If there was any hope that Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2021 would be a return to normal after the uncertainty of 2020, that hope was effectively doused as economic uncertainty impacted sales across the board.
This year’s Turkey 5 saw less traffic and less excitement as supply chain issues impacted the market and shoppers shifted their holiday shopping habits.
Here’s a look at some of the trends that defined Black Friday and Cyber Weekend 2021 and what they spell for future holiday shopping.
While there was lots to be optimistic about this year, that optimism was short lived. In general, many brands underperformed on Black Friday, which was a somewhat muted event compared with the 2020 sales event. Black Friday traffic at retail stores dropped 28.3% from pre-pandemic levels in 2019, and even online shopping on Black Friday took a dip.
Though online traffic was up 47.5% year over year, sales fell short of breaking the record of $9 billion spent the Friday after Thanksgiving in 2020. According to Adobe Analytics, who analyzes more than one trillion visits to U.S. retail sites, this year was the first ever that growth reversed from the year prior.
That said, the market is not unanimous. Mastercard Spending Pulse reported that Thanksgiving weekend retail sales across the entire market went up 14% year over year. While that may include a significant number of purchases outside the realm of holiday shopping, it may also suggest Black Friday sales were flat and slightly waning rather than dramatically down. Mastercard also reported, however, that ecommerce sales, which have been consistently skyrocketing year to year, only grew 4.9% from last year.
According to Mastercard, three categories that were key drivers for Cyber Weekend’s growth were apparel (+51.2%), department stores ( up +19% due to comping such a bad year over year ), and jewelry (+78.4%).
Because so many brick and mortar businesses changed their operations and/or closed last year due to Covid-19, omnichannel ecommerce became a critical player in the economy, and online marketplaces saw a significant bump in sales and traffic as a result. With more reasons to be cautious and fewer in-person options for purchasing things like groceries and other goods, consumers were trained to shop online year long, and that training carried over into 2021.
Many shoppers avoided going out for Black Friday because they could simply purchase products online at similar prices. There was also a renewal of Covid-19 fears as news of the Omicron variant dropped in the days leading up to Black Friday. Many shoppers who may have been hesitant to get back to business as usual on Black Friday this year saw a renewal of that hesitancy.
While there were a few “killer deals” offered on Amazon during the Cyber 5, there weren’t many to be found elsewhere. In general, consumers had fewer financial incentives to get out and shop on Cyber Weekend in 2021.
The average promotional discount across major retailers heading into Black Friday was 33.4%, compared to an average discount of 37% that was offered in October and the early part of November. Cyber Monday discounts were also weak this year. Discount levels for electronics were at -12% vs. -27% last year and discount levels for appliances were at -8% vs. -20% last year, in just two examples.
Earlier holiday shopping was in part the result of a major media scare that pushed consumers to do their holiday shopping earlier due to the fear that supply chain issues would prevent their gifts being in stock had they waited till the traditional post-thanksgiving buying period. A survey from the National Trade Federation, the retail industry’s leading trade group, found that 61% of consumers had already started purchasing holiday gifts before Thanksgiving. Pre-Black Friday sales were actually quite good, but those sales were spread throughout the months of October and November, and monthly sales overall were negatively impacted by the lower Turkey 5 turnout.
Interestingly, this year’s early holiday shopping trend mirrored last year’s, but for different reasons. In 2020, Amazon pushed their Prime Day event back to October, and it ended up hurting Black Friday sales because consumers had already done their Christmas shopping by the time it started. It’s possible some shoppers continued that trend this year.
The consumer fear of stock puts was based in fact. Adobe Analytics reported that out-of-stock messages on retailers’ websites were up 124% through Friday versus pre-pandemic levels. On Cyber Monday, the number of out-of-stock messages was up 8% compared to the week before.
The most compelling statistics are those for the entire month. In total, during the month of November (Nov. 1 - Nov. 29), out-of-stock messages went up a whopping 169% vs. pre-pandemic levels (January 2020) and 258% vs. November 2019 levels. Adobe has predicted that this trend will continue through the end of the year.
Consumers saw the final price point of their shopping carts jump 13.9% on Cyber Monday, indicating there are shoppers buying bigger ticket items, but there is a wide gap between the spend of low-income shoppers vs. high-income shoppers.
Rising prices across the board for fuel, groceries, and other products meant consumers spent less during holiday sales events. A record high of 11.5% of Americans said they will not be buying holiday gifts this year, and high-income shoppers are expected to spend five times more than low-income shoppers, according to a survey by Deloitte.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that consumer prices grew 6.2% in October compared to a year ago, and that inflation is reflected in online marketplaces where you typically see lower prices.
