Thanksgiving weekend isn’t just for relaxation and gorging yourself on hearty dishes. For many, it is the official kick-off to the holiday season and that means one thing: Buying gifts. In fact, some start directly after their Thanksgiving feasts, plopping on the couch and whipping out their smartphones so they can start crossing items off their shopping lists.
One could say Thanksgiving weekend is a shopping marathon of sorts; that’s why we look to companies like Salesforce and Adobe that provide recurring updates on consumer spending, mobile traffic and what issues may be rising to the top as retailers venture further into the holiday season. Here are some of the big takeaways from their research and the trends that we’ll be tracking over the coming weeks:
Thanksgiving Weekend Spending Has Tapered Off
Historically, we’ve seen online spending be consistent through the entire weekend and then hit a final spike on Cyber Monday. But Adobe found that total spending on Cyber Monday was down 1.4% year over year. Sure, the company acknowledged that it was still the biggest online shopping day of the year, but the company showed that overall spending through “Cyber Week” (which is Black Friday through Cyber Monday) also was down 1.4% year over year. This leads us to ask some follow-up questions about future demand, and how spending will take shape through the rest of the holiday season. We’ve seen so many headlines about how we need to get our shopping done early in order to avoid shipping delays and out of stocks, so it makes sense that we saw a bit of a dip.
“Cyber Weekend” Turns into “Cyber Month”
Looking closer at Adobe’s holiday data, it’s clear that there has been a big shift in when people have decided to shop. From November 1-29, consumers spent a total of $109.8 billion online, growing significantly at 11.9% over last year. Even though some sources say Cyber Weekend was comparatively a bit of a dud, there was a lot of activity beforehand, which goes back to our earlier point about the elongation of the holiday season and the shift in spending timelines for many consumers. Need more proof? Adobe notes that 22 days in November have exceeded $3 billion in online spend, whereas in 2020, only nine days were able to exceed this total.
Salesforce noted similar trends and Rob Garf, the company’s VP and GM of Retail, went so far as to call it “Cyber November”: “With the smoothing out of demand throughout the entire season, peak days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday have less of an impact than previous years,” Garf said in a statement. “It’s always a retailer’s dream to pull demand early in the fall, and with supply chain bottlenecks and fears of inflation, consumers did shop early and often.”
Alternative Payment Types are on the Rise
Salesforce took a close look at payment methods this year and Apple Pay has been the real star. In fact, it saw 72% year-over-year growth, while financing services (such as buy now, pay later apps) increased by 30%. Meanwhile, credit card usage dropped 4%. Consumers seem to want to diversify their spending and are seeking alternatives to credit, especially when they shop online. On Cyber Monday specifically, Adobe pointed to a 21% year-over-year increase in BNPL usage alone, which makes sense considering the holiday’s big focus on toys and big-ticket electronics.
Out-of-Stocks Will Create More Holiday Grinches
As we noted earlier, inventory issues are top-of-mind for retailers and consumers alike, which is why Adobe has been keeping a close eye on the usage of out-of-stock messages. The results so far are staggering: In November alone, the prevalence of out-of-stock messages increased 169% versus January 2020. The company believes this trend will continue through the remainder of the holiday season. As a result, we expect to see more retailers focus on marketing campaigns and messaging tactics that focus on inventory availability online and in stores.
These four takeaways don’t paint the entire picture of Cyber Weekend or the 2021 holiday season, but they do represent some fascinating shifts in holiday shopping behaviors. They validate some of the trends and issues being discussed within the industry and confirm some key areas of focus for retailers through the remainder of the season. For example, in order to reduce out-of-stocks online, some retailers are focusing on promoting store-level inventory and fulfillment services such as curbside pickup and BOPIS. We’ll be keeping a close watch on these trends through December and will use them to tailor our content and agenda for next year’s Retail Innovation Conference & Expo. If your brand is doing some innovative things during the holiday season, or have some learnings you believe will empower your retail peers in 2022, submit your proposal now!