2021 Black Friday Marketing & Stats: Build a Winning eCommerce Strategy

August 10, 2021
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Bonus Material: 3 Proven Customer Intent Campaigns for The Best BFCM Yet

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a crystal ball that lets you see into the future and helps you plan your 2021 Black Friday marketing strategy?

While we can’t offer magic like that, this guide may be the next best thing.

We’ll be taking a data-driven dive into Black Friday sales statistics over the last three years, so you can see and use the latest research to get ahead of your competition this holiday season.

You’ll learn how the global pandemic affected Black Friday sales figures (and may continue to do so in 2021). We’ll also share some Black Friday marketing ideas and five strategies to implement this year to drive sales and increase conversions.

So if you’re ready to boost your customers’ Black Friday spending, check out a preview of the Black Friday sales statistics, trends, and tips we’ll be exploring in this guide:

Black Friday Statistics Year Over Year
Many Retailers Start BFCM Promotions Before Cyber Weekend Hits
Black Friday Trends: These Product Categories See the Biggest Sales Boosts During Cyber Week
How to Use This Data in Your Own Black Friday and Cyber Monday Promotions and Plans
Craft a Data-Driven BFCM Strategy for 2021

Black Friday Statistics Year Over Year

Here’s what the most recent Black Friday statistics by year show:

1. The 2020 Pandemic Led to a $9 Billion Surge in Online Purchases (+ 21.6% YOY)

It may not come as a surprise that the global pandemic led to even more people shopping online. 65% of people surveyed chose to do their Black Friday shopping online to avoid crowds[*].

But what may shock you is 2020’s Black Friday sales numbers:

  • Over 100 million people ended up snagging their Black Friday deals online[*]
  • A massive $9 billion was spent on Black Friday alone[*]. 
  • That’s a 22% surge year over year (YOY).

To put this into perspective, Black Friday sales figures clocked in at $7.4 billion in 2019 and $6.2 billion in 2018.

Black Friday marketing

The shift to online shopping impacted cyber weekend sales numbers impressively.

2. Black Friday Conversion Rates Increased in 2020 

Over a shocking $9 billion in sales on Black Friday in 2020, conversion rates improved from the previous year by 18%.

Our analysis of over two billion eCommerce store sessions every single week showed that the average conversion rate globally for Black Friday in 2020 was 4.5%, compared to 3.8% in 2019.

The US fared about the same as the global average, with conversion rates at 4.3% in 2020, 3.7% in 2019.

However, the UK saw an impressive 6.1% conversion rate in 2020, up from 4.4% in 2019. Canada rang in at 4.1% for 2020, vs 2.6% in 2019. 

Black Friday marketing

3. Black Friday vs. Cyber Monday: Here’s What the Data Shows

Cyber Monday is relatively new when compared to Black Friday. The Black Friday shopping event began in brick-and-mortar retail stores before online shopping was so prevalent. 

But given the accelerating pace of eCommerce and the fact that now more than ever, consumers are shifting toward digital, many eCommerce teams struggle to figure out which day to put most of their focus on. 

During 2020’s BFCM, consumers preferred Cyber Monday deals over Black Friday promotions by 30%[*]. This makes sense when you consider that, for the first time, in-store shopping was unsafe in many major cities and regions due to the global pandemic. 

Despite consumer preference, though, Black Friday brought in more traffic and conversions than Cyber Monday for eCommerce stores. 

This has been the case in previous years as well. In 2019, 93.2 million people shopped on Black Friday over the 83.3 million who chose Cyber Monday as their go-to shopping day[*].

Black Friday marketing

Despite these Black Friday vs Cyber Monday statistics, avoid structuring your sales promotion campaigns based on either of those data points alone.

Whether your team should spend more time on your Black Friday vs. Cyber Monday promotion depends on the industry your eCommerce store is in. 

Consumers choose to shop on Black Friday or Cyber Monday depending on what they’re looking for.

Black Friday is notoriously better for consumers looking to capture sales on big-ticket items like electronics, whereas Cyber Monday is more effective for smaller gifts such as clothing, toys, and home goods.

And since we are moving toward a post-pandemic world, we can expect shopping habits to return to relative normal.