One report from Profitero tracked 20,000 of Amazon’s most popular products, identifying 1,600 that were among the most popular in October 2020 and October 2021. They found the price of those products had increased 7.5% in a year. Other marketplaces had higher prices on the same products—Walmart’s cost 4% more than Amazon’s, and Target’s were 15% more expensive.
Combined with consumer fears and stock outs, inflation is a significant reason why Black Friday fell short this year.
While Cyber 5 sales didn’t perform exceptionally well, there are some highlights from the week that are worth noting. Thanksgiving Day in-person sales dropped 90.4% from 2019, but the holiday saw a year over year lift in online sales as armchair shoppers cozied up to buy holiday gifts online after turkey dinner, making Thursday the best day of the sales event.
In the early 2000s, it was a common joke that each year Black Friday got earlier and earlier, creeping into Thanksgiving day, and even the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. That punchline has become a reality.
While a lot of holiday shopping has historically been done during the Turkey 5, the sales event has become less relevant this year. For two years in a row, we’ve seen early shoppers move early on gift-buying.
That being said, there will always be the ones who wait. Late holiday shoppers will still be purchasing gifts well into December, and many of them will run into supply chain woes.
The best thing that your brand can do right now is keep your product in stock online so that when your competitors go out of stock, your product will be ready for shoppers to purchase. It’s especially important to stay in stock on Amazon, because that’s the first place many customers will look.
Need help managing your inventory, distribution, and marketplace strategy? Learn more about Pattern as a global marketplace manager.
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Entering the ecommerce landscape is a huge undertaking for any brand—it usually requires a large investment in resources and expertise to really be successful. Any brand can quickly get in over their heads trying to navigate the nuances of SEO, fulfillment and logistics, distribution control, listing optimization, and meeting the numerous other requirements and administrative tasks to show up well on marketplaces.
Unfortunately, because it’s so easy for third party, gray market, and unauthorized sellers to obtain and sell products online, many brands find themselves pressured to execute an ecommerce plan without the right resources to succeed on marketplaces and their other channels.
So, for brands looking to enter the ecommerce space or improve their current and future performance, it makes sense to partner with an ecommerce consultant.
Pattern’s global presence and proven success with hundreds of brands has allowed us to develop highly effective ecommerce consulting services. We can guide your brand to navigate issues both large and small in marketplaces worldwide. To maximize your ecommerce efforts, you’ll need to understand what an ecommerce consultant does and how to select one who drives the right value for your brand and products.
An ecommerce consultant is a specialist in the ecommerce space who can give you personalized guidance on how to market your products and grow their presence on digital marketplaces.
An ecommerce consultant should be able to analyze your brand, audience, category, opportunity, and current roadblocks and help you understand how to utilize your resources (or what resources are missing) to be most effective in capturing your opportunities in the ecommerce space.
Not sure how to evaluate a consultant? Here are 4 key attributes to look for as you make your choice.
At Pattern, we prioritize brand obsession for a reason—we know that a brand-centered mindset makes a crucial difference in the outcomes and results our partners achieve. So in our experience, when you begin your search for an ecommerce consultant, it’s important to look for a partner who is specialized in ecommerce, invested in the product, and passionate about helping brands build and improve their strategies. Typically, this means finding someone that consults exclusively for ecommerce marketplaces, rather than choosing a consultant who offers many different services.
It’s also important to avoid choosing a consulting partner who can’t deliver the right experience for your brand. The best indication of whether your potential consultant can do that is to review their history, data, and results with other brands. Ask if they’ve helped others in your selling category, if they’ve solved specific issues your brand is facing, and why they feel you are a good fit. The key is to leave the conversation feeling confident that you understand your consultants’ capabilities and whether or not they match up with your needs.
It’s best to pick a consultant who knows how to guide a brand onto and through multiple marketplaces worldwide. You’ll want to take a look at your long-term strategy and think about the regions and platforms you’re currently on and where you might want to take your brand in the future. If your consultant is truly great at what they do, they’ll be able to help you perform well enough with your current product roadmap that it’ll be a no-brainer to expand your presence at the right time.
The most effective partnership with an ecommerce consultant will be able to give you both recommendations and point you to solutions for making those changes in your planning, processes, and execution. Your time and money is valuable, so you want to make sure that you’re spending it as efficiently as possible as you follow your consultant’s advice. So, before you commit to an ecommerce consultant, ask about the resources and concrete solutions they typically recommend to the brands they work with.
