By Rebekah Schelfhout

Cyber Monday was coined by marketing agencies in the United States back in 2005 to try to get more people shopping online via large discount offerings and flash sales. It's always the first Monday after the thanksgiving holiday in the USA and follows suit on the same day in the UK.

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Black Friday is generally known to offer better deals on technology products and is the Friday preceding Cyber Monday. This offer day has traditionally been mainly offline with many stores in the US opening at 5am to cope with demand from this busy shopping day. Over the last few years retailers like Amazon have brought the concept online with their amazing lightning deals happening every hour and this concept has spread like wildfire to other online retailers in the USA.

These days are both huge shopping weekends as they are centred around payday and are generally when people will get a lot of their Christmas shopping done.

Cyber Monday interest over time

You can see from the Google trends chart below that in the USA searches for "Cyber Monday" started in 2005 and peaked in 2012. This doesn't mean Cyber Monday isn't still huge in the USA, but I would take it to mean that people no longer need to search specifically for Cyber Monday deals, they expect all their usual stores to have the deals on so they just search normally expecting to see discounts advertised.

Cyber Monday USA search trend

In the UK we were a little late to the party and people only started searching for "Cyber Monday" in 2007, it really didn't take off here until 2013 where we saw a surge in interest in the term online. This is different to in the US where demand for the search term has declined in recent years. This shows that in the UK people are still learning about Cyber Monday and researching it by typing in the exact term. We might experience the same decline on this search term in the coming years as people grow wiser to advertising during this period.

Cyber Monday UK search trend

Black Friday interest over time

Demand for Black Friday searches have been high in the USA since 2005 as shown by Google Trends below. Unlike with Cyber Monday though this interest has remained high over the past 4 years.

Black Friday USA search trend

This isn't the same story in the UK. Though Google Trends shows interest started in the UK in 2010 most people had never heard of Black Friday until 2014. Demand spiked for this term and as the next sections show it has fast become the largest trading day of the year for online retailers!

Black Friday UK search trend

Though black Friday is traditionally known for special offers on technology deals as mentioned earlier, this year it was fair game for all with adverts for Black Friday appearing across all retail verticals. It's even coming up in the recommended searches within Google now with people specifically looking for these deals in the UK. This concept is something which has been embraced by advertisers who plastered it all over their websites, online and offline advertising this year, thus spreading awareness of this day to the UK market.

Google suggest results for UK Black Friday search

Performance in the retail sector

The following charts in this section show combined data from 20 AdWords accounts in the UK retail sector across different verticals.

Cyber Monday and Black Friday trends for retail

The most interesting point here is that although impressions were higher on Cyber Monday, sales peaked on Black Friday in 2014. This is the first time I've seen this happen in the UK!

This coincides with the fact that advertisers were pre advertising black Friday discounts this year and it also fell in line with the last payday before Christmas for most people. It could be that this year Black Friday dwarfed Cyber Monday in terms of sales because people already took advantage of the discounts and carried out most of their shopping on Friday so were all shopped out by Monday already! Cyber Monday still saw a good peak but nothing in comparison to the Friday.

This data ties in with the "Black Friday madness" we saw this year with people literally fighting in our stores to get their hands on the products that were on offer. This quote from The Independent shows how the craziness from the US swept across the pond this year: "South Wales Police said they attended a supermarket twice with concerns over "customer conduct" and footage of chaotic scenes in Belfast showed people trying to wrestle discounted electrical goods off other shoppers."

My feeling is the shoppers in the UK purchased on Friday already as they were afraid of missing out on deals. By the time Cyber Monday came around a lot of people had already made their purchases. There were of course some anomaly situations where accounts only advertised a Cyber Monday deal and not a Black Friday deal in which case sales were higher on Monday but this was a small proportion of the data set.

Black Friday conversions trend for retail

In comparison to previous years both Cyber Monday and the Sunday before saw equal volumes in conversions overall across the selected accounts. This could be due to companies carrying out deals that lasted Friday till Monday this year to take advantage both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This was the case for quite a few of the advertisers in the data set.

Performance from the fashion vertical

Having honed in on a selection of accounts in the UK fashion sector the results tell an interesting story.

Impressions peaked on both black Friday and cyber Monday this year and then declined till sales started after Christmas Day.

Black Friday & Cyber Monday trends for fashion

This differed from last year where there was no peak for Black Friday! This year Google Shopping was much bigger than last year so this will account for some of the higher impressions year on year however it's still interesting to see that the peak came later last year with more people searching on Cyber Monday as opposed to Black Friday which didn't experience any peaks in searches in 2013.

Year on year Cyber Monday search trends

Despite the impression peak for our clients being slightly higher for Cyber Monday, sales heavily peaked on Black Friday this year proving that this is the new highlight of the year when it comes to conversion activity for fashion.

