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Eat, Sleep, Shop

The Black Friday and Cyber Week holiday rush

Each year, the trends keep shifting. It started out as in-store mayhem for U.S. consumers on the Friday following Thanksgiving. Then slowly, the so-called Black Friday hours kept getting earlier, until thousands of people were impatiently tapping their feet and peering through the windows on Thanksgiving night, determined to get that coveted pair of boots or latest tablet — always available “while supplies last.” The National Retail Federation reports that 136 million Americans shopped on Black Friday in 2015.

Though the tradition of holiday shopping the day after Thanksgiving goes back to the 1930’s, today’s always-on web access has changed our shopping habits. Retailers are making online shopping much easier and more enticing, with offers like free shipping, online-only specials and hassle-free return policies. As a result, what was once just a one-day shopping bonanza has been extended through the whole weekend and even into the following week — no longer just Cyber Monday, but Cyber Week — all managed from (shh!) the comfort of your desk.

Here are some eye-opening stats from recent years:

  • Last year’s Cyber Monday online sales brought in $2.98 billion in the U.S. alone, according to Adobe, surpassing Black Friday online sales.
  • Shoppers are now turning to their screens to do shopping on Black Friday, and even on Thanksgiving Day itself; Fortune reports that U.S. consumers spent $4.45 billion during these two days alone, and that onethird of online shoppers made purchases from their mobile phones.
  • As for Black Friday in-store shopping, Retail Touchpoints writes that, “34% are changing their behavior this year, with 20% planning to shop equally online and in-store and 31% planning to primarily shop online.”
  • A recent Qualtrics survey on eMarketer found a 100% increase in the number of people that plan on shopping online versus in-store this year.
Standout Growth Beyond the U.S.

Of course, the U.S. isn’t the only region to participate in major November sales.  U.K. advertisers and shoppers are also keen to get in on the action:

  • IMRG and Experian Marketing confirm that the U.K. had over £1 billion ($1.25 billion) in online sales last year during this period.
  • eMarketer predicts that this year’s Black Friday weekend (which spans Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday), will rack over £5 billion ($7.6 billion) in the U.K.
  • PwC reports that 76% of Brits expect to shop online this Black Friday/Cyber Monday, and one-third of those consumers anticipate doing so from their mobile devices.

To learn more about the trend beyond these two markets, we looked into our own data for the past two years, examining the growth in spends, impressions and clicks for all clients with campaigns live during Thanksgiving weekend 2014 and 2015. Comparing the two years, we saw breakout growth in these additional markets:

  • France saw a 70% increase in ad spends on Cyber Monday
  • Brazil saw +23% in ad spends for the Cyber Monday
  • Turkey saw +52% in ad spends, +65% impressions and +37% CTR for the full weekend

It’s worth noting that, even with these impressive stats, these Western sales pale in comparison to China’s Singles’ Day, which took place on Friday, November 11. Online sales accrued were over 120.7 billion CNY ($17.8 billion USD), a 32% increase from the numbers reported for 2015. Clearly Alibaba — the Chinese retailer responsible for establishing this shopping date nine years ago — has something figured out!

Best Practice for the Big Week

With all this, it’s no wonder that marketers spend months planning for this period. The question is, even if your marketing strategy is on point for Black Friday and Cyber Week, do you have the right analytics in place to be able to learn and optimize accordingly for the rest of the holiday season, and beyond? What are you doing differently to stand out amongst all the noise?

Remember, the holiday season is a marathon, not a sprint, and holiday e-commerce will only continue to surge as retailers improve the online shopping experience and more people opt to shop from their desktop and mobile devices. Urge your ad tech partners to share insights and data with you often, continuously optimize your campaigns, and see what works best for your audience.

Mostly importantly, to cut through the noise, you have to remember that consumers expect to be treated as individuals — regardless of the holiday, the season or time of day.