Finding an ecommerce consultant that checks the boxes can be a difficult task. At Pattern, our entire focus and drive centers around giving brands the tools and resources they need to succeed on domestic and international ecommerce marketplaces.
With over 100 global ecommerce consultants across 10 global offices, we have the right tools to partner with brands across the world to achieve better ecommerce success. We give specialized advice, then make sure our partners have all the adequate SEO, social media, CRM, Amazon multi-channel fulfillment services, and ecommerce outsourcing services they need.
Interested in ecommerce consulting services? Set up a call here to learn what Pattern can do for your brand on global marketplaces.
If you’re interested in expanding your brand internationally, you’re probably familiar with Tmall. Tmall is Asia-Pacific’s (APAC) largest marketplace, and indisputably the biggest ecommerce powerhouse in the world. It represents a huge opportunity for many brands, but entering the space is also a big challenge to take on.
At Pattern, we recommend brands looking to enter international markets should first focus on dialing in their domestic presence. Once you’re satisfied that your brand is well-represented and optimized locally, you’re ready to think about tackling new regions, like APAC, and launching on marketplaces like Tmall. Our top advice for entering Tmall is to understand and strategize around its three most important metrics: service, delivery, and content.
Service, delivery, and content ratings are the three elements that make up Tmall’s Detailed Seller Rating (DSR) score. Each component is scored on a scale of 1-5 that is displayed publicly on your brand’s Tmall flagship store page. This is meant to help consumers decide whether or not to purchase your products.
DSR scores are important because they’re highly influential in driving conversions—customers see DSRs as a way to quickly understand if a brand is trustworthy and worth buying from. They also matter quite a bit to Tmall itself—they monitor these scores and will take action to close flagship stores with low scores.
Let’s go over each element of the DSR score and some steps you’ll need to take to achieve high ratings.
Service is a huge ecommerce component in APAC marketplaces. In most other regions, product listings are static, and consumers use content and reviews to make a decision about what to purchase. On Tmall, consumers want to interact with your brand and test its validity before buying—each transaction takes at least one human interaction to convert.
So, to get a great service rating, you’ll need to have a large, established customer service team dedicated to Tmall sales that can offer real, human touchpoints and very fast response times. To get an idea of the speed your agents should be capable of producing, in our Tmall benchmarking exercise, 92.5% of brands’ customer service agents replied to queries via live chat within 30 seconds, 5% replied within one minute and the remaining 2.5% of brands took longer than a minute. So, look for a Trade Partner (TP) that has enough resources to compete with those numbers, support your sales, and maintain a good DSR score.
Another thing you’ll really want to focus on is a high-quality delivery experience for consumers. As in other regions around the world, Tmall consumers have high expectations for their delivery experience. In our Chinese consumer polling report that targeted consumers buying from Tmall Global, we found that 6% expected same-day delivery, 15% expected next-day delivery, and 46% expected 2-5 day delivery.They want to receive their products fast and they want the products to be undamaged and pristine upon arrival.
So, to achieve a high score for your delivery capabilities, we highly recommend partnering with a TP or ecommerce accelerator like Pattern (which serves as a TP) who has the ability to facilitate your distribution. Make sure your TP has the right infrastructure in place to support high-quality logistics experiences for all of your consumers—they should have an established, well-oiled delivery process in place and the capability to fluidly add you to their current fulfillment system.
As in every digital marketplace, content is a huge component of the decision-making process for consumers on Tmall—they can’t touch your product with their hands or see it in person before buying, so it’s important they’re empowered to make a good decision on whether or not to purchase based on the videos, images, and copy.
The goal is to make all of the content and relevant information on your flagship site easily-accessible—consumers should be able to visit your page and make a decision about whether or not to buy without navigating to a new site/page and taking their conversions with them. Images with text and extensive product details are a great way to do this, as well as making sure your service team can speak to all aspects of your product with any consumers (via text or chat).
As the world’s foremost brand partner for ecommerce acceleration, Pattern truly understands the significance of international expansion. With regional offices around the world, Pattern knows how to successfully launch and grow brands on Tmall and other marketplaces, with the data, insights, and marketplace intelligence to build the metrics that matter.
It’s important to have a fantastic brand presence, a knowledgeable guide, and a clear go-forward strategy for your best chance at success. With our in-country resources, expert teams, and extensive experience in growing brands around the globe, Pattern can help you get there.
Set up a call to get your international expansion strategy in motion.