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Cyber 5 Recap: Shopping Starts Early, Cyber Monday Breaks Records

This year’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend didn’t bring major surprises, but it did break with tradition and set new records. We’ve put together a recap of the biggest sales weekend in ecommerce and what’s on the horizon as we head into 2021.


The holiday weekend saw record sales, but less growth than anticipated due to early shopping

Cyber 5, the five-day shopping period from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, was a huge weekend for ecommerce. According to data from Adobe Analytics, consumers spent a record $34.36 billion on retail websites, up from $28.49 billion for the same period last year, and online sales rose 20.6% year over year. While this percentage is up from 17.7% last year, it is lower than projected estimates, as shoppers took advantage of retailers’ pre-Thanksgiving discounts and shopped earlier to avoid out-of-stock items and shipping delays. More than half of all shoppers (52%) said they took advantage of early seasonal sales, according to an annual survey released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

The overall number of consumers who shopped in stores and online during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend came in at 186.4 million, a slight drop from last year, according to the NRF survey.

Cyber 5 eCommerce Sales by Day


SOURCE: Adobe Analytics, December 2020

  • Thanksgiving hit a new record for online sales, with 21.5% year-over-year growth to $5.1 billion.
  • The number of online shoppers on Black Friday exceeded 100 million for the first time—up 8% over last year—and online spending reached a record $9 billion.
  • Small Business Saturday logged 68.2 million online shoppers, up 17% from 2019 with a gain of nearly 10 million consumers.
  • Americans spent a record $10.8 billion online on Cyber Monday, making it the largest online shopping day in U.S. history, according to Adobe Analytics.


In-store traffic drops (unsurprisingly)

As expected, in-store shopping was down due largely to the pandemic and store closures on Thanksgiving. In fact, traffic to stores on Thanksgiving fell 55% from last year, and traffic on Black Friday dropped 37%. “Shipageddon” is expected to push last-minute shoppers who missed holiday shipping deadlines to the store, especially the week before Christmas.


Support for small business increases

77% of holiday shoppers said they were more interested in supporting small, local businesses struggling during the pandemic this year, according to the NRF survey. On Small Business Saturday, the number of online shoppers was up 17% compared with last year. Small businesses saw a 501% increase in online sales on Cyber Monday.


Retailers manage consumer expectations

As carriers continue to contend with capacity challenges, retailers have worked to manage consumer expectations around product availability and shipping delays for the holidays, displaying disclaimers on their websites and urging shoppers to buy early.

This messaging around shipping delays appears to have been effective, as shoppers said they will shop earlier this year knowing delivery times may be longer. Retailers also helped incentivize early shopping by offering pre-Thanksgiving discounts—some of which even kicked off in October.


Shoppers take advantage of alternative fulfillment options

Curbside, drive-through and in-store pickup options have become increasingly popular this year due to COVID-19 concerns. In addition to providing convenience, these offerings increase retailers’ capacity to fulfill online orders and help shoppers avoid delivery delays. On Black Friday, in-store and curbside pickup increased 52% over last year, according to Adobe. Curbside pickup sales grew 30% year over year on Cyber Monday. Salesforce reports that retailers who offered these options during the first days of Cyber Week increased digital sales at a 26% higher rate than retailers that did not.


Looking ahead

  • Although carriers have hired thousands of seasonal workers, it is predicted that up to seven million packages per day could be delayed between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Even more delays are likely to occur if the COVID-19 vaccine is approved for distribution during this time.
  • As we head into the new year, shippers preparing their budgets should take into account the general rate increases (GRIs) and increased handling surcharges that will soon take effect.
  • CBRE predicts that as much as $70.5 billion worth of holiday purchases this year are expected to be returned, putting additional stress on supply chains and creating heightened demand for warehouse space.
  • All signs point to a bright future for ecommerce, which means volumes will continue to surge and volume-capping by carriers is likely to continue. To deliver a positive customer experience in 2021, shippers should begin strategizing and building solutions with their supply chain partners as soon as possible.


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