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How did Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals compare in 2020?

Sophie Thompson2nd December 2020

2020 has certainly been one to remember, and in many ways, that applies to Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020 too. Here we look at how Black Friday trends and Cyber Monday trends have differed, or whether our usual expectations applied, based on the year’s events.

Black Friday 2020

Black Friday 2020 happened in a radically different market due to COVID-19. Economies were shrinking more rapidly than they have for centuries. Consumers were facing pay cuts and job insecurity. In the UK at least, consumers were actively in lockdown, restricted in their activities. They were forced online and they needed to be careful with their spending.

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What is Cyber Weekend?

Cyber weekend is on Thanksgiving weekend, specifically with Friday and Monday either side, where retailers heavily discount goods in a pre-Christmas flash sale. With the scale of the event, this has now morphed into ‘Cyber Week’, with many brands running at least a week of high-profile sales in a bid to ramp up purchases before the festive period.

Black Friday 2020 was on 27th November and Cyber Monday 2020 was on 30th November 2020.

How did Cyber Weekend start?

The origins of Black Friday are a little murky, developing in the US over time, but largely being believed to date as far back as the 1950s. Of course, retail sales were limited to in-store back then. With the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade starting in 1924, it can be argued it goes back even further.

However, it was the ecommerce boom that spread Black Friday outside of the US. In 2010, Amazon introduced the concept of Black Friday to the UK. In 2013, ASDA, owned by America’s Walmart, picked it up too, sending chaos across the world.

But, online retail isn’t limited to store opening hours. Black Friday was joined by Cyber Monday, and then ultimately everything got rolled into Cyber Week.

Cyber Week is generally perceived to be the week leading up to Cyber Monday. In reality, it is now a much longer period. For example, Amazon kicked off Cyber Week 2020 with Prime Day in October, which was then immediately followed by a string of Black Friday promotions.

What's all the fuss about?

Black Friday and Cyber Monday trends show that retailers make more money from these sales than from the classic January sales.

Despite the fact that Cyber Monday trends show that it is more profitable than Black Friday, consumers themselves search for Black Friday in Google with much higher prevalence. Black Friday draws the shoppers, Cyber Monday draws the sales.

Black Friday sales

What have brands done differently in Cyber Week 2020?

Cyber Monday and Black Friday 2020 have really shown some differences.

1. Online is where it's at

Unsurprisingly given the pandemic, it’s understandable that the word ‘cyber’ in Cyber Week 2020 really mattered. Pretty much everything went online as shoppers favored online shopping over bricks and mortar.

Before the weekend, 39% of consumers said that they intended to shop more online than in store.

One of the most notable Black Friday trends, is that with online functionality, shoppers can do their homework. They can research the deals in advance and compare prices before making a purchase.

In the UK, non-essential retailers weren’t even able to open over the period because of local lockdown rules, forcing shoppers to either wait until Black Friday was gone, or to shop online.

Whilst there has been a gradual trend over recent years for online sales to be more important in Cyber Week than bricks and mortar, 2020 has made this absolute fact.

2. It started earlier, and went on longer

It’s probably fair to coin the term Cyber Month now. Kohl’s ‘Savings all week long’ campaign on Instagram kept the sales themselves to just a week, but they were giving people the chance to take a sneak peek at the promotions that would be running in advance of this, by displaying ads long before their deals kicked off.

Amazon is known for this too. In 2020, Amazon Prime Day was on 13-14 October and favored small and medium businesses. From then, they advertised their cyber deals from bigger brands.

Some smaller brands were even using the hashtag #cybermonth to gain visibility for their campaigns, including this Instagram post from LovePastry.

LovePastry black friday deals

However, it takes clever social media communication to ensure retail fatigue doesn’t set in for shoppers. Your social campaign needs to be invigorating and energized for much longer.

3. Downtime is favored

Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020 also saw continuation of a trend we’ve been watching emerge for a few years. A few years ago, retailers like Costco refused to open on Thanksgiving itself. This year, giant retailers such as Walmart and Macy’s have followed suit. Social media campaigns demonstrate respect for downtime and enabling workers to spend time with their families, making them more favorable to customers.

In the UK, this particular trend is happening with a twist this year. Whilst Thanksgiving doesn’t hold the same importance, brands themselves have jumped on the trend. Many big UK brands, like M&S, Next and Wilko, refused to get on board with Cyber Monday and Black Friday 2020, instead pushing the messaging that they want to offer good value all year around.

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4. Relationships were at the forefront of messaging

As we often explain, social media campaigns must center on relationship building. They are a brand’s way of creating loyalty and engagement with their audience.

This means that throughout the year, social media campaigns need to offer value to the relationship between brand and audience. But come November 2020, we saw the campaigns of some retailers shift over to the hard sell. Social campaigns were rife with good old-fashioned adverts, such as the Black Friday social post ad for Aldi.

Black Friday deals. Credit: Aldi

5. Brands went for personal stories over ads

Although some brands still stuck to the old-school trends of shifting from relationship-based marketing to adverts over Cyber Week, a growing number shunned this approach and firmly stood rooted to their engagement-driven model.

Amazon, which typically carries Black Friday adverts galore, was instead pushing its character, and building itself as a caring brand. It ran stories of the families working in its warehouses, focusing on the people who deliver, in a year when delivery workers have become key workers. When it comes to Cyber Week, if Amazon does something different, you can expect others to follow suit the following year. So it’s likely 2020 will set the trend on this for 2021 and beyond.

Even when a product was made the focus of a post, the social responsibility aspect took pride of place, such as with this John Lewis Facebook post.

John Lewis black friday deals

Unsurprisingly, some campaigns drew on the realities of the pandemic to make their message hit home. With a nod to the inability to travel to faraway places due to coronavirus, Walmart plugged the virtual reality Oculus Quest 2 with the statement ‘no passport required’. This managed to convey the understanding that people want to escape, but that they can’t.

Indeed, all Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaigns had to be far more aware of the situation that consumers were in. They had to be sympathetic to financial concerns, health worries and uncertainty.

Conclusion

Brands have responded well to having to be digital first this year, particularly in the UK where online shopping was already of importance before the pandemic. We can expect future years to follow suit.

Overall, Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020 have looked quite different and we can expect these changes to become trends in future years, even when the pandemic is behind us. Campaigns running for longer, with a focus online, and with ethics and customer relationships at the centre, have made 2020 stand out.

Additionally, with more retailers stepping away from the intensity of Black Friday, these trends will push more towards a cyber month where online deals can be carefully crafted, reviewed and still build the relationship with customers.

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Note: If you want to get prepared for your next big marketing campaign, come along to a free social media strategy session where we'll give you inspiration, tool recommendations, and general advice that'll help you get started.


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