4. BFCM Shopping and Browsing Statistics by Device 

As usual, mobile continues to lead the way in eCommerce, and brands that can nail the mobile experience will benefit from reduced cart abandonment rates, higher conversions and a better UX. 

2020’s cyber weekend statistics found that, again, the majority of shoppers get their online BFCM shopping done on their mobile devices.

eCommerce teams must optimize their mobile shopping experience now and long before the holiday season approaches. 

Not only does this provide a seamless user experience, which is a necessity for improving conversion rates, search engine rankings, average order values, and cart abandonment rates, but our data shows that:

  • Nearly 73% of online shoppers visited retail websites via their mobile devices
  • More than 56% of the conversions happened on mobile in 2020. 

Including mobile cyber weekend stats might seem passé. But despite the prevalence of mobile and the effort of most teams to optimize the mobile UX, statistics suggest eCommerce brands have a long way to go to perfect the mobile shopping experience. 

Our data also shows that mobile shoppers abandon their carts at a much higher rate than tablet or desktop users. 2021 average cart abandonment rates per device are: 

  • Mobile:  74% 
  • Tablet: 62%
  • PC: 61%
Black Friday marketing

So honing in on the mobile experience for your 2021 Black Friday strategy can go a long way to make this year your best Black Friday yet.

Optimize Your Mobile View for Older Shoppers

If you think it’s just Millennials and Zoomers using their mobile devices to browse for deals, think again. 

Many of the online shoppers just mentioned are in the 60+ age category[*], which means your mobile experience should definitely cater to an older demographic. 

You’ll want to adjust your font sizes for mobile devices (bigger is better!) and ensure that items aren’t too close together. You don’t want mobile website shoppers accidentally clicking the wrong things, getting frustrated, and leaving before converting.

5. Cyber Weekend Website Traffic Statistics

Regardless of the device your visitors use, your eCommerce team needs to be prepared for a major spike in traffic over the four day cyber weekend shopping event. 

When compared to a regular, non-holiday weekend, eCommerce stores have seen a sustained increase in the number of sessions year over year. 

  • + 197% in 2018 
  • + 94% in 2019 
  • + 57%  in 2020
Black Friday marketing

The biggest increase is on Black Friday, accounting for around 30% of the weekend’s session spike each year, followed closely by Cyber Monday at around 26%. 

Saturday and Sunday do account for 45% of site traffic during Cyber Weekend, however, these days saw a 10% lower conversion rate than Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

This data suggests that online shoppers are still browsing during these lower sales days, but may be holding out for deals on Monday.

While typically these numbers don’t garnish upgrading your web servers, you would do well to be prepared for a spike in sessions over the BFCM weekend. 

Many Retailers Start BFCM Promotions Before Cyber Weekend Hits

2021’s Black Friday falls on November 26. 

However, if you wait until that exact date to launch your promotion strategy, you may find that your customers have already spent their money elsewhere, leaving little to spend with you. 

That’s why the following findings hold true for eCommerce teams. 

Some Retailers Start Promoting Their Black Friday Deals Weeks Ahead 

Many retailers kick off their Black Friday sales as early as late October, while others begin promotions in early November.

In addition, 75% of retailers surveyed said they offered deals before Black Friday, with some lasting several days or weeks at a time[*].

Another interesting thing to note: many brands felt they had to release sales sooner to avoid shipping delays because of the pandemic in 2020[*]. This is likely to remain true this year as well.

eCommerce Stores Also Extended Their Cyber Monday Specials

Don’t be surprised if you see retailers extending their Cyber Monday deals up to one week after the date to capture customers who were on the fence.

This strategy allows eCommerce brands to stand apart from the other promotions cluttering the feeds and inboxes of consumers over the four days that make up Cyber Weekend.

Consumers Shop All Weekend 

The cyber-weekend focus for many eCommerce stores is on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and rightfully so given these Black Friday sales statistics. 

But consumers are committed to shopping all weekend, not just over the two biggest sales days. 

Saturday has been coined Small Business Saturday in an effort to counterbalance the spending frenzy with the world’s largest retailers.

On the Saturday following Black Friday, consumers are encouraged to do some of their holiday shopping with small or local businesses, whether online or in person. 

