Black Friday and Cyber Monday are ostensibly the two largest shopping days of the year — especially for ecommerce. This year felt even more insane than any previous year, with Black Friday sales starting almost a week before Thanksgiving, and a barrage of sales emails coming from every direction — from Walmart to the artisanal coffee roaster down the street.
In the last two weeks, I received no less than 250 Black Friday emails, which are now warming my trash folder.
So with this bombardment of Black Friday commercialism, how did this year stack up? Let’s dive in and find out if Black Friday was worth it.
What is Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Black Friday is almost impossible to avoid, and if you have no idea what Black Friday is, consider yourself among the lucky.
Black Friday is the day after U.S. Thanksgiving, and since 1952 has been considered the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. While many people assume that the name Black Friday refers to retailers beginning to turn a profit (thus going from being “in the red” to “in the black”) the term was originated in 1961 Philadelphia, where it was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic that would occur on the day after Thanksgiving.
Why is Black Friday Important?
Well, according to the Shop.org/Bizrate Research 2005 eHoliday Mood Study, “77 percent of online retailers said that their sales increased substantially on the Monday after Thanksgiving, a trend that is driving serious online discounts and promotions on Cyber Monday this year (2005)”.
It’s the time of the year when sales and commercialism is in full swing — and everything is on sale, from books to beanie babies to $2500 online courses. Between increased competition, increased sales cycles and ever lowering prices, there are a multitude of tactics that retailers have used to increase their year-end-revenue during the pre-Christmas buying rush.
According to OpenX, 41% of U.S. consumers will make a purchase on Black Friday, while a report from Adobe states an increase of 23.6% in online purchases, totaling $6.2 billion.
In order to protect the confidentiality of customer data and marketing strategies, the following information is taken in aggregate from 39 Infusionsoft accounts who have agreed to anonymously share their Black Friday data. No email addresses, products purchased, nor any personally identifiable information were used in the analysis. All sales and marketing funnel data was combined for analytical purposes.
When we refer to “Black Friday” in this report, we’re talking about the 5-day Black Friday weekend, from Thursday Morning (Thanksgiving) until Monday at Midnight (Cyber Monday). We’ll also be ignoring any revenue generated from recurring purchases or subscriptions created before that timeframe.
Finally, it’s key to keep in mind that the data we’re looking at are predominantly for info-products and personality-based brands. In our research with our Shopify connections, we see that e-commerce (physical) sales were a completely different beast.
See the full report here: https://www.shopify.com/blog/black-friday-cyber-monday-2018
In this article, we’ll go through:
- If Lead Generation during Black Friday Makes Sense
- Comparing Sales and Revenue
- Is Black Friday Really Worth It?
- Moving Black Friday to October
- Secret Black Friday Value through Recurring Revenue
- Credit Cards and Product Pricing Strategies
Detail On the Companies
Historically, the data that we’re looking at are companies with annual revenue that ranges from $500k to $5M. Fairly middle of the road when looking at successful info-product companies.
- Average list Size: 202,000
- Average Yearly Revenue (2017): $1.5 Million
Lead Generation: Does it Make Sense?
Generally when people think of Black Friday, they focus only on the sales and revenue generation. However, could Black Friday also be an opportunity for growing your list?
Let’s look at new leads during Black Friday:
|2018 Black Friday New Leads||115 Leads per day|
|2017 Black Friday New Leads||83 Leads per day|
|2018 Average New Leads||125 Leads per day|
Survey says NO.
In fact, if you have solid lead generation strategies for the remainder of the year, on average you’re doing 8% better than trying to generate leads on Black Friday.
But obviously those new leads are going to convert to customers, right?
Again, survey says no.
The percent of new leads who also become customers is only around 4% — which, during any other time of the year, would be a great conversion rate, but considering this is the largest shopping day of the year, feels a little lackluster.
You should be striving for a 4% lead to conversion rate on your standard marketing funnels (90-day funnel, nurture sequence, etc). With only a 4% conversion rate for new leads to customers, combined with the low daily optin rate, the results are pretty clear:
Don’t try to build your list during Black Friday. Focus on sales.
Comparing Sales and Revenue
Since Lead Gen is obviously a wash, let’s turn and look at what might be the most important metric for Black Friday and Cyber Monday: How much did we sell?
In 2017, Cyber Monday online sales grew to a record $6.59 billion, compared with $2.98 billion in 2015, and $2.65 billion in 2014.
Those are gigantic numbers, but let’s look at the average order value — a number that is key to revenue generation no matter what size your company is.
In 2017, the average order value was $128, down slightly from 2014’s $160.
How did our data do?
2018 Black Friday Average Order Value: $279
That’s a healthy average order value, and speaks to the fact that most personality brands are not selling $10 toothbrushes. So, how does that compare to last year?
2017 Black Friday Average Order Value: $251
That’s an 11% increase in average order value over last year! Excellent!
When Did Those Sales Come in?
Now that we know this year’s AOV, let’s look at how that revenue came in over the Black Friday weekend. Remember, the key to sales is the right product to the right person at the right time.
Number of orders (2018 Black Friday)
Wow, Cyber Monday really saved Black Friday’s bacon this year. We’re looking at over three times as many sales on Cyber Monday than for Black Friday. This is the opposite of what you would expect to see since all the emails are focused on Friday and weekend sales.
So why are we seeing such a huge burst in Cyber Monday sales when most of the offers are for Black Friday?
