Black Friday sales numbers: Making data-driven decisions for 2022

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After the roller coaster that was 2020, retailers had high hopes that the online growth they experienced during the pandemic would endure, even while in-person shopping gathered steam as the crisis eased. Instead, the pandemic hasn’t ended, consumer spending remains high, but supply chain issues are causing new challenges. You may be asking yourself what this means for the coming year.

A comprehensive view of 2021 Black Friday stats and trends will help you understand how commerce has changed and where it’s going, so you can develop the best strategies for the future. The Adobe 2021 Holiday Shopping report provides an exclusive look at this year’s Black Friday trends so you can plan for the rest of the holiday season and the coming year.

Top-selling products on Black Friday

No matter what your specialty is, it’s important to pay attention to what shoppers are buying — understanding what’s selling helps you discern where consumer interest is headed. Top sellers during the holiday shopping season are an excellent indicator of buyer priorities in the coming year.

Last year, sales spiked in nearly every category during the week of Thanksgiving after a slow lead-up. Toys and video games sales also spike beginning on Black Friday.

Leading into this year’s holiday shopping season, top products included toys such as Pop Fidget toys, Got2Glow Fairy Finder, and Bluey toys. Electronics like Samsung and TCL televisions and PlayStation 5 started trending early as well.

Those favorites were unseated by new favorites on Black Friday:

These top products — more in line with what holiday spending has traditionally favored — are a good indication that consumers remain focused on catching holiday gifting deals. Commerce leaders may be in for fewer surprises in 2022 when it comes to holiday shopping.

Online Black Friday sales vs. in-store sales

Throughout 2020, consumers leaned into online shopping as a matter of necessity. The trend reached a peak during the holiday season when retailers saw two years’ worth of growth. The trend toward online shopping continued through 2021, and this year’s Black Friday sales confirmed the trend:

With overall spending from November 1 to November 29 up 11.9 percent over the last year, and desktop conversions more than doubled.

Numbers for curbside pickup options tell a similar story. Black Friday didn’t see a huge spike in curbside pickups, but it held the line at 70 percent higher than pre-pandemic (2019) holiday seasons.

As ecommerce continues to grow, there might be no more vital tool than the smartphone. Mobile access to online retailers and ordering options have made the phone a crucial tool in the shopping habits of consumers and the stats bear that out.

But it’s not just purchasing. People are increasingly using their smartphones to find nearby retail locations, check local inventories, confirm store hours, compare prices, and pay.

In the first half of November, consumers spent $17.5 billion using their smartphones, or 41.5 percent of the total revenue share. Shoppers used smartphones for 59.7 percent of all digital visits to retailers.

Mobile shopping continued that trend through Black Friday:

In contrast to last year’s holiday season, people are out and about much more this year, once again congregating and shopping indoors together. They haven’t, however, stopped using their mobile devices to shop.

Shipping and stockouts leading up to Black Friday

Commerce leaders knew coming into Black Friday 2021 that logistics would need careful management. We cautioned retailers about stockouts and shipping rates, and those predictions have been borne out in the early holiday shopping season.

For example, shoppers saw 250 percent more out-of-stock messages in October of this year than they did in January of 2020, the most recent pre-pandemic period. Compared to two holiday seasons ago, it’s an increase of 325 percent. In total, that’s more than 2 billion out-of-stock messages in October alone. Out-of-stock messages were up 124 percent from November 1 through Black Friday when compared to pre-pandemic levels. Of the categories tracked by Adobe, appliances, electronics, house-keeping supplies, and home and garden had the highest put-of-stock levels. Of the categories tracked by Adobe, electronics has the highest out-of-stock levels.

Discounts were another area where the unique circumstances of 2021 are changed things up for Black Friday this year. Because of shortages and high demand, discounts on major shopping days this year have been weaker than usual.

While consumers got a bit of a break on Black Friday, the trend continued through the start of the holiday shopping season this year:

Many retailers face difficult decisions regarding discounts this holiday season — and the trend will continue as logistical challenges persist into 2022.

Looking back to move forward: Black Friday stats for data-driven decisions

Black Friday 2021 provides an important window into the rest of the holiday shopping season and the start of 2022. This is our second holiday shopping season during a pandemic, the era during which we figure out what combination of online, socially distanced, and in-person activities we feel most comfortable with.

Online and mobile shopping have been growing for the past two years, but they accelerated substantially in 2020 due to the pandemic. This holiday season is expected to bring in more than $200 billion for the first time, but changes in public health requirements, shutdowns, and supply chain factors mean things can change quickly. So far, however, these shopping and revenue trends continue — with big implications for 2022.

Where some brands and retailers may have expected these trends to reverse after 2020, we now know that it’s time to make more long-term plans for a few key trends:

1. Stockouts and shortages

Shipping rates may begin to ease as we leave the holiday season behind, but stockouts will probably be a challenge for some time still. Take note of strategies and tactics that helped you or your competitors manage the intersection of CX and product shortages, and make sure they’re part of your strategy in 2022.

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Buy-online-pickup-in-store services saw a sharp rise in 2020 — up 40 percent over 2019. The trend is expected to continue through the 2021 holiday season, but don’t expect it to fade away in 2022. As consumers become more accustomed to this option, and the technology to facilitate it continues to improve, commerce leaders need to plan for it long-term.

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3. Discounts

Consumers expect discounts and price cuts, especially during holiday shopping, and retailers know it’s a key strategy to increase sales. Doing it effectively this season and into 2022 is only going to be possible with the best data and analytics. Retailers can’t afford to guess or rely on best practices developed during stronger economic times.

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Understanding Black Friday 2021 stats will help you understand how commerce is changing so you can develop the best strategies for success. The holiday shopping season is a major event for most retailers, but it is largely wasted if we don’t learn from the data to prepare for what’s next.

For the best tools to plan your end-of-year success and start 2022 on the best possible footing, view Adobe’s 2021 Holiday Shopping Trends and Insights report.