If your company falls into the “small business” category, you can use this as a point of leverage on Small Business Saturday.

Black Friday Trends: These Product Categories See the Biggest Sales Boosts During Cyber Week

2020 was an unusual year for online shopping due to the pandemic, and while some behaviors may go back to pre-pandemic normal, many other habits are here to stay. 

Among these include the industries and categories that are growing in eCommerce, such as supermarket health and beauty, and home goods. 

Black Friday highest increase in conversions by industry 2019-2020

While each eCommerce category outperformed the 2019 Black Friday sales statistics, the biggest jumps were seen in products traditionally purchased in store. 

1. Electronics and Household Appliances Traditionally Lead the Black Friday Way

Consumers have always turned to Black Friday deals to score discounts on TVs, electronics, gaming consoles, smart devices and phones, power tools, and kitchen appliances (think: Roombas, Instant Pots, and even refrigerators).

2019 data certainly supported this, with a 711% increase in online electronic sales over BFCM.

The uptick in online sales for electronics wasn’t as pronounced in 2020, with key categories overshadowing it due to the pandemic. 

2. The Shift Toward Online Shopping Favored Supermarket and Health & Beauty

While electronics still saw a year-over-year increase in conversions and sales, the shift in online shopping behavior ignited by the pandemic painted a slightly different picture. 

2020’s Black Friday performance saw the most dramatic uptick in conversions versus the previous year in online supermarkets and health and beauty. 

Black Friday highest increase in conversions by industry 2019-2020

The products in these two categories are typically purchased in-store. 

Since in-person shopping was made more difficult due to the pandemic, it makes sense that these products performed so well in 2020. 

3. Clothing and Footwear are High on the BFCM List

On top of electronics and kitchen appliances, many shoppers are looking for discounts on clothing and footwear on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

While Black Friday outperforms Cyber Monday for sales, in clothing and footwear it’s a close competition. 

These 2019 Black Friday and Cyber Monday statistics establish a solid baseline for a normal year (i.e. a year unlike 2020).  

Black Friday marketing

We can look to these numbers to plan and forecast for 2021 Black Friday promotions.

While all this Black Friday data falls under the “nice to know” category, it’s only helpful if you can put it to good use in your Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaigns.

Fortunately, this next section will help you do just that.

How to Use This Data in Your Own Black Friday and Cyber Monday Promotions and Plans

Use these five strategies in your 2021 Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaigns to boost sales, increase conversions, and reduce your cart abandonment rate:

#1. Protect Your eCommerce Margins this Holiday Season

Steep, blanket discounts, free expedited shipping and high fulfillment fees make cyber weekend tough on most company’s margins. 

So rather than harnessing Black Friday and Cyber Monday to drive profits, most eCommerce companies find themselves with little to invest back into growth at the end of the weekend. 

But it’s not as simple as just reducing your discounts for the weekend. You want to stay competitive and put your best foot forward. 

Your biggest tool to overcome this is to capture those pivotal moments of conversion through customer intent.  

Some customers over cyber weekend will have high intent to purchase and won’t require as  steep a discount to convert. Others may be browsing or comparing deals, and require a more generous offer to complete their order with you. 

Tailoring the promotion your visitors see on Black Friday to each individual customer not only drives revenue but also protects margins by reducing your average discount rate. 

This is why we built Intent-Based Promotions: to serve a one-to-one customer onsite experience based on customer intent. 

It works by calculating shoppers’ purchasing patterns and intent to determine the right offer for each specific customer during their session, based on behavioral and intent signals: 

Black Friday marketing

When you’re crafting your Black Friday promotions, you might decide on a maximum discount of 30%, and let the “brain” decide which customers require that maximum discount to convert, vs. which only require 15 or 20%. 

For example, this Namogoo customer set their maximum discount in Intent-Based Promotions at 15% but averaged only 5.2%

Black Friday marketing

This helped them save $17,000+ in margin across 117 orders for the week

Ensuring your customers are offered the minimum promotion required to convert will help you protect your margins over BFCM while also driving conversions. 

