Challenges, wins and unexpected growth – Black Friday 2021

Alex Blaikley - Media Director, George Illidge - Marketplace Account Director, Dave McAndrew - Paid Media Director,

Many retail experts were predicting negligible growth for ecommerce this holiday season - because of year-on-year lockdown comparisons, fulfilment issues linked to supply chain challenges and even qualitative surveys suggesting that consumers could reject the commercialisation and materialism of Black Friday.

Once again, however, the UK shopper’s demand for Black Friday deals - and a continuous improvement in ecommerce mobile shopping experience - has surprised the experts:

  • UK shoppers spent almost 15% more over Black Friday weekend than in 2020
  • The number of payments via Barclaycard were up 23% year-on-year between midnight and 5pm on Black Friday itself
  • Nationwide said its customers had made 5.95m purchases by 5pm on Black Friday, 26% up on last year and 24% up on 2019

Market insight

November 2021 saw a 20% reduction in total UK shopping & ecommerce website visits - in comparison to November 2020 - understandably so, when comparing ‘Lockdown’ vs ‘non-lockdown’ behaviours. Interestingly, November 2020 saw an increase of 16% from October 2020, vs only 8% between Oct & Nov 21 – suggesting that Black Friday 2020 saw a bigger step-change in visits - if not in intent or actual consumer spend.

Despite this, recent research puts the UK at the 4th largest digital economy in the world (Consultancy.co.uk) – and when we look at the competition and trends from this category, it’s easy to understand why.

Paid search saw the biggest YoY increase in traffic contribution - with a 7% uptick vs a 7% decline in organic search contribution. It would be easy to see this as reactionary, but with such a competitive category, and as Black Friday is such an important period, a CMO paid search investment should deliver a transparent bedrock of performance as a standalone channel - or as part of an integrated channel strategy.

The top 3 retailers remained the same: Amazon (28% of traffic share), eBay (19%) and Argos (5.75%), with Boots and John Lewis seeing significant growth Year on Year. Very saw one of the biggest drops in traffic share.

Amazon as a traffic source for shopping & ecommerce websites still remains very low – but traffic within Amazon and other marketplaces is one of the reasons why top line category website visits YoY are lower. 

Amazon & Marketplace growth

Following Black Friday, Amazon has released a follow up to Black Friday & Cyber Monday, reporting record-breaking sales. This report, accumulated with data from Numerator, says Amazon captured the highest share of Black Friday 2021 spend for the second year in a row. Amazon’s fourth-quarter results get released in January/ February, so we will then be able to get a full view of the results from the peak shopping season.

Below, we look into the top Amazon consumer search terms from Black Friday/ Cyber Monday Week.

  • Christmas Decorations (Stayed at No 1)

Christmas decorations proved to be incredibly popular throughout November and in the lead-up to December, with Christmas Decorations remaining the top search term as customers looked for last-minute deals in the build-up to decorating for the holidays.

  • Games Consoles & Gadgets

a.    Nintendo Switch (Pos 2 Up from Pos 12)

b.    PS5 (Pos 5 Up from Pos 29)

c.    Apple Watch (Pos 7 Up from Pos 20)

The PS5, Nintendo Switch & Apple Watch will be on a lot of Christmas lists this year - and are suited to both children and adults, no doubt consumers would have hoped to see a drop in price over the weekend.

  • Black Friday Deals 2021(Up from Pos 14)

Black Friday as a term was not proving to be popular - but slowly built up momentum in the lead up to Black Friday. However, over the course of the week, the term moved up the rankings - as people were broadly searching for discounted products to buy.

How did our clients perform?

Black Friday weekend always plays a key role in the kick-off to our clients' steps into peak activity. It's our job to ensure accounts are primed to deliver both an increase in traffic and, more importantly, an increase in sales and revenue.

Despite the challenges clients faced in performing in the first on-lockdown Black Friday since last year, with stores now open for people to shop offline, we did see clients take advantage of their online demand.

Across our Paid Media and Affiliate teams, we increased our client’s revenue by +21% compared to last year.

Below is a breakdown of individual client performance:

  • Electrical Retailer +66% YoY
  • Highstreet Retailer +16% YoY
  • Home Furnishings Retailer +16% YoY
  • Luxury Retailer +24% YoY
  • Outdoor Retailer +25% YoY
  • Fashion Retailer +43% YoY
  • Toy Retailer +144% YoY

Areas we exploited online to drive performance included…

  • Implementation of dynamic stock & price customisers to incentivise clicks
  • Expansion of broad match keywords to capture additional traffic
  • Amazon Ads Launch aided best-ever revenue week on Amazon
  • Product level DSAs implemented to capture volume across over 15K SKUs!​
  • Launched a CPA based reward campaign with Incentive publishers to drive conversions without discounting the sale price through voucher code activity
  • Partnered exclusively with closed platform affiliates such as UNiDAYS and Blue Light Card to offer an additional discount on top of the BAU offer, targeting specific user groups
A graph showing this years client performance vs last years.

In summary

  1. Black Friday weekend and Cyber Monday are now firmly part of the UK shopping calendar, and we would encourage ecommerce brands to plan in this mindset.
  2. Amazon, the original disruptor is being disrupted. However, increased rebates will encourage ecommerce brands to use other channels to support their Amazon SOV in 2022.
  3. An integrated omnichannel plan will be a source of competitive advantage in 2022.
  4. Ensuring that your CRM and first-party data strategy builds towards peak.
  5. Aligning to the international Black Friday season is not for the faint-hearted but will be a lever for many more ecommerce brands in 2023. Marketplaces (not just Amazon) will play a big role in a significant international strategy.

To find out how we can help your business take advantage of next years peak season, get in touch.

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