Fashion sales trend for Cyber Monday & Black Friday

Pia Stanchina, Fashion Retail Industry Manager at Google backs up this data by stating that "Interest in Black Friday in the UK grew +500% YoY from 2013 to 2014. For Apparel, the YoY growth was highest on Black Friday itself when we saw YoY query growth of 62%. Mobile was the driver of growth for Apparel this year with the percentage of queries from mobile jumping on Thursday and Friday as people used their phones to search for deals. We saw the highest proportion of queries coming from mobiles on Saturday with 40% of traffic coming from smartphones. Apparel queries picked up later in the day than in other categories, interesting to know in regard to the phasing of daily budgets."

Performance from the luxury vertical

It's also interesting to look at the luxury vertical where discounts aren't so frequently available.

The particular retailer below only had an offer on Cyber Monday so used a countdown script from Black Friday to count down to the sale starting on Cyber Monday. This meant people could see in their ads how many hours until the sale started and on the day they saw hour many hours and minutes until the sale ended, creating a sense of urgency.

This worked a treat for them as they sell very expensive products so letting people know a sale was coming meant more people bought on the Monday.

Cyber Monday trends for the luxury vertical

What should you take from this data?

  • Be prepared for Black Friday. Many advertisers held separate deals for Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year and the consumers have cottoned onto this.
  • Use the terms Black Friday in your advertising. This term was everywhere this year & this is why search volumes for it went up. People expect a discount and they want a good one at that.
Black Friday sale advert
  • The standard deal in the UK this year appeared to be 30% off. Everywhere you looked Black Friday was offering you 30% off so make sure you are competing on a level playing field. If you only decide to offer 10% off, when you usually do that for other promotional periods you're not going to maximise your success on this crucial trading day. Be bold and reap the rewards.
  • If you are going to use promotional codes, make sure they are memorable and short. You don't want them to take up half of your ad copy.
  • Create hype about your promotions. Countdown ads created by ad customisers within AdWords weren't very big this year and when browsing about ahead of the cyber weekend I didn't see many examples on the Google search engine. AdWords released a new widget to make these types of ads easier to set up in December 2014 so there's no reason to not be utilising these in 2015. You can use these to build hype in the run up to your sales but also to create a sense of urgency while the sale is on as in the example below:
Cyber Monday AdWords countdown ad
  • You could also be using these ad customisers to count down final delivery dates before Christmas to try to create a sense of urgency.
  • The term Cyber Monday itself is growing in popularity. Capitalise on this by advertising on this term in combination with remarketing lists for search ads. That way you're more inclined to achieve a higher clickthrough rate and conversion rate as they already know your brand and they'll be excited to see you have a promotion running just when they're looking for Cyber Monday/Black Friday deals.
  • Be sure to gain maximum impression volumes over this period. Save enough budget for this key trading weekend and expand daily budget caps to ensure you're gaining all the impressions you can. You don't want to miss out on any sales due to limited budgets!
  • Co-ordinate your marketing efforts, if you also run email marketing, offline remarketing etc make sure you're all showing the same promotions to achieve maximum impact.
  • Use the terms Cyber Monday & Black Friday in your text/image adverts. People are more aware of these terms now and will be aware that it will mean there are good deals coming their way if they go through to your site.
  • You could also be using these ad customisers to count down final delivery dates before Christmas to try to create a sense of urgency.
  • The term Cyber Monday itself is growing in popularity. Capitalise on this by advertising on this term in combination with remarketing lists for search ads. That way you're more inclined to achieve a higher clickthrough rate and conversion rate as they already know your brand and they'll be excited to see you have a promotion running just when they're looking for Cyber Monday/Black Friday deals.
  • Be sure to gain maximum impression volumes over this period. Save enough budget for this key trading weekend and expand daily budget caps to ensure you're gaining all the impressions you can. You don't want to miss out on any sales due to limited budgets!
  • Co-ordinate your marketing efforts, if you also run email marketing, offline remarketing etc make sure you're all showing the same promotions to achieve maximum impact.
  • Use the terms Cyber Monday & Black Friday in your text/image adverts. People are more aware of these terms now and will be aware that it will mean there are good deals coming their way if they go through to your site.
  • Analyse your results for mobile from that period to see how much traffic & conversions came in from mobile devices. Use the estimated total conversions columns in AdWords to try to see the fuller picture from mobile sales. It could be you need to increase your mobile bid modifiers over this period as competition heats up. If you don't have a mobile responsive site yet – get one this year!
  • Be sure to also look into other dimensions such as time of day to get a better picture of what happened with your account over this period on the key days of Black Friday to Cyber Monday. Earlier research I conducted showed that mobile searches peaked on Sunday 29th November, dubbed "Sofa Sunday" between 9pm and 11pm so this would be a key time to increase bid modifiers. Make sure you analyse your own data and have a strategy in place for next year already by Q3.

Overall, results show that Black Friday is now HUGE in the UK and is an opportunity not to be missed by advertisers. Take heed on the suggestions above and make sure you're already thinking about 2015's strategy for this key period in terms of budgets and promotional activity.

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