#2. Focus on Lowering Your Cart Abandonment Rate

Cart abandonment presents a number of challenges to eCommerce brands beyond just lost revenue. 

And the truth is, even if you craft the perfect Black Friday strategy with generous discounts and the perfect timing, an average of 69% of online shoppers who add items to their carts leave before they complete their purchase. 

So on top of aiming to increase conversion rate, reducing your cart abandonment rates can make all the difference to the effectiveness of your cyber weekend sales. 

Over 50,000 sessions, just a 10% decrease in abandonment rate from 69% to 62% could result in over 100 recovered sales. 

Some strategies for reducing cart abandonment rates include:

  1. Improve your mobile shopping experience, which we’ll dive into shortly.
  2. Use Intent-Based Promotions to ensure your customers with high intent follow through with their purchase instead of abandoning ship early.
  3. Add trust signals at checkout to reassure shoppers that your business is legit and creates happy customers.
  4. Allow people to save their carts for a later checkout. Enable this, and you can send them a deal shortly after to help nudge them into completing their purchase.
  5. Offer free shipping to shoppers who meet a certain spend threshold.
  6. Simplify your checkout experience so shoppers can quickly make a purchase and be more likely to do so.

          Read More: How to Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate: 18 Advanced Strategies

#3. Start Your Black Friday Deals Earlier This Year (But Not Too Early)

Another strategy you can enlist to drive sales is starting your holiday promotions before the actual date of Black Friday (which is November 26, 2021).

Check out how Four Sigmatic launched their 2020 Black Friday sale a few days early with an early access email.

Black Friday marketing

This gives you a chance to capture people before they’ve spent their allotted holiday money somewhere else.

However, you don’t want to start your sales too early, otherwise, you’ll find people waiting to see if there are better deals to be had. 

That’s why it’s so crucial to strike the right balance when it comes to choosing your dates. It helps to send out a preview of your sales ahead of time to generate excitement and lock people into your upcoming offers.

#4. Consider Extending Your Sales After Cyber Monday Passes

On top of starting your sales earlier, you may also want to give people extra time to make a purchase later.

If they’re busy shopping around for holiday deals, they could easily miss out or forget to take advantage of your offer on time.

By extending your deadline, you’ll capture those people and shoppers who are still deciding what to do.

Keep in mind, your sales should still have an expiration date to trigger urgency. 

          Read More: The Psychology of Discounts: 8 Strategies Backed By Science to Use in 2021

So don’t mention your sales extension until the date has passed (or customers will just wait and potentially miss it).

Send emails letting people know your Cyber Monday sale ends at midnight, and then let them know at some point closer to this time that you’re in the holiday spirit and plan to extend the deals a bit longer.

This should give indecisive shoppers a second chance to score a deal and help drive even more sales this holiday season.

#5. Optimize the User Experience for Your Unique Target Customer

Understanding your target customers is crucial for putting your best foot forward for cyber weekend. 

Craft your strategy around the unique customer segments your company targets, including not only their demographics, but their psychographics, behaviors, and intent signals as well.

Use your buyer personas, industry, and the types of customers you attract to:

    • Personalize the customer experience onsite to meet shopper’s expectations and drive conversions and loyalty. 
    • Craft a data-driven sales promotion strategy for Black Friday using the data in this guide. For example, a footwear brand like Namogoo customer Allbirds may focus their marketing efforts on Cyber Monday given the sales increases on that day in their industry. 
    • Nail your mobile shopping experience. Regardless of your core demographics, mobile shopping is prevalent. Ensure your mobile shopping experience is seamless for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Thoroughly QA your shopping experience on various mobile devices (such as phones, tablets, etc.) to see what your customers would experience. Make sure to try both Android and iOS devices, so there are no discrepancies.


Craft a Data-Driven BFCM Strategy for 2021

While Cyber Monday and Black Friday sales statistics certainly looked different last year (and may be surprising again this year), there’s still time to make an impact. The key is starting early today.

Follow the five tips for improving your Black Friday marketing outlined in this guide, and you’ll have no trouble capturing holiday traffic and driving sales.

Book a Demo now to see how Intent-Based Promotions can help boost your holiday sales this year and beyond!


Mya Achidov
Devan Ciccarelli