Black Friday/Cyber Monday 2021 Breakdown: The facts, figures, and lessons

Here in an instant, gone in a flash - Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend is officially over.

The figures and stats coming out of Shopify HQ today are incredibly impressive, especially in another year full of uncertainty and unpredictable obstacles. Before diving into those figures, it’s worth remembering exactly what merchants and retailers around the world have had to contend with over the last couple of years. 

In 2020, there was of course massive global disruption due to the Covid19 pandemic. This meant more online shopping, less foot traffic, and when combined with record high unemployment and the US election causing political uncertainty, it wasn’t the easiest to navigate. And yet, Black Friday weekend 2020 was a record year.

So this year, in 2021, many would have hoped that they’d be in for a slightly easier ride. Enter the monster that is supply chain issues. Worldwide container shortages, bottlenecks at key international ports, labor shortages in last-mile and domestic fulfillment - just to name a few of the huge problems. This meant stock position uncertainty, which is most definitely not welcome coming into the holiday shopping season. Add to that more uncertainty around the still ongoing pandemic, plus other international logistics nightmares like Brexit, and huge competition from big box retailers. Heading into Black Friday 2021, it was looking like a massive uphill battle.

And yet, they’ve totally hit it out of the park for another year in a row. 

Let’s take a look at the statistics and figures.

Total global sales at a record high, again

Let’s cut straight to the chase with the biggest number everyone wants to know:

Across Shopify merchants, total global sales topped $6.3 Billion over BFCM weekend. To put that into perspective, Shopify merchants made more on Black Friday itself alone than across the entire 2019 BFCM weekend. 


Impressive peak sales and smashing targets

We’re not quite finished with the crazy figures just yet - let’s talk peak sales. 

At 12:02pm on Friday 26th November, total global sales topped $3.1 million every minute. That’s an almost unbelievable volume of orders - in fact if we hadn’t been religiously checking the live map we may not have believed it ourselves.

That’s not all - by just 4am EST on Black Friday, Shopify merchants globally reached the $1 Billion mark. While much of the US was still nursing their Thanksgiving food babies, the rest of the world was fast at work breaking BFCM records. In fact, that billion dollar figure was surpassed 4 hours earlier in 2021 than in 2020. 

Average order value on the rise  

So let’s zoom in a little bit and put those big numbers into perspective. 

Global consumers spent $100.70 per order on average throughout Black Friday / Cyber Monday weekend - up from $90.70 in 2020. Here’s who spent the most on average:

  • Canada - $115.14 CAD
  • Australia - $158.80 AUD
  • United States - $96.60 USD

Remember - that’s per order, not what they spent overall. It will be interesting to see how this shapes up against total BFCM spending.

So how can merchants use this information to better their strategies in the new year?

  • Look at your own BFCM cart value data - How does your data compare to last year? How does it compare to the rest of the holiday season so far? Looking at your own data and benchmarking against comparable periods will give you a clearer picture of your performance over BFCM weekend. Be sure to look at what you did differently this year vs last - did you have different products on sale, offer different promotions etc.

  • Examine cart contents - What were most commonly abandoned, and what were your best sellers? How does this compare to weeks leading up to Black Friday? Which products were most commonly bought on promotion? By answering these questions, you’ll learn a lot more about your products, their price point, and value proposition.

  • Look at out-of-stocks - Did you run out of inventory over BFCM weekend? If so, what did the path look like for customers when they were faced with an out-of-stock. How many abandoned carts did you see as a result of this out-of-stock product? If you didn't already have one in place, analyzing the impact of stock availability can help you to build a better out of stock strategy.

  • Analyze your audience - What was the split of returning vs new customers? What were the common purchases in these segments? Which promotions did each take advantage of? This will tell you a lot about what promotions and products most interest your different audience segments.

Even more customers supported independent and DTC stores 

Discovering a new business is exciting. When you can get behind their products, believe in their values, and love their customer experience, it’s a winner all round. And it would seem that many customers globally found that with Shopify merchants this BFCM weekend.

47 million customers shopped with independent and DTC businesses powered by Shopify over BFCM 2021

Those customers make a huge difference to the businesses they buy from, and that’s why it’s so important to take care of them after the holidays are long over. Those customers could easily become loyal to your store, if you treat them right.

  • Use personalization to tailor content - Throughout the year, customers receive a whole host of different marketing materials and messaging in their inbox and on social media ads. Stand out from the crowd by giving them what they want - personalized content. Use store data to tailor the messaging, product recommendations, and experience each customer receives so they know if they go to your store, you’ll give them an experience made especially for them.

  • Deliver an amazing post-purchase experience - Use every tool at your disposal to make the post-purchase experience as easy as possible for the customer. That doesn’t just mean a great unboxing experience, but also what happens from the moment their order is confirmed. Use tools such as real time tracking, proactive customer support emails, and ongoing communication to ensure the customer is never worried about their order arriving on time.

  • Implement a strong retention strategy - If a customer ordered from your store over Black Friday weekend, and they never hear from your brand again except for a few marketing campaigns, they’ll not have much reason to take notice and shop again. Employ an approach to retention that delivers value to your customers - use email marketing, SMS, and loyalty programs to make your customers actually want to come back.

Black Friday - an international event 

Earlier we mentioned that sales had already surpassed $1 Billion by 4am EST, and there’s a good reason behind that - Black Friday is a global event. What started as a holiday tradition in North America has fast spread across the globe, and eager shoppers everywhere join in. 

Cross-border purchases totalled 15% of all BFCM sales in 2021. People all over the world are not only shopping within their own countries, but they’re buying beyond their borders. 

International development is an exciting prospect for any business, but it has to be done right so that your international customers get the same treatment as your domestic ones. 

  • Consider your supply chain - First and foremost, you need to consider how international orders will be warehoused and fulfilled. How much will shipping cost? What other import fees are involved? Any extra paperwork? Who will your last-mile partner be? Are there are any legal restrictions on ingredients/materials involved in your products?

  • Localize the experience - People prefer to pay in their own currency, with the payment gateway they most commonly use, and browse in their native language. They also like to receive relevant marketing information, at the right time of the day for them. Look at every part of your customer experience from discovery to post-purchase, and ask whether or not it could or should be localized for the region you want to sell into.

Omnichannel shopping habits continue to grow

The way we interact with technology has shaped how we shop. In 2020, we relied on online shopping more as in-person shopping was restricted. That led to significant growth in ecommerce, not only in sales but also in the businesses that were once offline only getting online. We developed new ways to reach customers, be that subscriptions, “buy online pick up in store”, curbside pickup, and more. In 2021, we seen a further rise in social and mobile commerce. This has all culminated in increased consumer expectations over how and where they can shop. 

And that was reflected in the rise of mobile and social commerce over BFCM 2021.

Mobile purchases accounted for 71% of all sales on BFCM weekend.

Not only that, but purchases as a result of social integrations tripled.

People want to shop anywhere, and everywhere. Multiple touchpoints, across channels, on several devices and platforms. It’s up to merchants to facilitate that, and the ones who make it easy will come out on top.

In the coming year, it’ll be important more than ever to examine your sales channel structure and how you can remove any points of friction to create a seamless, fluid shopping experience. The more work you put in early in the year, the better prepared you will be come BFCM 2022.

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