RIP: Black Friday and Cyber Monday are Dead

Black Friday and Cyber Monday – the longstanding hallmarks of the holiday retail season – are dead. They’ve lost relevance among today’s shoppers. But fret not dear retailers, we’re not suggesting people aren’t shopping during the holidays. In fact, the NRF has forecasted a 3.6% increase in holiday sales this year to $655.8 billion.

These ghosts of Christmas past may be dead, but from their ashes has risen a retail force even larger, more lucrative (and more convenient) than what came before. Consumers simply aren’t stalling their spending in anticipation of doorbuster deals, or isolating the bulk of their shopping to a few traditional holiday deal days. Shoppers have moved online and the “Black Friday effect” of extreme discounts has spread across the months of November and December. Have they become “Cyber Months”?

The NRF estimates that about 137 million consumers will make purchases in stores or online over the four-day weekend that started on Thanksgiving. But the amount that Americans have spent has declined in the past three years – evidence that holiday purchases are spreading out over a longer time frame.

The proliferation of mobile devices has also contributed to the gradual extension of the season. Mobile devices have ushered in an era of “couch commerce” – making it easier for consumers to take advantage of seasonal deals without having to wait in long lines and fight crowds at physical stores. This year, online sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday rose about 18 percent while consumer visits to physical stores those two days fell 1 percent from a year earlier. Furthermore, revenue generated from mobile devices rose to $1.2 billion on Black Friday, a 33 percent surge from a year earlier. And these trends are expected to continue through the remainder of the holiday season.

We expect sales will continue to surge on these days in the years ahead as retailer’s attempt to capitalize on tradition. But the singular importance of these days on retailer’s holiday success will continue to diminish.

The good news about these emerging “cyber months” for retailers is that now more than ever before they have the tools to predict customer needs and speed their path to products (and ultimately purchases) making them less reliant on big, single-day promotions. The more brands can use data and analytics to interpret the intent and preferences of each individual consumer, the less reliant they have to be on a particular day. One thing is clear from this year’s holiday performance so far, online is no longer an additional channel to be considered; it’s THE channel to consider and should be central to retailer’s holiday strategies moving forward (if it wasn’t already).

Matt Helmke

Matt is the senior director of communications and content at Reflektion. He’s led global communications, content and brand strategy programs for high-profile, culture-shifting Fortune 500 business divisions, as well as innovative, early-stage startups. The common thread running through his career is a passion for disruptive technologies focused on improving and redefining end-user experiences. Outside of technology, his passions include his family, music, bourbon, craft beers, fishing and swimming… but not all at once.