Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2021

Sales figures were down for the first time in history and the reasons are both expected and unexpected.

Black Friday Cyber Monday
Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales saw a slight decrease this year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that annual sales were also down.

Retailers depend on strong Black Friday, Cyber Monday/Cyber Week, and holiday season sales in order to turn profit. But how can this be possible in the midst of a struggling economy, rampant inflation, nationwide unemployment, as well as an ongoing global pandemic that’s showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon?

Last year, shoppers in the US spent $34.4 billion during Cyber Week, up 20.7% from 2019. However, as reported by Adobe in their 2021 Digital Economy Index, this year’s Cyber Week season, sales dropped 1.4% to $33.9 billion. The decline began on Black Friday, where online retailers took in $8.9 billion albeit, down 1.3% from 2019’s record-breaking $9.03 billion. Cyber Monday sales were down $100 million from last year’s $10.7 billion while Thanksgiving Day figures remained the same at $5.1 billion.

Despite previous market trends and forecasts showing the exponential year-after-year growth of eCommerce, 2021 showed for the first time in history a decline in revenue. Several factors can be blamed for this year’s rather dismal Black Friday and Cyber Week and most are due to COVID-19’s continuous impact on the economy and political climate; inflation, unemployment, and supply chain shortages have forced shoppers to alter their buying habits. On the other hand, Adobe’s data suggests that while there was an undeniable dip in Black Friday and Cyber Week sales this year, the money itself hasn’t decreased. The shoppers just spread their purchases throughout the year instead of waiting until the very end.

Changing Habits

Online Shopping Habits
This year, shoppers made gift purchases that were spread throughout the year as opposed to waiting until mid-November to do it all, which used to be the norm.

COVID-19 turned many casual online shoppers into habitual repeat online shoppers out of necessity. Prior to the pandemic, most holiday shoppers would wait until mid-November to start seeking out Black Friday sales deals but with more people shopping online regularly nowadays, their gift purchases are more sporadic throughout the full year. Retailers have also noticed this uptake in around-the-year shopping and have begun offering early Black Friday or holiday season sales as early as late Spring and Summer, in conjunction with their pre-scheduled Memorial Day and July 4th sales. Shoppers also made greater use of buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) programs such as Klarna, Affirm, and PayPal Credit which, in turn, led to more retailers offering said programs as to not risk losing any sales. Adobe even reports a 422% increase of BNPL spending for November 2021 since this time last year.

Mobile devices have also seen a sharp increase of usage during this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales rush. According to Statista, nearly 55% of all website traffic originated from a mobile device in the first quarter of 2021. Adobe’s report states that 44% of all online sales this Black Friday and Cyber Monday came from smartphones, an increase of 10.6% year-over-year. Alternatively, shoppers tend to use their phones to hunt for deals and then finalize their purchases on a desktop computer. Smartphone visits account for 62.2% of views, which is still an increase of 2.2% from 2020. Shoppers also opted to use curbside pickup services, which were used in almost a quarter of all online purchases during Black Friday. Curbside pickup went up 78% during the month of November 2021 versus 2019’s pre-pandemic levels.

Contrary to the lowered Black Friday and Cyber Monday earnings, the top-selling merchandise categories remained the same and even saw an uptick in sales since September 2021.

  • Toys +1100%
  • Gift cards +700%
  • Books +700%
  • Video games +600%
  • Baby/toddler goods +600%
  • Appliances +560%

Digital Trends lists instant pots, air fryers, and hoverboards as sales winners in the US. Apple Air Pods, Apple iPad 10.2 inch, Meta Quest 2 VR headsets, and TVs by Samsung, TCL, and Vizo were also among the most purchased items during Black Friday. Just Dance 2022 and Spider Man: Miles Morales were the top-selling video game titles of the season; the Nintendo Switch and Sony PlayStation 5 were the most popular video game consoles for Black Friday 2021.

The Future of eCommerce

Future of eCommerce
eCommerce was once a convenience for shoppers and retailers alike. Now, it’s a necessity.

Just as COVID-19 continues to rampage throughout the world and as new, aggressive virulent mutations of the disease emerge, eCommerce also continues to supplant physical retail as the ‘new normal’ in regards to shopping. Last year, the pandemic caused many unlikely industries to take up online selling. In addition to online grocery shopping, car dealerships turned to selling and delivering online, restaurants depended on take-out and delivery services to stay in business, and much of the world’s office jobs were restructured to continue operating remotely from home. It was just a few years ago when convenience was the top reason for consumers to do their shopping online but it has since become a necessity for many. This is all the more reason for business owners to really hunker down and get serious about their eCommerce efforts going forward into 2022 and beyond.

The ‘new normal’ is now the normal.

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