A neon Cyber Week sign on a brick background.

Channel Key Clients Outperform Industry Averages During Cyber Week 2021

Ryan Faist

Ryan Faist, Channel Key

December 9, 2021

By now, you’ve probably seen the headlines about Cyber Week 2021. Reporters and analysts used words like lackluster and underwhelming to describe sales results for the most anticipated shopping week of the year. Customers reportedly spent a total of $8.9 billion, falling short of the $9 billion spent in 2020. This marks the first time that Cyber Week sales dropped year-over-year. But not all brands experienced a disappointing shopping weekend. For Channel Key clients, it was quite the opposite.

Cyber Week 2021: Channel Key Client Performance Data

Despite the national decline in total sales, Channel Key clients enjoyed an average year-over-year sales increase of 21.7% during Cyber Week. This growth comes even as total sessions dropped by 14.3%. Overall, most of our clients exceeded their Cyber Week projections. To provide a more granular understanding of how our clients performed, we’ve broken down the data into three subsets in the following table:

Table showing Channel Key performance data for Cyber Week.

One of the most important callouts this season was the overall change in competition among CPC advertising. While ad spend for Sponsored Products and Sponsored Brands increased only modestly from 2020, the average CPC rose significantly during Cyber Week.

According to Pacvue’s 2021 Cyber 5 CPC Report, Sponsored Brands CPC rose 27.22% week-over-week and grew 27% year-over-year on Black Friday. Cyber Monday CPCs for Sponsored Brands rose 34.86% week-over-week and were up 11.32% year-over-year at $2.36. The Saturday and Sunday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday saw Sponsored Brands CPCs up 29.11% and 39.73% in 2021 compared to 2020.

Sponsored Products also saw year-over-year CPC growth this year, increasing 25% on Black Friday and 14.61% on Cyber Monday. This represented a 50.74% week-over-week increase in CPC for Black Friday and a 48.91% increase for Cyber Monday.

Cyber Week 2021: The Good News

The most cited and trusted source for Cyber Week sales figures is Adobe. As part of the Adobe Digital Economy Index, Adobe provides a comprehensive view of U.S. ecommerce by analyzing direct consumer transactions online. Based on Adobe Analytics data, the analysis covers over one trillion visits to U.S. retail sites, 100 million SKUs, and 18 product categories.

Adobe reports that consumers spent a total of $10.7 billion on Cyber Monday this year, which is down 1.4% from the previous year. This is about $100 million short of what shoppers spent in 2020. Still, Cyber Monday has been the largest online shopping day of 2021. In the peak hour (11pm-12am ET), consumers spent a whopping $12 million every minute.

Even with a decline in Cyber Week sales, it is important to note that year-over-year sales for the month of November actually grew. According to Adobe, Americans spent $109.8 billion online from November 1 – 29, an increase of 11.9%.

Lastly, Small Business Saturday was a success. American Express reported that shoppers spent $23.3 billion in the U.S., up 18% from 2020. While ecommerce sales for Small Business Saturday grew by only 2%, the momentum for local shopping remains strong.

Additional Insights for the 2021 Holiday Shopping Season:

  • Shopping Carts Are Getting Larger: Consumers saw the final price point of their shopping carts jump 13.9% on Cyber Monday (up 19% in the season overall). This indicates that some are buying bigger ticket items, such as furniture, while others are feeling the effects of persistent online inflation.
  • Discounts Remain Weak: On Cyber Monday, discount levels for electronics were at –12% (vs –27 percent last year), TVs at –13 percent (vs –18 percent last year), apparel at –18 percent (vs –20 percent last year), sporting goods at –8 percent (vs –20 percent last year), appliances at –8 percent (vs –20 percent last year).
  • Out-of-Stock Remains High: On Cyber Monday, the prevalence of out-of-stock messages was up 8% compared to the previous week. For the month of November, out-of-stock messages are up 169% compared to pre-pandemic levels. Adobe predicts this will persist through the rest of 2021.
  • Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) Sees an Uptick: On Cyber Monday, usage of BNPL sales increased 21%. This is the first time this season that BNPL usage has not slowed.
  • Curbside Pickup Remains Popular: Shoppers opted for curbside pickup in 18% of all online orders on Cyber Monday (for retailers that offer the service), compared 20% last year. The durable demand for curbside pickup continues to show the value of physical stores.
  • Mobile Shopping Hits a Wall: On Cyber Monday, smartphones accounted for just 39.7% of online sales (vs. desktop), up 8.4% YoY. With many consumers working from home, smartphones are losing some of its potential as a major shopping channel. For years, the trajectory showed mobile was on course to surpass the 50% mark in share of online sales, which has since been derailed. According to Adobe, consumers use their phones to browse instead (mobile accounted for 57% share of web visits during Cyber Monday).

Channel Key Takeaway

Despite the strong performance of Channel Key Clients, Cyber Week fell short of expectations across the retail industry. Adobe attributes this decline to several factors unique to the 2021 holiday shopping season. “With early deals in October, consumers were not waiting around for discounts on big shopping days like Cyber Monday and Black Friday,” said Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights, in a statement. “This was further fueled by growing awareness of supply chain challenges and product availability.”

The good news is the shopping season is not over yet. If ecommerce continues its current overall trajectory, Adobe predicts online holiday sales in the U.S. will top $200 billion for the first time. So far, consumers have spent $109.8 billion. That leaves another $90 billion and change up for grabs. With a few weeks to go, there is still time for brands to move the needle forward and close out the year on a high note.

Bar graph showing U.S. holiday spend by year.

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