Compared to the immense eCommerce highs of December 2020 when much of the world’s economies retail landscape was inaccessible (or unattractive to fearful consumers) provides some important context for our overview.

As we write this on December 9th early reports from the UK and USA show a decline Year on Year or slow growth for many eCommerce businesses in the run-up to Black Friday.

In contrast, ‘in store’ sales are up as consumers returned to stores for the pre-Christmas period. In the USA for example, early statistics show that online Black Friday sales fell slightly compared to 2020 levels (from $9.0 billion to $8.9 billion). Forbes also reported disappointing sales for advertisers on Amazon too which is an obvious barometer for us to check.

In the UK, a similar pattern has emerged as consumers have by and large looked to return to high street stores for black Friday

What did we see at Push across our eCommerce base?

One of the advantages we have as an agency with close ties to partners like Google is that we have a wide base of information to draw from. Collectively Push manages campaigns across all channels (Google, Facebook, Bing, Amazon etc) for nearly 100 retailers spending a combined £12m+ on ads a quarter.

Google has reported UK demand was up YoY over the weekend for Apparel, but lower YoY for Consumer Electronics, Home & Garden and Beauty. UK shoppers still had over 60% of their holiday shopping to do before Black Friday (According to the Google IPSOS Holiday survey, only 39.4% of UK holiday shopping was complete as of Wednesday). They were spending 64.7% of their shopping time online. 73% visited at least one website, 72% searched on a smartphone and 59% went into a store. 84% used a Google property in their shopping

It’s been a very strange Black Friday week in the UK this year. Last year we recorded the Best Black Friday results we’ve seen since Push began in 2007! However this year we’ve seen some mixed results that we’d like to share.

Looking across our own customer base to where we have year on year data, the Black Friday week (Wednesday 26th – Tuesday 2nd December) period showed:

  • A massive 35-50% drop in consumer search volume & clicks (visitors) across the week
  • On Black Friday itself, the drop was nearly 80%
  • Average CPC’s rose nearly 50% – Perhaps as retailer competitors were desperate to increase sales without the demand being there
  • The total number of sales dropped by approx 35-50% (50% on Black Friday)
  • Revenue fell by about 15% across the board
  • ROAS on average was lower YOY for every day except Black Friday

Here’s a quick 4-minute video to see the data yourself:

So on average retailers saw a disappointing decline of approximately 10-15% of sales compared to 2020. However, for a lot of businesses, this number was higher and some of the figures above are propped up by a thriving health and beauty sector which actually bucked the trend. We can assume this will be to do with people being out and about this year compared to in lockdown last.

It’s also clear that the gap between sales on Black Friday and the days around is diminishing. With more and more offers spread earlier in the month and lasting longer than the day and Cyber Monday the ‘Big One Day’ of sales is being turned more and more into a sales week and potentially losing what initially drew and hooked people to the period.

The question to ask is, is it right to even compare to 2020 when the country was in the middle of the pandemic and in lockdown? What exactly was different?

  • Access to shopping in stores was extremely limited
  • Consumers were gifting significantly more instead of having human contact or spending on experiences
  • Disposable income in many cases was higher as more time was spent at home. Could rising inflation, increased energy costs etc have also played a part in this?
  • Offers in 2021 in many cases (from a Push perspective) seemed to be spread across multiple weeks so may have lost their urgency to buy in this period as deadlines to promote action were extended
  • There are more retailers online this year compared to 2020 after many ‘store-only’ businesses realised the need to ‘be online’ too late last year. This will also have played a part in rising bids across the board

The Wrap Up

Of course, the data we have shown is across 70+ eCommerce SMEs we work with so may not 100% tell the story of the current economy. However, it should give a good rough benchmark for similar-sized SMEs in the UK.

The BBC has actually reported Black Friday Sales tracking to beat 2020 however this is overall, not online.

So overall it’s been disappointing compared to 2020. However, was it ever right to compare it to a freakishly good year last year? Our next step is to look at how this differs from 2019 where we expect to see a different picture. One thing is for sure, I don’t think anyone will be confident in their forecast for the same period next year!

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