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The News & Trends Impacting Retailers in the Lead-Up to Cyber Week

4 MINUTE READ | November 16, 2023

The News & Trends Impacting Retailers in the Lead-Up to Cyber Week

The News & Trends Impacting Retailers in the Lead-Up to Cyber Week

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Abby Long

Abby is PMG’s senior managing editor, where she leads the company’s editorial program and manages the PMG Blog and Insights Hub. As a writer, editor, and marketing communications strategist with nearly a decade of experience, Abby's work in showcasing PMG’s unique expertise through POVs, research reports, and thought leadership regularly informs business strategy and media investments for some of the most iconic brands in the world. Named among the AAF Dallas 32 Under 32, her expertise in advertising, media strategy, and consumer trends has been featured in Ad Age, Business Insider, and Digiday.

Early Black Friday deals, loyalty-gated promotions, and excessive window shopping are just a few of the key trends characterizing this holiday season as Cyber Week draws near. PMG brands across categories, from popular apparel and beauty brands to iconic luxury retailers, are seeing promotional messaging play an outsized role in driving early holiday success. 

  • Shoppers remain motivated and eager to browse and window-shop—yet appear to be holding out to ensure they’re getting the best deals of the season before buying online or in stores. 

  • In a PMG analysis of 70+ retailers across categories, nearly 80% of retailers ran sales this past week, up from 70% in late October. 

  • Record-high temperatures across the U.S. and macroeconomic forces continue to influence consumer behavior and shopping patterns this season. Retail sales fell in October for the first time since March, with major retailers such as Target and Home Depot reporting a decline in sales last quarter as consumers pulled back discretionary spending. Inflation has cooled, now at 3.2%; consumer sentiment dipped slightly in October (63.8 in October, down from September’s 67.9). 

Shoppers remain motivated and eager to browse and window-shop—yet appear to be holding out to ensure they’re getting the best deals of the season before buying online or in stores. To capitalize on in-market signals, some PMG retailers pulled their Black Friday deals forward into Veterans Day weekend to great success, effectively kicking off Black Friday savings more than a week ahead of schedule and seeing traffic, conversion, and revenue climb significantly as a result. Other retailers are taking note. Last week, Amazon announced that Black Friday deals will roll out on Friday, November 17, and continue through Cyber Monday. It’s a new approach for the ecommerce giant, which has historically only offered deals and savings during a set 48-hour window. As Retail Brew noted, Amazon’s Black Friday sale didn’t begin until Thanksgiving last year. 

In a PMG analysis of 70+ retailers across categories, nearly 80% of retailers ran sales this past week, up from 70% in late October. Seventeen brands flipped to “Black Friday” messaging across promotions, signaling to customers that early shopping won’t compromise savings. ‘Up to 30-35% off’ continues to be the average discount for select full-price items across retailers. 

Many brands are capitalizing on holiday shopping to promote their loyalty programs, encouraging shoppers to sign up now and start saving ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, offering consumers added value, and, for brands, the opportunity to strengthen their first-party data positioning. Of the 44 observed retailers with a loyalty program, 45 percent ran a loyalty-gated promotion over the last seven days, up from 16 percent the week prior.

More retailers than ever are touting early access to Black Friday deals and savings exclusively to members, driving sign-ups to SMS alerts, app downloads, or loyalty program memberships in order to expand first-party data. Some retailers are offering specialized in-store experiences for loyalty members, with one PMG retailer hosting additional shopping hours and in-store savings exclusively for loyal customers. 

This season, unique historical promotion trends are proving advantageous for several retailers. Despite certain brands traditionally offering fewer promotions than their competitors, some saw impressive results after offering promotions over the Veterans Day weekend. Interestingly, out of 70+ tracked retailers, only four apparel brands offered promotions related to Singles’ Day, indicating low popularity for the sale in the U.S. despite its popularity in APAC markets. According to Fortune, China’s Singles Day festival wrapped up with $156 billion in estimated sales, with Alibaba and reporting growth amid low expectations. 

In the lead-up to Cyber Week, media programs are seeing interesting trends. Across CTV programs, we’re seeing a significant uptick in ad delivery on Thursdays, followed by a slight dip on Fridays that swings back with high delivery rates on Saturdays and Sundays, aligning with live sports schedules and streaming programming across key viewing periods. According to Google, search behavior is quickly mirroring the early marketing of Black Friday sales, with search interest for “early Black Friday deals” up 1500 percent YoY. Performance across owned and paid channels is following similar patterns to last year in terms of historical WoW and YoY gains, with the most notable fluctuations in channel performance largely dependent on promotional messaging strategies. 

Snapchat continues to drive significantly lower costs (CPMs and CPCs) compared to other social platforms, proving its value as a strong traffic driver for various strategies. TikTok, on the other hand, is underperforming in delivering a competitive ROAS despite seeing relatively efficient traffic costs. Based on these trends, TikTok could prove to be an effective priming tool but may fall short in driving demand success during Cyber Week. Across programmatic and brand media, affinity audiences are currently outperforming in-market segments, further signaling that millions of consumers are actively window shopping and researching products while waiting for bigger sales to begin.

National news media continues to center around the latest developments in the Israel-Hamas War, with front-page news, nightly broadcasts, and morning news podcast shows primarily covering geopolitical tensions. Audio CPMs across podcast inventory are ‌impacted by these news topics, seeing WoW jumps (averaging +17%) as competition grows leading into Cyber Week and advertisers navigate brand safety concerns around news coverage of the armed conflict. 

A variety of macroeconomic signals and societal factors continue to influence consumer behavior and shopping patterns, including overall well-being and financial health, weather patterns, cultural trends, and geopolitical tensions, to name a few. 

Record-high temperatures across the U.S. are likely impacting consumer behavior and shopping patterns this season, as unseasonable warmth has left much of November feeling like September instead. The National Weather Service predicts above-average temperatures over much of the central and eastern lower 48 U.S. states during the next two weeks.

A host of economic data released this week: Retail sales fell in October (0.1 percent) from the prior month for the first time since March. Meanwhile, inflation has cooled, now at 3.2 percent. Mastercard SpendingPulse reports eight percent year-over-year growth in ecommerce sales. Continued strength in retail sales, coupled with a rebound in manufacturing and continued deflation, demonstrates consumers are spending—and based on PMG portfolio trends—using a variety of channels to do so. 

Earnings calls are taking place this week for many of the nation’s largest retailers, offering fresh insight into holiday shopping behavior. Wednesday morning, Target shared that consumers have pulled back as they feel the “weight of multiple economic pressures,” like higher interest rates, food prices, and the return of student loan payments.

Target noted that shoppers who previously purchased winter clothes in August and September are holding out until the weather is colder, indicating that weather patterns continue to impact shopping behavior. TJX, which runs TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and Home Goods, stands in contrast to Target and other retailers, reporting that apparel sales “remained very strong” while home-goods sales last quarter were “outstanding.” The off-price retailer expects a successful holiday season thanks to the brand’s “treasure-hunting shopping experience” resonating with deal-seeking consumers.

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Across the PMG portfolio and retail industry, optimism reigns heading into Cyber Week as window shopping quickly translates to brand buzz and sales as deals and promotions launch across retailers in the lead-up to Cyber Week.