Media Insights

Deep Discounts and Paid Search Dominated: Cyber 5 Recap and Lookahead

Cyber 5 saw a record number of consumers shopping, but it was a lot harder to convert this season. While Cyber 5 is done, the shopping season isn’t over! Read more on industry and Ovative client trends, implications, and what actions you should take to make final sales. 

This Cyber 5 showed signs of entering a post-pandemic world with more than 196 million US consumers shopping online and in-store, the highest since 2017 (according to the National Retail Federation).¹ However, inflation and consumers’ economic concerns had some effect on the results. While Ovative’s clients experienced increased traffic (some up to 25% YoY), conversions lagged in comparison, increasing only ~3-5% per day YoY.2  

Despite this, Ovative clients saw some revenue increases throughout the weekend with overall increases of up to 10% and ecommerce growth of up to 50%.² High prices drove a significant share of this year’s revenue growth, which offset lower conversion rates. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Paid Search remained the biggest driver for purchases, accounting for 28% of online sales.³ 
  • Ovative’s ability to test new tactics prior to Holiday, like Google’s Performance Max and Meta’s Advantage+ Shopping (ASC), helped clients come out on top. 
  • Consumer economic concerns led to strong performance from retailers and brands, offering deep discounts and Buy Now, Pay Later options. 
  • Best-selling categories during the Cyber Five included toys, jewelry, sporting goods, apparel, and books (all great for gifting), as well as big-ticket items like electronics, computers, and appliances.¹ 
  • Amazon experienced reporting issues, but Ovative clients didn’t feel the impact, as the Retail Media team didn’t change course and drove impressive results. 

Channel Deep Dives


Paid Search Dominated

  • Based on Google-reported conversions, Black Friday drove the largest revenue and return for Ovative clients. 
  • Ovative scaled Black Friday orders by +113% with a +14% increase in return day over day. This outpaced last year’s +81% scaled orders and +4% return. 
  • Ovative tested Performance Max (PMAX) prior to Holiday and was ready to scale based on learnings. PMAX ended up being the main revenue driver as spend scaled up +28% YoY while driving return +3% year over year. 
  • Mobile continued to drive the largest click scale, up +6% as all other devices were flat YoY. 
  • Shoppers aged 65+ drove the largest click and percentage volume increase YoY. 

Paid Social2

Efficiency Returned to 2020 Levels

  • For the third year in a row, Black Friday drove higher spend and returns vs Cyber Monday. 
  • CPM and CPC dropped significantly – reaching 2020 levels. As a result, return increased significantly YOY. 
  • Ovative encouraged testing Meta’s ASC during Cyber 5. Because of this, 38% of their client’s total performance budget was put in ASC and this resulted in 26% lower CPMs, 20% lower CPCs, and 19% higher platform ROAS compared to the Business as Usual (BAU) campaigns. 

Retail Media2

Cyber Monday Reigned Supreme

  • This year, Cyber Monday was easily the largest day for both spend and sales, which differed from Black Friday being the highest performer last year. 
  • Overall traffic remained flat allowing us to capitalize on lower CPCs to remain efficient. 
  • Ovative drove a significant lift in impressions +22% YoY. However, this led to lower CTR, mostly driven by additional ad tactics with higher reach. 


Authenticity Was Key

  • Affiliate cashback offerings enticed economy-weary shoppers to move down the funnel quicker and increased CVR later in the week.  
  • Influencers and sub-affiliate networks with a full-funnel approach helped drive traffic and new customer acquisition. 
  • Inclusion in top content partners including Forbes, TODAY, and Buzzfeed resulted in increased traffic over Cyber Weekend. 
  • Traditional deal partners such as SlickDeals or BradsDeals were down as consumers showed a preference for authentic content. 

What Happens Next?

1. Continued Discounts Could Risk the Bottom Line 

Because consumers were hesitant to buy this season, large retailers likely still have excess inventory to unload. To avoid getting stuck with it next year, they will likely continue discounting through the rest of Holiday. Many retailers extended Cyber Monday sales through the following week. 

Shoppers will continue to be swayed by these deals as the season continues. Overall, we expect that total season sales will be mostly flat compared to last year. But, because of the deep discounts required to drive conversion, some retailers could struggle with profitability. 

So, What’s A Marketer To Do?

Understand Risks to Profitability using Enterprise Marketing Return (EMR) 

It’s important to understand which channels are contributing to or detracting from profitability, so it doesn’t become a concern. EMR is a unified framework that takes into consideration online and offline revenue, customer value, incrementality, and profitability to ensure that media isn’t affecting the bottom line negatively. This single, unifying metric will allow marketers to ensure they don’t risk profitability with their discount strategy closing out the holiday shopping season.  


2. Revenge of the Returns 

It is projected that US online shoppers will return 8.4% more merchandise than last year which will total around 26.5% of Cyber 5 sales.⁴ There are a few possible causes that could be driving this increase in return activity, one of which is Bracketing. This practice is when a shopper buys multiple versions of an item and returns the ones that don’t work. Optimizing returns this season could make the difference in a brand’s overall profitability. 

So, What’s A Marketer To Do?

Optimize your Digital Experience

An enhanced digital experience could be the difference between wasteful returns or successful conversions. Here are some Digital Experience Optimizations tips from Ovative’s DXO team: 

  • Consumers will be less likely to “bracket” if they understand how an item will look or fit. Make sure product pages have a lot of details so shoppers can make informed decisions. 
  • A return should be seen as another touchpoint to reinforce the brand experience. Enhance the return process to surface other products, special exchange offers, or discounts for making additional purchases to convert a return into a sale.


3. Close Sales When Others Aren’t: Spending in Q5  

Holiday shopping doesn’t end when Christmas does. Many people continue their shopping after the holidays, making returns for more expensive purchases or redeeming gift cards, often in-store. This time frame from December 26th to January 8th is referred to as Q5. 

So, What’s A Marketer To Do?

Drive Continued Budgeting Conversations

Marketers should continue budgeting conversations for a strong media strategy into 2023 to leverage this timeframe with shoppers showing high purchase intent and media buying competition is much lower. In product messaging, don’t forget to highlight fulfillment methods that can ease the last-minute shopping crunch. Be aware of shipping cutoff dates that could affect shoppers:

 Shipping Cutoff Dates

  • 12/12:  Ground shipping cutoff
  • 12/16: 2-day shipping and UPS Authorized Shipping Outlet cutoff
  • 12/19: Overnight shipping cutoff
  • 12/20: Ship to home ground cutoff (3pm EST)
  • 12/21: Expedited cutoff
  • 12/22: Rush cutoff

If you think the holidays are over, think again! It’s important to have a strong media strategy through the end of the year to optimize final sale opportunities. Let us strategize tactics that will bring your clients down the funnel. 

Let’s Work Together To Optimize Your Marketing

Ovative Group is a digital-first media and measurement firm. We bring together the best of media, measurement, and consulting to enable an enterprise approach to marketing that increases our clients’ profitable revenue, strengthens their customer base, and creates sustainable competitive advantage. Connect with us to learn more. 

¹eMarekter | A record number of consumers shopped the Cyber Five this year, motivated by deals and gift-giving
²Ovative Paid Media Data Cyber 5 2022
³Adobe | Cyber Monday Drove $11.3 Billion in Online Spending, Breaking E-Commerce Record
eMarketer | The value of US online returns will reach $279.03 billion this year, more than doubling since 2019


Insights Team

About the Author

Ovative is a digital-first media and measurement firm seeking to transform the measure of marketing success. At Ovative, we help brands move the needle. We are curious. We value your brand. We want to see you succeed. Connect with us to learn more!

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