Sale Season: The trends that won Black Friday Cyber Monday 2021

Anna-Louise McDougall
December 6, 2021
6 min

The winners, losers, stats and stars of Black Friday Cyber Monday month. Here we break down the trends that defined everybody's favourite season: sale season.

What a day, no, long weekend… no, wait.

Let’s start again.

An entire week of sale shopping with a little blur on either end?

Let’s call it what was.

Welcome to the Black Friday Cyber Monday season wrap, and the trends exposed in a year defined by false starts.

Harley Finkelstein, president of Shopify hit the nail on the head when he deemed BFCM the “Super Bowl” of eCommerce events. Take that, Boxing Day. With digital ad costs jacked, and dispatch teams prepping their pack-and-send precision like a SWAT team, for retail businesses, it doesn’t get much bigger.

Australia Post Executive Gary Starr had expected shoppers to take full advantage of the online sales this year. “And to make sure we get these purchases to people’s doors as quickly as possible we’ve set ourselves up with 30 percent more processing capacity, more planes in the air, and thousands of extra people to sort and deliver parcels, including weekends and twilight deliveries where they’re most needed,” he said.

Prudent, given last November was the biggest month in Australian online shopping history, up more than 55% in 2019, with AusPost handling 3.22 million parcels on December 1 and 3.12 million on December 2.

And that there’s a continued desire among BFCM shoppers this year to support independent and locally owned businesses, with around a quarter of shoppers in Australia saying they’d planned to spend more than last year.

So, with the average order value almost hitting $160 for Australian bargain hunters this year, who really won the month? Was it the retailers, the shoppers, the in-store experience, social integrations? Buy now pay later (BNPL)?

Global map highlighting average order value spend for US, Canada and Australia
Average order value (AOV) by Country

One thing’s for sure, it wasn’t the supply chain. According to Adobe, out-of-stock messages have increased 124% since January 2020 and 172% since 2019, while Afterpay states, a whopping 442% more shoppers are buying items in-stores year-on-year rather than waiting for online orders to arrive.

Vivek Pandya, lead analyst at Adobe Digital Insights, backed this by saying. “Shoppers are being strategic in their gift shopping, buying much earlier in the season and being flexible about when they shop to make sure they get the best deals… After 17 consecutive months of online inflation, we are entering a new normal in the digital economy.”

Statistically speaking

Here's the thing; while you may have seen mixed reviews on whether or not Black Friday topped its 2020 success, it all comes down to timing - whether you’re looking at the very day or a month of sales.

The playbook is ever-changing (go early, go on time, go green, or don’t go at all?), making it hard to track how exactly the BFCM weekend/ month/ season turns the dial on a global scale. It’s time we started talking about girth, not height.

Infographic illustrating spend on Black Friday $8.9b vs Cyber Monday $10.7b
Sales revenue by day - Cyber Monday takes out the title

According to Salesforce, sale season shopping began with a bang with consumers spending $74 billion over the first three weeks of November (up 10 % YoY) and $297 billion globally (up 5 % YoY). During Cyber Week, global sales reached $275 billion (up 2 % YoY). The largest single shopping day over Cyber Week was Black Friday (up 2 % YoY globally).

Adobe released statistics on the Saturday after Black Friday that showed online sales on Thanksgiving were pretty much on par, while Black Friday sales were down slightly in the US from 2020, to 8.9billion, not as eye-watering as analysts were expecting.  Pandya stated, “For the first time ever, Black Friday saw a reversal of the growth trend of past years.” DRAMA!

Infographic showing a bar graph and the highest amount spent per minute during the sales period
Everyone waited til their lunch breaks to REALLY start spending

While that may be true for Black Friday itself, Shopify spins a slightly different story (and, why wouldn’t they?). Here’s your TLDR Shopify hit-list by numbers:

  • Black Friday saw the highest shopping volume during the weekend, with peak sales of more than $3.1 million per minute at 12:02 PM EST on November 26.
  • 47 million consumers globally purchased from independent and direct-to-consumer brands powered by Shopify.
  • Shopper spending climbed across many countries, with consumers globally spending $100.70 per order on average throughout the BFCM weekend, with consumers in Canada ($115.14 CAD), Australia ($158.80 AUD), and US ($96.60 USD) spending the most on average.
  • Australia did not get a call-out for the top-selling countries which were left to the US, United Kingdom, and Canada (What happened, guys?)
  • Globally, 71% of BFCM sales were made on mobile devices compared to 29% on desktop. (Optimise, optimise, optimise for mobile, cannot stress this enough.)
  • Cross-border sales represent 15% of all orders globally, with the most popular cross-border routes being US-Canada, Canada-US, and United Kingdom-US.
Infographic showing mobile spend versus desktop spend
With 71% of orders placed on mobiles, mobile optimization has never been more important