In the info product world, it comes down to two major factors:
- Tons of competition on similar products during Black Friday — which means lots of chances for your sales emails to get lost in an inbox.
- Last Chance Offers are a staple of product marketing, and a cart “reopen” on Monday pays big dividends.
So, things are looking good! But how do they compare to last year (and our standard sales cycle)?
|2018 Black Friday Orders||621 Orders per day|
|2017 Black Friday Orders||644 Orders per day|
|2018 Average Orders||304 Orders per day|
Hmm. So we had a 3.5% drop in sales from last year. This is a small blip though, so nothing to worry about. We’re looking at a similar sales ratio to last year. What we do want to focus on is the fact that the sales during Black Friday are more than double normal sales for the rest of the year.
BUT (there’s always a but), sales aren’t everything.
We lose money on every sale, but make it up in volume.
So, what was the revenue like when compared to the rest of the year?
Revenue vs Sales: Is Black Friday Really Worth It?
Black Friday is all about getting the best deal on a product, so even though Black Friday has doubled the number of products sold, what does the revenue look like?
|2018 Black Friday Revenue||$173,265|
|2017 Black Friday Revenue||$161,929|
|2018 Average Revenue||$145,483|
Well look at that! Even with less sales than last year, revenue is up (and reflected in our average order value).
However, looking at the revenue generated during a normal day, we see that twice the number of sales translates to only an 11.2% increase in revenue.
Let’s look at those Average Order Values again:
|2018 Black Friday Average Order Value||$279|
|2018 Average Order Value||$479|
So we’re looking at a 40% discount which resulted in a doubling of sales.
Net worth? 11% increase in revenue over 5 days.
This is going to be a per-business decision. For many companies sending out the Black Friday sales emails is going to be fairly straight-forward, and an 11% increase in revenue for no extra work is a nice chunk of change.
However, if Black Friday is an all-consuming event that requires a ton of prep work, copy, design and setup, you may want to ask yourself if the revenue increase (not sales) is worth it.
But don’t lose hope! There are two strategies below that will help you understand the hidden value of these Black Friday sales.
2025: Black Friday in October
This year Black Friday seemed to creep earlier than ever (like Christmas music in department stores) and this year Wirecutter, Kinja and others started their Black Friday deal roundup the week before Thanksgiving.
If we follow this trend, we’ll eventually see Black Friday starting in October and continuing until Christmas.
So let’s add in the sales from the previous week, and look at how those compare to actual Black Friday:
Look at that! We actually have a number of days that have sales just as high has black friday (but not cyber monday) well before Black Friday even started.
Let’s see that what looks like the year before
This looks more like what we would be expecting — some people taking the first-mover advantage and selling before Black Friday, but the majority of sales is happening during the Black Friday weekend.
In online marketing, it’s important to stand out from the crowd, and more and more people are starting with “Pre-Black Friday” sales in order to sell in a less crowded market.
It’s a clear trend that selling around Black Friday can be more profitable for online sales than Black Friday itself.
Also it’s important to note that the Black Friday revenue numbers for 2017 were on par with 2018, but Cyber Monday has about 400 fewer sales. What does that mean? It means that Black Friday in 2017 had its revenue spread out more naturally over the entire weekend, where in 2018 sales were more clumped into Cyber Monday and Pre-Black Friday sales.
One key to selling in a competitive market is differentiation — either through product, positioning or timing. We see that more and more companies in our dataset are starting to avoid the over-competitive Black Friday weekend, and are expanding into pre-sale and post-sale strategies. This allows companies to make up for lackluster Black Friday sales by targeting a less crowded sales window.
Secret Black Friday Value through Recurring Revenue
As we all know, the most effective way to generate revenue is to generate RECURRING revenue. This has been a strategy forever, and Black Friday is a great opportunity to get new customers into a recurring purchase at a reduced rate that then makes them more valuable over time.
Remember when we noted that the increase in revenue was only 11% compared to the average yearly sales cycle? What if that lower initial revenue was offset by selling a subscription product, that would create recurring revenue for the next 6 to 12 months?
In fact, that’s exactly where the sales strategy is trending:
Subscriptions make up 46% of all sales made during 2018 Black Friday, compared to only 12% of sales last year being for subscriptions. This is also three times as many subscriptions as during the rest of the year.
Subscription plans are one of the most straightforward ways of generating recurring revenue. Subscriptions also lend themselves to discounts and sales strategies, as discounting the initial month does not significantly diminish the lifetime value of the subscription.
This has been a long-time sales strategy for recurring revenue products, from “0% APR for 12 months” to “Your first month free” — the ease of an upfront transaction is easily offset by the continued revenue generation for the lifetime of the subscription.
Closing Thoughts, Credit Cards and Product Pricing Strategies
This year was an interesting one, where we’ve seen a number of companies start to buck the trend of Black Friday and develop strategies that help them stand out from the crowd, as well as generate strong beyond the 5-day rush.
Before you go, we’d like to share 2 more pieces of data that we thought were interesting, but didn’t have a place for in the main report:
Credit Card Failures
Failed Credit Cards (bad numbers, fat-fingering input and bank hiccups) occurred on 24% of all purchases. That’s almost double the normal rate of 16%.
I’m always interested in the pricing breakdown of products. There were no huge surprises this year with the largest number of products being priced in below $200, with a long tail up to $3000.
Finally, we want to hear from you!
We’d love to hear about your experiences with Black Friday, and if your business saw similar trends, or something completely different. What lessons from this year will you be looking at in 2019?