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Are Black Friday and Cyber Monday Still Relevant?

bfm_blog_12.06.2017

The holiday shopping season is in full swing with only a little more than two weeks to go until Christmas day. As always, the shopping season officially kicked off on November 24th or more commonly known as Black Friday. Special deals ran through the weekend with promotions and discounts beginning on Thanksgiving night and continuing until the end of the day on Cyber Monday.

Now that we're in the thick of the retail madness, the results are in from the shopping season’s kickoff, and it was a record-breaking weekend. Below we’ve recapped the spending habits of shoppers and what to expect for the rest of the 2017 holiday shopping season;

The Numbers

  • This year, record online sales were posted on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday -- $5.03 billion and $6.59 billion, respectively.
  • Mobile commerce, in particular, made a strong showing, driving over $2 billion in sales on Cyber Monday.
  • Amazon had an exceptionally good day this Cyber Monday. The company announced in a press release: “Cyber Monday 2017 is now the single biggest shopping day in Amazon’s history, surpassing Prime Day 2017.” Though they didn’t release specific sales figures, the company reported that their Cyber Monday 2017 sales represented a 30% increase in sales compared to Cyber Monday 2016.
  • In-store traffic, however, was down 1.6% overall during the course of the weekend, according to ShopperTrak.

One trend that was clearly observable this year is the disappearing allocation between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In the past couple of years, the lines between these holidays have become blurred. Cyber Monday started as the ecommerce response to the traditionally brick-and-mortar centric Black Friday holiday, the two sales holidays have now become nearly interchangeable with companies offering big discounts for the duration of the weekend.

Many online retailers have begun offering deals on the evening of Thanksgiving, or at midnight on Friday, as opposed to waiting until Monday to push those deals live. Some retailers run different promotions on Black Friday vs. Cyber Monday, but most run the same deals straight through the weekend. Rather than representing specific calendar days, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come to signify an entire long weekend’s worth of deals. Some retailers have even begun referring to the occasion as “Cyber Week”.

Predictions: 2017 Shopping Season

Traditionally, Black Friday is regarded as a forerunner of sales to come, particularly in the all-important month of December. According to industry experts, the strong sales performance witnessed over the Thanksgiving weekend this year bodes well for retailers during this holiday season.

Estimates from eMarketer project that ecommerce sales will grow 16.6% this holiday season (compared to 14.3% growth from 2015 to 2016), while retail overall will grow 3.1%. What’s more, ecommerce is going to comprise an even bigger piece of the retail pie this year, accounting for a record 11.5% of all holiday sales. The growth in ecommerce will be driven in large part by increased mobile commerce sales, which is a major trend observed in 2017 as a whole. eMarketer projects that smartphone commerce overall will grow nearly 58% this year.

These predictions are in line with the larger retail trends. In November and December 2016, brick-and-mortar sales were down 8.1% and 10.6% year-over-year, respectively. In 2017 brick-and-mortar sales have also continued to see year-over-year losses so far, and the trend will likely continue into the holiday season. Compare this to ecommerce sales, which have experienced consistent growth and are projected to reach an all-time high of $450 billion by the end of 2017.

So though a strong holiday season is projected, it will be driven mostly by growth in ecommerce as opposed to in-store sales. This bodes well for online retailers but presents challenges for brick-and-mortar businesses who will need to focus on offering exceptional shopping experiences in order to remain competitive.

Future Shopping

It’s clear that ecommerce and mobile commerce are drivers of change in retail in general, and during the holiday season specifically. This is a trend that we can expect to continue in years to come as customers turn to the ease and convenience of online shopping. Voice commerce will also play a role in changing the face of retail, as 71% of Alexa users and 68% of Google Home user indicate they either would like to or already do use their device for holiday shopping (eMarketer).

Another trend is the lengthening holiday shopping season. Anyone who’s been to the mall the day after Halloween and been bombarded by Christmas music and holiday displays can probably attest to this fact. But many consumers are beginning their holiday shopping as early as October, which may have an effect on the long-term influence of a shopping holiday like Black Friday. A survey published by eMarketer notes that while 40% of respondents do the majority of their shopping after Cyber Monday, 30% of them actually shop for holiday gifts all year round.

Consumers are also becoming accustomed to expect promotions on other special days which were not traditionally shopping holidays but have lately become occasions for deep discounts. Increasingly, nearly any long weekend (Labor Day, Memorial Day, July 4th) seems justification enough to warrant a sale, particularly in the ecommerce landscape. When deals are more readily available all year round, and consumers are less likely to wait until the end of November to do their shopping, Black Friday may lose some of its allure. Given this year’s performance, though, it’s hard to imagine it becoming obsolete anytime soon.

Takeaways

Despite predictions about the demise of Black Friday, the shopping event is clearly still a draw for consumers. However, the rise of Cyber Monday and of ecommerce, in general, has meant that much of the shopping during Thanksgiving weekend is now taking place online as opposed to in-store.

The increasing availability of deals throughout the year and the lengthening of what consumers consider to be the holiday shopping season may make Black Friday less impactful in the years to come. But, for the time being, it looks like Black Friday and Cyber Monday are both still extremely relevant.

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