. Make sure your website is linked appropriately to your e-commerce store and that your e-commerce site is updated and optimized. Consider adding a mobile app to enhance your customers’ mobile purchase experience even more. 

Gift card and wash book offers significantly outperformed membership offers in terms of revenue generated per site. Among those offers, those with the highest discount rate (minimum of 25% off gift cards and BOGO on wash books) were the top performers in per-site revenue. This is in line with the 28% average discount across all retail sectors, down from a high of 34% in 2020. In 2024, we recommend experimenting with even more aggressive holiday offers. Across all clients, the number of sites wasn’t correlated with revenue, with several smaller operators (3 sites or fewer) generating the most per capita revenue. This is a great reminder that no matter your organization’s size, you can have an extremely successful Black Friday campaign with the right offer and marketing efforts. 

Never Too Soon 

The 2024 holidays may be nearly a year away, but to capitalize on some of these trends, you’ll need to lay the groundwork now. Setting your car wash up for success will reap rewards you can enjoy all year. 

Interested in exploring your marketing foundation further? Connect with SUDS for a free consultation today.  

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