Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the busiest (and most competitive) shopping days of the year. For brands looking to reel in the holiday shoppers, the post-Thanksgiving sales are all about performance. As we know, leading up to Cyber Week requires a lot of preparation from email and ad campaigns, from site-wide optimizations, to launching social media sweepstakes, and many (many) more.
But with Cyber Week now behind us, we can all take a minute to catch our breath and take a look at how all these efforts performed. Reviewing your Cyber Week stats is important to understand what worked, what didn’t, and what can be improved next year. This is the best way to grow as a brand, identify any weak points, and have an even more successful season next year.
Here is a close-up of some of our Cyber Week findings as well as some recommendations for 2022.
Recap of 2021 Recommendations – In Case You Missed Them!
Before we dive into our notable findings, let’s revisit our recommendations for this year’s Cyber Week. After reviewing data from the previous year (2020), our ZGM team suggested the following recommendations for 2021’s holiday shopping season.
Longer Promotional Run Times
In response to shifting consumer behaviors, our recommendation was to launch campaigns and promotions in early November (or even as early as October). The strategy behind this recommendation was to make shoppers aware of any special offers – as well as spread awareness about these sales – well in advance.
We also suggested that our clients run their promotions longer than (and before) Cyber Weekend to compete with the “big box stores” which often run early Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.
To remain competitive in the marketplace, we advised that brands offer even deeper discounts this year. With increased competition, we recommended our clients run discounts of more than 30% off to compete with similar brands.
Anecdotal evidence collected from an internal survey of the ZGM team found that most team members were not engaged with a sale unless it was 30% off or more. Most of our experts also reported that they felt 2021’s Cyber Week discounts were the worst deals they’ve seen compared to the last five years. Our team’s findings alone are enough to say that – going forward – the deeper the discount, the better your brand will perform.
Lead Generation Tactics
To take advantage of holiday interests and gather first-party data ahead of peak periods, we recommended launching lead generation tactics with holiday messaging as early as September. Similar to longer promotional run times, the strategy behind this move is to start spreading awareness about seasonal sales long in advance. This generates excitement and gets the shopper’s attention early, which adds a competitive edge.
Increase Budget to Account for Rising Advertising Costs
For 2021’s Cyber Week, our team advised our clients to increase their holiday budgets by 30% to account for a rise in in-platform costs.
Additional On-Site and Organic Tactics
There are a few other recommendations we made to our clients to cover both on-site and organic strategies, including:
- Utilizing auto-prices cut in add to cart (ATC) or on product list pages (PLP) rather than having to have a consumer apply the promo code at checkout.
- Implementing countdown banners within a site’s pages to alert customers of a sale’s duration and end time.
- Using organic tactics leading up to a promo period (Instagram and Facebook story countdowns, teasers hinting at what’s in the sale, etc.) to generate excitement and anticipation.
- Increasing email distribution during peak periods to reach abandoned cart users, past purchasers, and last-minute shoppers.
2021 Holiday Shopping Season Trends
Now that you’re caught up on some of our projections and recommendations for the 2021 holiday shopping season, let’s take a look at how Cyber Week panned out. Here are some of the biggest trends we saw this holiday shopping season.
Holiday Shoppers Are Buying Earlier
Consumers were shopping for the holidays earlier in the season than ever before. As a result in this shift – despite the deals – Cyber Week didn’t account for nearly as much holiday shopping. This year, Cyber Weekend accounted for 23% of November’s revenue. This is a 20% drop from 2020, where 29% of November’s revenue occurred during Cyber Weekend.
Across the ZGM portfolio, we saw the following trends in November:
- Online revenue from November 1st-15th in 2021 vs. 2020: Up 22%
- Online revenue from November 16th-30th in 2021 vs. 2020: Down 9%
This shift in revenue shows that this year, many more shoppers were making their holiday purchases in early November, as opposed to during Cyber Week. This could be the result of longer and earlier promotions (before Black Friday and Cyber Monday).
Our findings also show that clients who had promos running earlier in November also saw greater year-over-year success. Refer to the following example:
- Client A started their promo three days earlier in 2021 than in 2020 and saw a 115% growth in the Cyber Weekend revenue.
