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Shoppers crowding into and out of a store on Black Friday
November 30, 2023 - By Barron Rosborough

Hawke AI Report: A Shifting BFCM Paradigm

Spreading Sales Across November

The Black Friday and Cyber Monday season is stretching beyond its traditional boundaries, turning into a month-long event. This year, sales were more evenly distributed throughout November. The first week of November alone showcased a significant jump in sales compared to last year, marking a departure from the concentrated sales period of the past.

The Surge in Early November Sales

A notable change this season was the increased volume of sales in the early days of November, even surpassing last year’s figures for the same period. This shift indicates that consumers are engaging in shopping activities well before the typical Black Friday and Cyber Monday rush.

Web Traffic Trends and Transaction Rates

An interesting pattern emerged in web traffic and transaction rates. Before BFCM, there was a visible increase in website sessions but a decrease in transactions, suggesting that consumers were scouting for deals rather than making immediate purchases. However, the transaction rate spiked significantly as BFCM approached, doubling between Thursday and Friday, indicating a shift from browsing to buying. Notably, in the first half of November, the transaction rate was slightly lower than in 2022, but it equalized in the following weeks.

Lifecycle Marketing: The Importance of Brand Familiarity

Lifecycle marketing emerged as a key player, with 42% of transactions originating from channels indicating pre-existing brand familiarity. This underscores the significance of building and maintaining brand relationships throughout the year and the effectiveness of remarketing, especially on social media platforms.

Paid Media: A Strategic Shift

In the realm of paid media, a strategic shift was evident. More investment flowed into platforms like Meta, resulting in a substantial increase in clicks, which outpaced the growth in media spend. This suggests a more efficient cost-per-click on Meta. In contrast, Google’s media spend remained relatively flat, with a decline in clicks. Despite these trends, Google Analytics 4 reported a higher attribution contribution from paid search compared to paid social, a curious discrepancy given the ad platform indicators.

As we step into the future, these insights from the BFCM period serve as a guidepost for brands navigating the ever-changing retail environment. The key to success lies not just in reacting to these trends, but in proactively embracing them, crafting strategies that are as dynamic and multifaceted as the marketplace itself.

At A Glance

Revenue Data

  • It is truly becoming a more month-long experience as revenue is now distributed throughout the month more evenly 
    • We saw more sales in the first week of November than we did last year (ie early BFCM). Revenue in the first week of November represented 18% of sales in November (up to Nov 28) compared to only 11% last year. 
    • The last Tuesday-Monday of the week grew in revenue by 6% compared to last year. This growth was driven by increased YoY sales on the days around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. For example Saturday and Sunday averaged growth of 11% YoY, while Cyber Monday and Black Friday were both down between 1-2%. 

Web Traffic 

  • Communicating/sharing out deals in advance is needed in order to capture the attention of browsers before transaction rates spike 
    • browsing/scouting the week before BFCM is visible (increase in sessions, decrease in transactions). People looking for info on deals and scouting making transaction rate drop, and then surge with big intent. 
      • For example, in the first half of November, the transaction rate was .5% less than it was in 2022, but was the same in 2023 as it was in 2022 for the following two weeks. Transaction rate doubled from 2.2% to 4.3% between Thursday and Friday. 
      • This likely indicated people had already done their browsing and were ‘ready-to-buy’  

Lifecycle Marketing 

  • Distribution of channels indicates importance of sustainable marketing efforts throughout the year and lead up 
    • 42% of transactions came from channels that indicate brand familiarity already existed 
    • Remarketing pools are also important to build up, especially on social channels. This comes into play in the paid media section below. 

Paid Media 

  • Big shift in paid search vs paid social 
    • more spend going to Meta, and the results supported it – clicks went up 2x more than media spend, indicating that CPC likely did not see significant pressure on Meta. 
    • Google on the other hand saw media spend that was relatively flat, and clicks moved down by more than that. 
    • What’s interesting is GA4 was reporting a bigger attribution contribution by paid search (20%) than paid social (14%), despite the respective ad platform indicators showing otherwise.