Pay as you please

With layby becoming an increasingly nostalgic term, the Buy Now, Pay Later model was a significant winner this year with BNPL-based spending up 422% and order volume was up 438%, according to Adobe.

Consumers have chosen the payment option on 8% of their Cyber Week orders, up 31% from last year, according to Salesforce.  Despite the early deals, discounts were not deep enough to curb online inflation, which may be the main reason the BNPL option was out in force; helping consumers cope with higher prices. While the volume of Black Friday BNPL transactions remained the same year over year, their value doubled.

Ye olde bricks and mortar

Data on in-store shopping showed large sales gains from 2020 when vaccines had not yet been rolled out. Mastercard said that its initial data showed 43% growth in in-store sales, as well as a 10.6% rise in online sales.

Eftpos Australia chief executive Stephen Benton said the return of foot traffic and retail transactions was a welcome sign of economic recovery. “These spikes in weekly retail transactions demonstrate that Australians are keen to spend in-store, especially where they want to physically see and feel a product, whether it’s checking out a new food processor, trying on clothes or eyeballing a new television,” Benton said.

Consumers also favoured stores with click and collect services. In the US stores offering curbside or in-store pickup grew their revenue by 50% more YoY over Black Friday, than retailers not offering these pickup options.

Omnichannel or nada

With online discovery big business when it comes to product recommendations, marketing persuasion and seamless experiences, Shopify indicated that younger BFCM shoppers (ages 18-34) are more likely to purchase an item directly from social media when compared to those ages 35+, with 27% of young Australian shoppers making up this category. As consumers increasingly turn to social commerce, platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest gave online transactions a leg-up.

... younger BFCM shoppers (ages 18-34) are more likely to purchase an item directly from social media.

Top categories

So what was on those wish lists that finally made it to the cart?

Eftpos data showed how consumers are flocking back to in-store shopping in droves, snapping up discounts in a range of retail categories.  Australian shoppers hit the aisles in their favourite Department Stores, with the category recording a 144% increase as consumers sought to bag a bargain.

Household Appliance Stores" recorded a 94% jump last Saturday 27 November as many retailers upped promotional activity around key offers ahead of the forthcoming holiday period.

Everyday apparel and fashion were also winners over the weekend, with Family Clothing Stores chalking up a 78% increase on Friday 27 November and Women’s and Men’s Clothing Stores posting a 29% gain on Saturday 27 November.

For our trend-setting US counterparts, Adobe disclosed the following insights about exactly what shoppers were opening their wallets for:

Top U.S. categories:

  • Fashion
  • Footwear
  • Beauty
  • Homeware
  • Fitness

Top U.S. best-selling items:

  • Clogs… yes CLOGS
  • Weekender bags (for those weekend trips we’re allowed to go on now!)
  • Trucker hats (We get it, you watch the Von Dutch documentary - poised for a comeback obvs!)
  • Pajamas
  • Shoes

As for Cyber Monday itself, things felt a little more gifty - as though we suddenly remembered it is in fact, giving season.  Top sellers on Cyber Monday included:

  • Toys (Hot Wheels, Nerf toys and Tamagotchi Pix)
  • Video Games (Just Dance 2022, Mario Party Superstars, FIFA 22)
  • Electronics: AirPods, Apple Watches, Apple Pencils, laptops, gaming consoles and TVs
Infographic showing the top 5 categories consumers spent money in
Top US categories by spend

Well, that’s it for another year.

Out of breath? Same.

As we hit December, and Christmas shopping season is in full swing, there’s a renewed energy for in-store experiences and we’re all clearly well and truly bumped over the finish line by flexible payment options.

We love to see those transactions local, and deliver our favourite Australian retailers well-earned profit after too many seasons of hard-knocks.

Industry & Trends
Subscribe to Style Arcade
Arrow pointing north-east