Black Friday, once famous for early shopping hours, long lines, jam-packed stores, and even the occasional in-store fight looked significantly different in 2023 compared to years past. Most prevalent was a continued shift in consumer behavior toward online shopping and buying throughout Cyber Week, defined as the entire Black Friday to Cyber Monday timeframe.
With this shift in behavior and speculation around the strength of the U.S. economy at the forefront of the news media leading into Cyber Week, one thing is very clear as results from the 4-day shopping period are released, U.S. consumers are still spending.
Specifically, the number of people shopping online rose to 134.2 million this year, up from 130.2 million a year ago. Consumer who shopped at stores fell slightly, from 122.7 million people in 2022 to 121.4 million people according to a survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF).
Spending followed this trend, showing a strength in online sales. On Black Friday, consumers spent $9.8 billion in U.S. online sales, according to Adobe, up 7.5% from a year ago and Cyber Monday topped that, as e-commerce spending in the U.S. totaled $12.4 billion, up 9.6% year over year.
As U.S. consumers loosened their purse strings, new patterns of behavior emerged, influencing growth in both consumers and retailers alike:
Early Start to Deals: As retailers grew nervous consumers wouldn’t show up for Cyber Week they launched deals as early as October, starting to build demand and anticipation for what was to come.
Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL): Shoppers used BNPL services for a record number of purchases on Cyber Monday, spending $940 million online, according to Adobe Analytics. BNPL usage was up 42.5% compared to last year and consumers purchased more items per BNPL transaction, up 11% year over year.
No “It” Products: According to Adobe, Consumer Electronics (+171%), Apparel (+154%), Appliances (+129%), Toys (+122%), Jewelry (+113%), Personal Care Products (+90%), and Furniture (+84%) all saw year over year sales increases, but no one category or specific product stood out.
New Sales Channels: Amazon aired the NFL’s first-ever Black Friday game exclusively on its Prime streaming service as part of its “Thursday Night Football” agreement. To help promote deals, the broadcast featured a bevy of QR codes during a matchup between the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins. On Tuesday, immediately following Cyber Monday, Walmart launched “Add to Heart,” a first-of-its-kind shoppable commercial series featuring items at the top of holiday wish lists, making it seamless for customers to watch, shop and swoon with each scene.
Despite certain corners of TikTok portraying a narrative of millennials reminiscing about the Black Friday chaos of yesteryears and a viral video revealing that Target's Black Friday pricing matched its non-Black Friday pricing, the numbers affirm that the official start of the holiday shopping season was a success. Yet, the question remains: How will the rest of the season unfold?
Continued Sales Growth: According to NRF, total holiday sales are expected to grow 3 – 4% over 2022 while online sales are anticipated to grow 7 – 9% year over year. U.S. consumers are showing economic resilience that will help drive growth, but they will continue to seek out deals and leverage services such as BNPL to stretch their dollars.
On-Going Deals: Retailers will continue to discount throughout the season to capture consumer spend and avoid inventory gluts at year end. This has been apparent in the days following Cyber Week with an influx “extended” deals and can only be expected to continue into December and in the weeks following December 25th.
Shift from Goods to Services: Spending on services such as travel and leisure is strong and growing faster than goods. As consumers diversify what their buying and gifting the amount spent on services will likely reach pre-pandemic levels, not to mention these categories are primarily purchased online, driving up ecommerce sales.
Commerce Everywhere: Just as Amazon and Walmart launched new shopping experiences surrounding Cyber Week, brands and retailers alike will continue to look for opportunities to make an impact with consumers through shoppable experiences, social commerce, live shopping and more.
While Black Friday may not have been the lines and fights of years past, Cyber Week results indicate a strong holiday season ahead as brands and consumers alike adopt to new behaviors and an everchanging marketplace.