Ahead of Cyber Weekend, Some Thoughts and Numbers

cyber weekend

While the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach initially saw some positive numbers last week in terms of container and vessel backup, it was a temporary reprieve from global supply chain issues. In any event, any kind of easing would have little impact on readiness for Cyber Weekend and the holidays beyond.

Many retailers not named Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Home Depot or Amazon are finding themselves facing the ugly prospect of inventory shortages and understocked physical and digital shelves for the rest of the year. Meanwhile, retailers appear to have found some success incenting consumers to shop earlier via promotions and deals, making the official kickoff on Thanksgiving weekend a complete wildcard as far as volume.

Adobe is calling for a 10% increase in ecommerce sales this holiday season, but Cyber Weekend is predicted to see slower growth, half of what it was a year earlier. And half of consumers said they plan to have their holiday shopping done before Cyber Monday, according to data from parcelLab and YouGov as reported by Fortune.

Indeed, like lots of things, Cyber Weekend ain’t what it used to be, with a lot of air let out of the balloon. Major retailers vie to outdo each other by launching Black Friday deals ahead of the starting gun. Black Friday deals at Target, Best Buy and Amazon all launched last week, with Walmart joining today.

eMarketer is predicting the “Cyber Five” (Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday) will continue its falloff as a contributor to overall holiday sales online, representing an 18.5% share in 2021 – up a tick from 18.4% last year, but down from a high of 20% in 2019.

“Black Friday will be a brick-and-mortar bonanza,” said Andrew Lipman, eMarketer principal analyst at Insider Intelligence, parent company of eMarketer.

Indeed, stores appear to be in a good position ahead of the official seasonal kickoff, according to Placer.ai, which tracks foot traffic patterns. Major retailers understandably saw large drops in foot traffic for the 2020 holidays, as lockdowns lingered, with Best Buy down a whopping 43.2% from 2019. But between Oct. 11 and Nov. 1, Placer.ai found weekly traffic had grown an average of 4% over the prior year. And mall visits were up 3% in October compared to 2019.

This year’s holiday shopping spree will also be the first with buy now pay later (BNPL) as a major factor driving consumer behavior, especially those with challenged credit. According to a study by Marqeta, a card issuing platform behind major BNPL providers like Affirm and Afterpay, 51% of consumers surveyed said they’ve used BNPL in the past year, and 59% of them said they’d be happy to have it replace their credit card usage. Also, a third of them said they’d started using BNPL in the past year. For some perspective, Marqeta found BNPL volumes grew 258% from Black Friday 2019 to last year’s date.

Any way you slice it, peak holiday season 2021 will be an interesting and challenging ride for store and ecommerce retailers. For many shoppers who wait to order online as if it were a normal year, disappointment will surely await both them and their eager recipients. Many, fortunately, have gotten the memo.