Now that Black Friday / Cyber Monday 2017 has come and gone, you’ve undoubtedly read countless articles detailing the high-level impact of the shopping holidays this year. Just in case you haven’t (or if you want a refresher), here are the highlights:
Total U.S. Black Friday online sales were $5 billion -- a new record and 17% higher than last year. (link)
Mobile drove 54% of visits and 37% of digital revenue on Black Friday (link).
Cyber Monday was also the biggest online shopping day ever in the United States overall. Total sales were $6.6 billion -- a 17% increase over last year and, interestingly, the exact same as Black Friday’s YoY bump (link).
Mobile device usage continued to grow at 47% of all traffic and 33% of revenue on Cyber Monday. Mobile converted better too -- smartphone revenue increased 39% over last year (link).
The ultimate takeaway? Online sales, including mobile, are continuing to grow. This is great news for online retailers (well, minus the Amazon part) but it’s not super tactical. So that’s why we decided to dig into the online marketing side of what is actually driving all of this revenue...
Now presenting the 2017 AddShoppers Black Friday / Cyber Monday Digital Marketing Breakdown.
We analyzed specific data points across our wide network of online brands (over 20m shoppers tracked over BFCM weekend) and pulled out actionable data points -- the ones your marketing department actually uses every day. Let’s dive in.
‘Tis the season to acquire new customers
If you want to capture brand new customers, there is NO better time for this than during the shopping holidays. You might have known this as a hunch, but we have the raw data to back it up -- across a wide range of brands.
Just take a look at this table:
CONVERSION RATES BY NEW VS RETURNING VISITORS
Notice anything? Yes, conversion rates are much higher across the board for returning visitors than new visitors. However, most marketers have already seen these numbers before.
Here’s where this gets REALLY interesting: look at the percentage increases in conversion rates between Black Friday and Cyber Monday versus the baseline. There’s a good lift for return visitors during the shopping holidays. About 50% or so. But for brand new visitors, we saw around a 100% lift! This means you can acquire new customers at twice the normal rate during Black Friday & Cyber Monday weekend. Looking at this from another angle: you can gain new customers at half the cost.
Key takeaway: Ramp those new customer acquisition campaigns WAY up during the holidays!
Customers still shop in stores on Black Friday -- and this has eCommerce implications
Almost unilaterally, the press surrounding the shopping holidays suggests that eCommerce is eating the world. And it sort of is. Black Friday online sales were up 17% this year but in-store visits were down 2%.
However, some consumers still prefer to venture out into the wilderness and do some shopping in-store rather than online. We see this in the analytics. Let’s start by examining triggered email performance between Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and a non-shopping holiday baseline:
AVERAGE EMAIL PERFORMANCE
What’s going on here?
Open rates are 28% higher on Black Friday than the baseline, but click through rates are 15% lower. People are reading more emails on Black Friday, but when it comes to eCommerce, interaction is less. This could be due to (a) people waiting until Cyber Monday to shop online because they expect the best online deals then, (b) people opening more emails but ending up visiting a brick-and-mortar store, or (c) people getting more emails on Black Friday because of retailers sending both online AND in-store promotions. There’s only a 7% increase in conversion rate versus the baseline!
However, on Cyber Monday, email clearly outperforms. Stats are up across the board. Combined, this data shows that Cyber Monday emails drive 71% more sales than Black Friday and 99% more than a regular shopping period!
Key takeaway: try not to rely too much on email on Black Friday. But let them fly on Cyber Monday!
Advertising is more expensive. But more effective
Next up, we looked at one big area for most brands selling online during the shopping holidays: advertising. Intuitively, we all know that advertising gets more competitive because everyone is fighting for a share of the spending frenzy that occurs during this time. But exactly how much does it increase -- and how does that impact performance?
Well, let’s look at the data:
AVERAGE ADWORDS CAMPAIGN PERFORMANCE
AVERAGE FACEBOOK AD CAMPAIGN PERFORMANCE
 Facebook includes 1-day view-through revenue, while AdWords doesn’t.
 AdWords includes all types of campaigns: search, display, shopping, etc.
 Facebook includes all types of campaigns: retargeting, lookalike, etc.
To start, the costs. CPCs are up about 60% on AdWords and between 33% and 100% on Facebook during the shopping holidays versus the baseline. CPMs are up over 100% on Facebook.
However, the cost per purchase on Facebook is actually DOWN 17% on Black Friday. For Cyber Monday, it’s only 6% higher. Now, if you look at the ROAS numbers, you’ll see that it still doesn’t outweigh the costs, so you can expect to (on average) see similar returns on your Facebook dollars.
Caveat: there might simply be a greater shift towards new customer acquisition campaigns on Facebook (lookalike targeting, interest targeting, etc) during the shopping holidays, which could also explain the lower ROAS. We can say that some of our clients that run Facebook ads definitely saw higher ROAS numbers than normal during Black Friday - Cyber Monday.
Now, back to AdWords. It converts better during the shopping holidays, but that increase in conversion (and subsequently ARPV) is offset by an almost equal increase in costs. However, at the end of the day, ROAS is still about 15% higher than the baseline, so you’ll see more return on your AdWords spend.
Key takeaway: Should you join in on the advertising madness during the shopping holidays? Definitely! Just don’t expect significantly higher ROAS overall. Rather, the main benefits of advertising during Black Friday through Cyber Monday are these two:
More scale. Even though you might not see greater ROAS numbers during the shopping holidays, there is still the potential to drive a week’s worth (or more) of revenue in one day. Staying out of the game is leaving money on the table.
Increased rates of new customer acquisition. Earlier in this report, we showed data proving that people are more likely to buy from new brands during the Black Friday / Cyber Monday madness. If customer acquisition is a focus for you, then you should be investing in advertising campaigns during the holidays.
Lastly, remember that the numbers we’re presenting here are averages. Like we stated before, it’s certainly possible to see ROAS numbers significantly above normal during the shopping holidays.
Abandonment still leaves significant revenue on the table
So far, we’ve seen some pretty dramatic changes across numerous different channels: 100% lifts in new customer acquisition, 99% more sales per email, 115% higher Facebook CPMs, 65% higher AdWords CPCs.
But the lack of such drastic change in one area stands out like a sore thumb: website (and cart) abandonment. A few numbers contribute here.
First, average conversion rates are between 6 - 6.5% during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Yes, this is much higher than the baseline average of 3%. However, this means that during the biggest shopping days of the year, 94% of the people that visit your site STILL are going to leave without purchasing anything.
Second, goal abandonment rates decrease during this timeframe. We analyzed them (purchases, adds to cart, advances in cart steps, etc) and saw surprising numbers:
On the plus side, abandonment rates were down about 15% during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. However, they weren’t down much. Not compared to the big changes we’ve seen elsewhere. This means abandonment is still a huge problem -- even during the biggest shopping days of the year!
Key takeaway: what are you doing about abandonment? Make sure you have a strong abandonment strategy in place for the rest of the holiday season and beyond!
While Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, we still have some prime shopping days ahead of us before year-end. Now’s the time to continue the momentum from November and finish 2017 strong.
Most eCommerce sites see massive declines in Q1. Note that the strategies in play that work well in Q4 are still applicable in Q1.