Media Insights

Marketer’s Guide to Holiday 2021 | Edition 8: Cyber 5 Performance Recap

Cyber 5 spending fell short of expectations this year due to early shopping, evolving consumer behaviors, and supply chain concerns. Read more on industry and Ovative client trends, implications, and what actions you should take in response.  

For the first time ever, Cyber Monday online sales dropped from last year with a 1.4% decline according to Adobe Analytics.1 Black Friday sales told a similar story, with in-store shopping falling 28% compared to pre-pandemic levels. Despite the slowdown across the critical five-day sales period from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, this holiday season is still expected to deliver record-breaking e-commerce sales.  

Macroeconomic Trends – What Did We Observe? 

Trend 1: Online spending fell short as consumers spread out their spending dollars to shop earlier in the season. With deals starting as early as October, consumers did not have to wait until Cyber 5 to take advantage of low prices. 

  • U.S. shoppers spent a total of $10.7 billion online on Cyber Monday and $8.9 billion online on Black Friday.2 Both were down compared to last year as well as pre-pandemic levels. 
  • So far in November, out-of-stock messages on retailers’ websites are up 169% compared with pre-pandemic levels and shoppers are finding items out of stock 258% more often than they were two holidays ago (1) 
  • Despite the slow-down during Cyber 5, the holiday season is anticipated to drive record-breaking sales with spending starting earlier and spread out over October-December.3 

Trend 2: In-store traffic on Black Friday rose compared to last year but did not meet pre-pandemic levels, fueled by lingering Covid-19 concerns, supply chain concerns, and early season spending.  

  • Traffic was up 47% compared to 2020 as many shoppers stayed home last year amid rising Covid-19 concerns and limited retail shopping hours. Despite the year-over-year growth, traffic fell 28% vs pre-pandemic levels. (2) 
  • Retailers including TargetWalmart and Best Buy opted to keep their doors closed to customers on Thanksgiving, with Target saying it will be a permanent shift. This further limited in-store shopping opportunities over Cyber 5. (2) 
  • BOPIS is still a key substitute for in-store shopping, with curbside services representing 20% of all 2021 Black Friday digital orders (and boosting +78% from pre-pandemic levels)4 

So what?

2021 Cyber Five performance posted softer-than-anticipated results and illustrated continuing shifts in holiday shopping behavior providing further evidence that the shopping season is flattening. Marketers should continue to lean into e-commerce to offset in-store declines until shipping cutoffs, and align on approach and budgets for Q1 2022 as the holiday shopping likely tapers off earlier this year. 

Proactively communicate potential delays to customers and revisit shipping cutoff communications. Test hybrid fulfillment options like pick-up in store and allow customers to opt into delayed delivery, testing into various incentives. 


Ovative Cross-Client Trends: What Did Clients Experience Across Channels?  

Paid Search 

  • Total Google spend across Cyber 5 was up 37% from last year with Black Friday driving slightly higher spend than Cyber Monday.  
  • Spend is shifting toward Smart Shopping, driving efficient scale. This year 86% of PLA spend was on Smart Shopping compared to 9% last year. The transition has driven shopping clicks up 77% with a 12% decline in CPCs.  
  • Local messaging and tactics drove consumers back into stores with shopping clicks to LIAs up 84% year-over-year.   

Paid Social 

  • With holiday spending starting earlier this year and consumers spreading out their shopping, Cyber 5 revenue was down 9% compared to last year. 
  • Increased competition as well as potential declines in platform efficiencies due to iOS14 changes drove a 105% increase in CPCs YoY.
  • Holiday sales are still predicted to rise 8.5%-10.5% in November and December so it will be key to continue driving sales on Facebook while considering shipping cut-offs and last-minute shoppers. 


  • Consumer shopping behavior continues to evolve as we emerge from peak Covid-19 with many shoppers waiting until Black Friday and Cyber Monday to spend. 
  • Top products shifted away from loungewear and back to professional work attire, especially sweaters and shoes, though intimates remain a top product year-over-year. 
  • More publishers increased cash back throughout the week – up to 10%. 


  • Dedicated Black Friday and Cyber Monday experiences drove high-intent traffic to retail brand sites. 
  • Both leading up to Cyber Week and throughout the week, we saw shoppers keen to shop for categories that struggled last year, like work clothing, occasion wear & designer accessories. 
  • Local engagement saw significant declines during last year’s Cyber Week, while this year we saw shopper shifting back to in-store shopping. One client saw a 22% increase in ‘Get Directions’ clicks and a 25% lift in ‘Phone Call’ clicks. 


So what?

As we approach the back-half of the holiday season, marketers focus should shift to navigating shipping cutoffs and potential challenges with fulfillment with a keen eye toward 2022 planning. Proactively discuss and share recommendations and contingency plans including: 

  • Know what channels and tactics are best for driving traffic to stores (and vice versa), and have a plan to shift spend and volume as shipping cutoffs approach. 
  • Understand your inventory levels, and revisit your plan to push products with high margin and high inventory in-stocks. 
  • Test delayed shipping and store pick-up consumer incentives.  
  • Help keep brand equity and consumer experience top of mind with every marketing decision, proactively communicating with consumers to prevent brand disappointment. 


With Cyber 5 wrapped, earlier holiday shopping, and approaching shipping cutoffs this year holiday sales will likely taper off sooner than previous years. Marketers should be looking ahead and aligning on their approach and budgets for 2022. Leverage insights around COVID-19, shifting consumer behavior and your business operations to inform Q1 strategy. 

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! 


1 | CNBC, Cyber Monday Sales Drop 1.4% From Last Year, November 2021

2 | CNBC, Black Friday Shopping In Stores Drops 28%, November 2021

3 | The Street, Cyber Monday Retail Results From Adobe, November 2021 

4 | Business Insider, Black Friday 2021 Sales Performance, November 2021

Emily Voigtlander

Director, Client Services

About the Author

Emily is a Director on the Client Services team where she leads client engagements and delivery for some of Ovative’s most complex clients. She is responsible for driving cross-channel strategy development and delivery across paid and owned digital channels, where she is focused on driving profitable growth and efficiency across her clients. Emily is passionate about team development and... Read More >>

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