Since the mid-2000s, Cyber Monday has been described as the biggest online shopping day of the year. While the origin story itself is dubious, that definition has become self-fulfilling over time, and both retailers, advertisers and shoppers alike have focused their efforts towards sales and discounts when they settle in after the holiday season.
Until this year, that is. Cyber Monday is no longer the king of online shopping.
Black Friday has now claimed the title of the biggest online shopping day of the year. Retailers and advertisers spent more, and shoppers bought more, across channels, on the day after Thanksgiving than on the following Monday.
Based on aggregated data for brands managing their digital advertising through the Skai platform during the Cyber Five, marketers invested more on Black Friday than on Cyber Monday this year. This includes key digital channels: retail media, paid search, and paid social.
And those Cyber 5 2021 marketing investments delivered more share-of-sales on Black Friday as well.
While some will portray this as a disruption caused by the continued global pandemic and supply chain bottlenecks, those factors only accelerated a trend that had been happening for years. Some history is probably in order. The reason Cyber Monday came about in the first place was that broadband Internet was much more prevalent at the workplace than at home. So when people came back to their high-speed connections at work on Monday after the holiday season, they would pick up where they may have left off in stores on Black Friday.
Now, with much less disparity between home and work connection speeds, as well as the mainstream adoption of mobile shopping, consumers are free to shop from their couch, on their phone, over the weekend.
If we look at same-account growth year-over-year in the average daily spend for the Cyber 5 compared to the pre-Thanksgiving stretch of November, we see some key differences by channel.
First, we see that Retail Media ad spending grew more in the pre-Thanksgiving period (+13%) than during the Cyber Five (+11%). This confirms reports of earlier shopping activity based on concerns about both the pandemic and the supply chain.
Second, we see that paid search spending grew the most for the entirety of the season so far. As online shopping has exploded in the last two years, search engines have taken on increased importance in ensuring that products and stores are easier for shoppers to find, and ad spending reflects that.
More importantly than the year-over-year growth, the Cyber 5 continues to show increased activity compared to the period immediately preceding it. We described that increase for Black Friday previously on the blog, but now we can look at Black Friday, Cyber Monday the whole period in aggregate. Here we can see that, just this year, spending increased more on Black Friday across all channels than Cyber Monday, with a bigger gap between those two days for retail media.
Part of this can be attributed to increased prices for ads that accompany periods of high demand. Here, there is less difference between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In fact, the price inflation was slightly higher for Cyber Monday in both retail media and paid search, which implies that advertisers may be placing a higher value on that date than Black Friday, even as shopper activity is pulling earlier.
In the retail media channel, the Consumer Electronics category saw the biggest increase in daily spending for the Cyber 5 versus the rest of the month of November, with daily expenditures up 4x. Most of this came from additional clicks, as the average cost-per-click only increased 1.6x in that time. Ad-driven sales increased 3x on a daily basis for the period. Computers and Toys & Games were also hot categories in terms of increased spending.
For paid search, the more general Department Stores category boosted daily spending by 4.3x for the Cyber 5 over the November baseline. Click prices in this category were up 1.9x for the period, and ad-driven sales grew by 3x. Other strong categories were Skincare and Photo & Video.
These past two years have been disruptive to advertisers in both positive and negative directions, so it remains to be seen if the era of Cyber Monday’s dominance is truly over, or if it will once again gain the upper hand over Black Friday if and when the advertising and shopping ecosystems return to “normal.”