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Cyber Week will never be the same

Consumers shopped online during Cyber Week, but showed shifting habits.

The five-day period between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday remains critical for online holiday sales, but is rapidly evolving.

Now that Cyber Week (Nov. 24-29) is behind us, it’s time to look back and assess the biggest online sales period of the year (with all due respect to Prime Day). Consumers are still spending plenty of money online during Cyber Week, but some specific new shopping patterns have emerged.

Following are three significant changes observed during this year’s Cyber Week that likely represent long-term shifts in consumer behavior.

Digital holiday shopping reaches new plateau
Since online shopping began rapidly accelerating at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, industry experts have been advising that the pandemic was not so much creating new e-commerce demand as amplifying existing trends. This year’s Cyber Week results back up that assertion, as cooling digital spending growth suggests a few years’ worth of e-commerce expansion has occurred and is now leveling off.

According to Adobe, following explosive year-over-year growth during the 2020 holiday season, online sales slightly dipped year-over-year for every day of Cyber Week except Thanksgiving Day, which remained flat. Salesforce analysis indicated an overall trend of slight year-over-year growth during the five-day period, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Regardless, Cyber Monday still came out the biggest single online shopping day of 2021, and the lowest estimates pegged Black Friday spending at a not so shabby $8.9 billion. Cyber Week isn’t going anywhere, but factors such as rebounding brick-and-mortar traffic and major retailers launching holiday promotions in October are having an impact on its performance.

Don’t forget the desktop
The “constantly connected” consumer has been driving retailers’ omnichannel strategies for years. And 62% of consumers responding to a recent survey from CouponFollow stated they make the majority of online purchases on their phone.

However, Adobe analysis of Cyber Week digital shopping trends indicates that while smartphone purchases grew substantially year-over-year, desktop devices still accounted for more than half of all online sales. Adobe also noted a discrepancy in smartphones’ share of online traffic, which hovered above 60%.

These figures suggest that while consumers are buying more products via smartphone, they are still more likely to use smartphones for online gift browsing rather than online gift purchasing.

I’d gladly pay you Thursday for a gift today
One area of digital holiday commerce which is undergoing explosive growth is buy now, pay later (BNPL) purchasing. BNPL, which splits online payments into multiple, flexible low-interest or no-interest installments surged year-over-year during Cyber Week 2021. Global retail bank, payments and shopping service Klarna reported a 129% year-over-year increase in sales on Cyber Monday using its buy now, pay later (BNPL) flexible installment payment platform.

Peak sales hour was 11 p.m. ET, with an 894% increase in sales during that time compared to an average day of shopping with Klarna. Black Friday purchases using Klarna rose 141% year-over-year.

The rise in the usage of BNPL payments may be at least partially due to increasing prices of holiday items. According to Salesforce, the average selling price increased 22% in the U.S. and 7% globally from Nov. 25-27 compared to the first three days of Cyber Week 2020. Adobe, which also tracked substantial year-over-year growth in BNPL purchases, does not expect another surge in BNPL usage until closer to Christmas. 

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