How the Cyber Five are stacking up for holiday shopping

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been growing in importance to holiday ecommerce for more than a decade, despite the persistent myth that early holiday promotions would pull demand forward to take the wind out of these promotions. Retailers other than Amazon will have difficulty activating consumers outside of established tentpoles.

However, because Amazon hosted a mid-October event last year, demand was materially pulled forward. As a result, the Cyber Five period (Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday) noticeably underperformed season-average growth rates. Nevertheless, Cyber Monday, Black Friday, and Thanksgiving were still the top three ecommerce spending days for the season.

What’s in store for this year?

We expect the Cyber Five to deliver strong sales volume and solid (if unspectacular) growth rates. We forecast the period will marginally increase its share of holiday ecommerce from 18.4% to 18.5% but still down from its high of 20.0% in 2019.

Each Cyber Five shopping day will surpass $5 billion. The top two days—Cyber Monday and Black Friday—will top $10 billion, but Thanksgiving Day and the weekend will post the strongest growth rates.

Thanksgiving 2021 will be the fastest gainer of the top three ecommerce shopping days. Key factors behind its expected ecommerce surge include the following:

  • The rise of smartphone-driven “couch commerce.” Gathering on the couch to shop Black Friday deals on mobile devices has become an unofficial post-Thanksgiving meal tradition in recent years. Unlike the desktop ecommerce era when Thursday shopping meant scurrying off into another room, smartphones have given family members license to get a jump on Thanksgiving weekend shopping without being antisocial.
  • Early Black Friday online promotions. Last year, retailers unleashed their Black Friday deals early in the week of Thanksgiving, and with travel constrained, many shoppers jumped on those deals on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Early deals are likely here to stay, but the resumption of holiday travel this year means there will be more shopping than buying in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.
  • Brick-and-mortar stores going dark on Thanksgiving. A near universal shutdown of Thanksgiving Day doorbusters among brick-and-mortar retailers—led by Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and The Home Depot—will keep traditional Thursday evening shoppers at home. But still, they’ll shop, and the purchases typically completed in-store will happen online.

Black Friday 2021 will be a brick-and-mortar bonanza. Following a year of strained in-person holiday shopping events and widespread store closures on Thanksgiving Day, consumers will hit the stores at a frenzied pace on Black Friday. Resumption of pre-pandemic shopping rituals like door-busting at big-box retailers and fashion-finding at malls will generate strong foot traffic. Mobile traffic will also spike on Black Friday as consumers prepare for in-store shopping trips and engage in showrooming while there. We expect online sales to increase 15.8% to $10.42 billion, assuming the No. 2 spending day position for the season.

Cyber Monday 2021 will be the No. 1 US ecommerce shopping day ever. Cyber Monday has been the No. 1 ecommerce spending day every year since 2010, and this year will be no different as it once again sets new records. Despite significantly underperforming last year’s benchmark—15.6% versus the holiday season’s 32.0% growth rate—this year, it will lag the season by just a few points. We forecast Cyber Monday to rise 12.4% to $12.12 billion, 6.2 times the sales volume of the average day during the holidays.

Read the full report.

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