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Cyber Week may be giving way to Cyber Month, according to Adobe

Online consumer spend in the U.S. came in at $5.1 billion on Thanksgiving Day, showing flat YoY growth, and Black Friday generated $8.9 billion, which is slightly less than the $9 billion it generated in 2020, according to Adobe. Thanksgiving weekend sales also failed to outperform last year’s figures, although consumer spend is expected to achieve 10% YoY growth for the overall shopping season.

Adobe’s data comes from analyzing direct consumer transactions online. Projections are based on an analysis of over one trillion visits to U.S. retail sites, 100 million SKUs and 18 product categoriess.

Why we care. Cyber Week sales are struggling to meet last year’s levels, but that might be okay because, “With 21 days in November driving over $3 billion in spend, what we know as Cyber Week is starting to look more like Cyber Month,” said Taylor Schreiner, director at Adobe Digital Insights. For reference, last November, only 8 days topped $3 billion by November 28, 2020.

Supply chain issues, labor shortages, new consumer behaviors and even a Google core update the week before Thanksgiving — many variables could be affecting how retailers performed this Cyber Week. Because of these factors, businesses may fall short of their Cyber Week goals. However, Adobe still expects the full season (November 1 to December 31) to reach $207 billion (10% YoY growth). With that in mind, it may be better to assess sales over a longer period, perhaps beginning at the start of November, to get a clearer picture of how your campaigns and promotions did this holiday season. This may also enable better YoY comparisons since customers seem to be shopping much earlier this year.

Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Actual Thanksgiving and Black Friday online consumer spend came in at the low end of Adobe’s predictions: Consumers spent $5.1 billion on Thanksgiving Day (the same as in 2020). On Black Friday, consumers spent $8.9 billion, which is actually less than in 2020, when consumers spent $9 billion.

For reference, Thanksgiving Day drove $4.2 billion in online spend just two years ago (2019). However, this is the first time Adobe has reported decreased spending on major shopping days since it first began reporting on e-commerce in 2012.

Thanksgiving weekend. Online sales slumped even harder over the weekend than they did during Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday: On Saturday, November 27, consumers spent $4.5 billion online, down 4.3% YoY. On Sunday, November 28, they spent $4.7 billion online, which was also down YoY but by a much narrower margin, 0.5%. 

On November 27 and 28, the prevalence of out-of-stock messages rose 16% compared to the prior weekend (November 20 and 21). Supply chain concerns may have contributed to inventory shortages, which could help explain the sales slowdown. But, it is also possible that customers adjusted their behavior to shop earlier to avoid potential inventory shortages or to take advantage of sales earlier in the season: Between November 1 and November 28, consumers spent $99.1 billion, up 13.6% YoY. And, this season, there have been 21 days exceeding $3 billion in online sales, compared to just 8 days that exceeded that amount by this time last year.

The Cyber Monday outlook. Inventory issues and new, earlier consumer shopping patterns are also impacting Adobe’s Cyber Monday projections: Consumers will spend between $10.2 billion and $11.3 billion on Cyber Monday, Adobe predicted. If actual sales meet those expectations, then Cyber Monday will likely be the biggest online shopping day of 2021, although it may retain that title without necessarily exceeding last year’s figure of $10.8 billion.

Cyber Monday discounts are also expected to be weaker than last year. Discount levels have fallen across several product categories, Adobe said: TVs are seeing discounts of -16% (compared to -19% in 2020), apparel is discounted at -15% (-20% last year), computers are at -14% (-28% last year) and appliances are at -8% (-20% last year).

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