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The Biggest Learnings From Cyber 5 2021

Cyber 5 2021 is in the books, and retail marketers want to know: how has the e-commerce industry responded to the five-day shopping blitz in year two of the pandemic?

The short answer is, online shopping continues to boom. While U.S. e-commerce sales during Cyber 5 (Thanksgiving-Cyber Monday) were down year over year in 2021, the historic mark set in 2020 gives retail marketers plenty of reason to be merry entering the final weeks of the year.

I presented with my colleague, Jonathan Martin, for Sidecar Live: The Biggest Learnings From Cyber 5 2021. In this stream, we detailed the biggest industry trends that set the stage for the 2021 holiday season. We also analyzed our customer data to help understand how Google advertisers fared during Cyber 5 with their Google Shopping and paid search campaigns.

Our learnings didn’t end there.

On the heels of another eventful Cyber 5, we identified three lessons learned this holiday season and how retail marketers can use this advice to plan their strategy for the remainder of the holiday season and beyond. Watch the recording below or read on for a summary of the stream.

The Lead-up to Q4 2021

Before we dive into the data, it’s important to understand 2021 as a whole and gain perspective on e-commerce shifts in the wider retail market.

Advertising strategies and e-commerce channels were affected by these shifts in shopping behavior and the continuing rise of several platforms. We identified five main points that impacted holiday shopping in 2021:

  • E-commerce Resilience
  • Physical Stores Reopening
  • Amazon’s Dominance
  • Apple, Facebook, and Digital Privacy
  • Supply Chain Disruption Fragility

The pandemic caused a major shift in online buying for consumers at the beginning of 2020. One question we heard often this year is how retail marketers could use this massive spike in purchases to influence their 2021 strategy. According to eMarketer, retail e-commerce sales grew 32.4% year over year in 2020.

Source: eMarketer

One of the greatest trends that we’re seeing in e-commerce is that we’re continuing to build off that baseline at Sidecar. E-commerce sales as a percentage of retail sales continues to grow, and our customers are using lessons from 2020–what sold well, what didn’t sell well–to get a better sense of their checkout process and how to remarket customers.

Another factor in lesser year-over-year e-commerce sales was the return of in-store shopping. Store re-openings pushed retailers to think about other avenues other than e-sales, like BOPIS, curbside delivery, and just-in-time inventory. Customers want this hybrid, omnichannel experience and retailers must consider delivering on it.

Watch the complete Sidecar Live broadcast to hear Jonathan and myself dive deeper into these main points.

The Main Event (Cyber 5 2021)

In the below graphic provided by Adobe Analytics, year-over-year sales growth flattened in 2021. At Sidecar, we saw similar patterns in the Google channel regarding retailer spend and revenue during Cyber 5. eMarketer reported a -2% decrease in sales year over year in 2021, while we saw year-over-year customer revenue decline 1% during Cyber Five this year.

Source: Adobe Analytics

“One thing to remember when looking at these graphs is that the retail market was very different in 2020,” says Jonathan. “We saw this huge surge in e-commerce and many stores were still closed, so revenue flattening doesn’t mean that 2021 wasn’t a successful year.”

He continued, “Just because we saw a decrease in revenue during Cyber 5 year over year doesn’t mean the retail industry had a bad Q4. There were increases of 10-15% in sales starting November 1 and there was a redistribution in shopping behavior. Consumers are shopping earlier and relying on omnichannel to make their purchases.”

Lessons Learned During Cyber 5 2021

When reviewing Cyber 5 2021 performance, make sure you apply it to future planning for the upcoming year. E-commerce continues to change and so should your digital advertising strategy. We’ve highlighted three takeaways from Cyber 5 and the general shift in e-commerce

  • Channel Diversity – retailers who advertise exclusively in one channel may be susceptible to major ebbs and flows in performance. We suggest testing various channels to understand which products excel and which business initiatives make the most sense. 
  • Be Nimble: Maintain Some Manual Control – automated tools are getting better, but it doesn’t mean that they are cure-alls for what overall performance and business health looks like. We recommend keeping some campaigns manual so you can always test and have a better idea of what data you’re collecting.
  • Omnichannel Is Here to Stay – for those who have the opportunity to explore omnichannel, set aside a monthly budget to experiment with different channels–LIAs are a great place to start for retailers with physical stores–and get a sense for what return in those campaigns looks like.
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