By Lee Metters, Retail Client Partner at Awin

Black Friday is an eagerly anticipated date within the retail trading calendar. But with retailers challenged by the pandemic for a second year running, supply chain issues, stock disruption, and the continued threat of delivery delays, how did this year’s performance compare to previous years? In this article, the UK’s leading affiliate platform, Awin, who track online performance for over 1,000 brands, including multichannel and online-only retailers, explore online shopping behaviour across Cyber Weekend

Ecommerce holds its own despite supply chain issues and delivery delays

Despite supply chain issues, stock disruption, and the threat of delivery delays, online retail performance over Cyber Weekend declined just -4% year-on-year (YoY), with Black Friday itself down -6% vs. 2020. However, it’s important to caveat that last year the UK entered a circuit breaker lockdown on the 4th November. In addition to logistical issues, many high-street retailers were closed for last year’s peak trading period, forcing customers to shop online. If we compare against Cyber Weekend 2019, outside of a lockdown period, we seen an immense +39% like-for-like increase.

It’s also worth highlighting that  in 2021, customers started shopping online earlier than in previous years. Research conducted by Awin found that customers started to increase their online spending as early as the 24th October this year, some 11 days earlier than last year and almost a month earlier than 2019. Perhaps this was an early indication that customers were happy to forgo potential savings, in favour of having their purchases delivered on time.

Whilst sale performance had fallen behind last year, revenue flatlined. Awin recorded £20bn in customer spend for the four day Cyber period, which is flat against 2020 and up £6bn on the same period in 2019. So, although customers made fewer online transactions during the Cyber period, (impacted largely by the high-street being open) the average spend per customer grew. Across the four day Cyber event we saw average order value increase by +£7 to £92 per transaction. Black Friday spending topped the weekend charts with customers spending over £100 per transaction.

An increase in demand for Fashion and Health & Beauty as Electricals take a plunge

Despite plenty of shoppers hitting up the high-street, it was Fashion and Health & Beauty products which dominated much of the consumer spend over Cyber Weekend—perhaps underlining how Black Friday is an important self-gifting event. Fashion, despite a marginal -3% decline vs. 2020, accounted for 41% of all sales tracked across Cyber Weekend and 43% of all retail sales tracked across Black Friday. Meanwhile, Health & Beauty purchases accounted for 20% of all online retail sales and generated a +26% growth vs. 2020. The majority of that performance growth came on Black Friday itself, where Health & Beauty products outperformed last year by +38%, and +16% on 2019.

One category to notably underperform vs. previous years was Electricals, down -30% on Black Friday vs. 2020 and -23% on Cyber Monday. Perhaps this is indicative of both a lower availability of stock, as well as big box retailers going early in November with their promotions

If we look at the impact across other core sectors, Home & Garden grew +2% YoY on Black Friday and +15% on Cyber Monday. FMCG products also saw positive growth, up +9% across Cyber Weekend vs. the same period last year, whilst Department Stores fell slightly behind last year, -6% across the four day weekend—despite Cyber Monday seeing positive YoY growth at +9%.

Black Friday dominates volume, but the rest of the weekend takes sale share

Unsurprisingly, Black Friday accounts for the great volume of sales, almost 80m, across the four day weekend. However, the share of sales tracked on Black Friday is slowly decreasing year-on-year, with customer behaviour shifting to make full use of the four day promotional period. In 2019 Black Friday sales accounted for 39% of all sales captured across the weekend. By 2020, Black Friday sales accounted for 37% of total sales, and this year, Black Friday accounted for just 36% of total sales.

Instead, it’s Saturday and Sunday where the majority of customers fit in time to shop online. Perhaps this is a result of work commitments on Black Friday itself, or perhaps customers are taking more time to browse retailer offers before deciding where best to convert. Nonetheless, Saturday and Sunday accounted for 42% of total sales this year, with Cyber Monday making up the remaining 22%.

Loyalty and Discount affiliates generate the most volume, but Content steals the show

When you think of Cyber Weekend performance, you’d be mistaken for automatically thinking that it would largely be driven by a price reductions or multi-buy discounts. Whilst true in some cases, the affiliate channel provides retailers with access to an array of different publishers, and publisher types, to tap into as a means of reaching customers and driving sale conversion. Discount and Promotion affiliates accounted for 35% of all sales across Cyber Weekend this year, down from 38% last year. Cashback sites, like Quidco and TopCashback, accounted for 24% of all retail sales, which is consistent with their contribution last year.

Interestingly, the biggest growth from an affiliate type comes from Content publishers, consisting of bloggers, media publications, shopping content and comparison sites. Content affiliates account for 17% of all sales across Cyber Weekend this year, and that is up +10% vs. 2020. Content affiliates drove an average order value of £96 per transaction with the biggest share of sales coming via Health & Beauty, Fashion and Department Stores brands.

What have we learnt from Cyber Weekend 2021?

The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of online ecommerce, with a new type of online shopper here to stay. Even this year, with micro and macro challenges impacting supplier chain and delivery fulfillment, retailers were still able to generate significant volume and revenue through online ecommerce. We’ve also seen the continued emergence of content, with affiliate content partners driving a £96 average order value across Cyber Weekend.

To leverage more of Awin’s insights across the festive period, explore our comprehensive Peak Performance tracking report, drawn from millions of sales and thousands of affiliate programmes globally across our network. And stay up to date with the latest Black Friday trends on our Black Friday hub.

Published 03/12/21

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