- Client B shortened their promo period from five days in 2020 to only two days in 2021, and they saw a 30% drop in revenue.
External projections support these findings, as a survey from Insider Intelligence reported that 31% of respondents said they would start their 2021 holiday shopping season before the end of October.
Continued Rise in Advertising Costs
As predicted, we continued to see an increase in advertising costs this Cyber Week. Our findings report that cost per clicks (CPC) on Google Search was up 45% and cost per thousand (CPM) on paid social are experiencing a 30% increase. When it comes to budgeting for holiday sales promotions, clients need to continue to be aware of these rising costs and account for them in their budget allocation.
Clients who increased their budgets during peak periods were able to remain competitive in the marketplace. However, clients whose budgets did not account for these costs (or even decreased) experienced significantly lower traffic to the site. For example:
- Client A increased spending by 162% year over year (YoY) and experienced a 63% increase in traffic volume.
- Client B cut budget spending by 43% YoY and saw a 30% decrease in traffic volume.
Diversifying channels is one trend that not only took Cyber Week by storm but also showed exceptional performance.
Many of our clients took this opportunity to expand their channels beyond Google Search and Facebook. In terms of performance, clients that ran promotions across three or more paid advertising channels saw YoY increases in Q4 – as a whole – and during their peak promo season.
For clients who ran programmatic efforts, their brand saw an average increase of 92% YoY in total sitewide revenue growth. For long-term growth and optimal performance, we are still encouraging brands to run programmatic ads, especially during the holiday shopping season and peak sale days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
However, clients who paused or diminished the budget across their channels saw big dips in year-over-year performances, with an average decrease of 31% YoY.
Email, as predicted, was an integral channel to the 2021 holiday marketing mix. Across the ZGM portfolio, email was one of three channels that saw up to a 10% increase in YoY growth since 2020.
Paid Social as a Full Funnel Tactic
In 2021, with the ever-changing landscape of digital marketing and the iOS14 update, the paid social advertising channel shifted. We helped all our clients navigate this change by implementing strategies that utilize social media as an awareness and consideration level tactic, and shifted away from the old model of a pure direct conversion driver.
As a result, paid social as a channel experienced a 210% growth in YoY revenue for our clients. They also saw a 214% increase in unique site visitors and a 172% increase in on-site conversion rate.
Ease of Payment
This holiday shopping season, we also saw a dramatic shift in the way consumers are engaging with the checkout process. According to Adobe Analytics, total “Buy Now, Pay Later” spending and volume of orders in November is up 422% and 438%, respectively, from 2019 levels. We can conclude from this data that systems like Klarna and Afterpay are becoming crucial gateways to see increased conversion rates.
During Cyber Week, consumers were also more engaged with auto-applying savings over the use of discount codes. In 2020, we saw that 50% of online purchases were made without a discount code. This year, however, this number grew to 80% of purchases made without a discount code. This is a dramatic shift in consumer behavior around discount code usage demonstrating that shoppers are preferring alternative methods in order to save rather than applying deals.
Our biggest takeaway from Cyber Week 2021: Invest in brand building year-round to see the best results. While paid search can be a “quick win” we cannot stress enough the importance of investing in long-term growth tactics, such as:
- Increasing top of funnel paid social strategies.
- Focusing on organic social media content.
- Expanding influencer marketing tactics – This is especially important with the increased iOS14 data loss and consumers’ desire for more authentic content. For example, Client X had an influencer post that generated 12% of all Q4 traffic in 24 hours. Since that post, their sales increased 34%.
- Expanding programmatic for both top-of-funnel and retargeting.
- Continuing email lead generation from a paid perspective.
- Acquiring search engine optimization (SEO) for a more stable long-term search presence.
ZGM: The Key to Brand Performance
While all these recommendations may seem like a lot to undertake, investing in brand building is a breeze with the help of a full-service, digital marketing agency like Zero Gravity Marketing. Our team of experts is prepared to make 2022 your best year yet. To achieve your best performance and learn more about our services, contact ZGM today.