If Cyber Monday was a person, it would be nearly old enough to join the military. But with the e-commerce creation just days away — in a retail landscape awash in online deals and concerns about tamer sales growth — some have begun to wonder whether it is still relevant.
Asked whether Cyber Monday was, in fact, still a thing, analysts generally answered with a qualified “yes.” But as the boundaries for holiday shopping season grow more diffuse, they suggested it was more of a deadline for nailing online deals.
“There is this sense that Cyber Monday might be the last day where I’ll get the deals to be as strong as I’d like them to be,” said Vivek Pandya, lead analyst at Adobe Digital Insights. “When we look at our historical data, there is some truth to that — that the deals get weaker after Cyber Monday.”
Pandya said customers certainly still shop on Cyber Monday, a concept whose origins are often attributed to a 2005 press release from a division of the National Retail Federation. And Adobe Analytics’ forecasts call for Cyber Monday to still be the biggest online retail-spending day of the year, with $11.2 billion in sales, for a 5% year-over-year gain.
But research by Deloitte suggests Cyber Monday might not be as much of a thing as it could be. A survey by the research firm taken last month found that 69% of customers say retailers “offer comparable deals online and in-store” during the period that encompasses Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Rod Sides, insights global leader at Deloitte, also noted that 29% of customers last year told the firm that they would take advantage of Cyber Monday. Today, that figure is 30%.
“They’re not creating a bunch of converts that say ‘I’m going to hold off (until) Cyber Monday because the deals are so much better,’” Sides said. “So, it’s still a thing. But it’s not outweighted against the rest of the season.”
Still, there’s some sense among analysts that big, beacon discount days — Black Friday being the other one — could get a bigger bump this year from inflation-conscious consumers, who might try more aggressively to knock off items on their shopping lists on days when stores are selling those items at their cheapest. But Pandya said more muted sales growth from those days, and the rise of more deals surrounding them, could make Cyber Monday and Black Friday less important in the future.
After online sales slipped last year from 2020, Adobe Analytics forecasts $34.8 billion in online spending, up 2.8%, for 2022’s Cyber Week — the period that runs from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. For the 2022 holiday season overall, Adobe forecasts U.S. sales of $209.7 billion, up about 2.5% from last year.
That rate of overall growth, Pandya said, would be slower than in previous years, as shoppers feel the sting of inflation. And as retailers try to whittle away at mountains of inventory they’ve been stuck with after consumers’ great inflation pivot this year, they’ll be cutting prices for products like electronics, toys and furniture, which many people loaded up on while stuck at home during the first two years of the pandemic.
“This holiday season is going to provide some of the best discounts on record,” Pandya said. “There’s twofold reasons for that. One, retailers have excess inventory because of how they were buying during the supply-chain crunch. But then they’re also trying to drum up growth during the season, because they’ve seen online growth slowing through much of the year.”
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Data from Adobe Analytics shows those discounts are only getting deeper in the runup to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. As of this Monday, discounts for toys sold online ran as steep as 31%, Adobe said. For electronics and apparel, markdowns were running at around 22% and 13%, respectively.
“Discounts for toys have hit a record high, peaking at 30% (off listed price) in the first three weeks of the season,” Adobe Analytics said in an email on Wednesday. “At these levels, consumers won’t need to wait until Cyber Week for deals. In fact, many are not: Online sales of toys are up 172%, when compared to daily average sales last month (Oct. 2022).”
The firm said Hot Wheels and Paw Patrol toys were among the most popular in the first three weeks of this month. Nintendo Switches, smart speakers, air fryers and gift cards were also selling briskly.
Still, Adobe Analytics on Wednesday said customers in the first three weeks of this month spent $64.59 billion online, a mere 0.1% gain from last year. Analysts there attributed that uptick to a “strong appetite” for holiday gift-buying despite higher prices and rising interest rates.
But other signs of a slowdown in online demand for goods have emerged. E-commerce behemoth Amazon.com Inc.
forecast fourth-quarter sales that were below analysts’ expectations.
“As the third quarter progressed, we saw moderating sales growth across many of our businesses, as well as increased foreign-currency headwinds … and we expect these impacts to persist throughout the fourth quarter,” Amazon Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky said on an earnings conference call in October.
Ocean-freight and trucking rates are also falling. The long lines of container ships outside ports that were emblematic of last year’s online-shopping boom and resulting supply-chain fiasco are starting to thin. On Tuesday, the two major U.S. gateways for imports from Asia — the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach — had zero container ships at anchor, after a 109-vessel backup in January, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California.
“After 25 months, and with concurrence of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), and the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PMSA), the container-ship backup for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has ended,” Kip Louttit, executive director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California, said in an email.
Even as port constraints ease ahead of Cyber Monday, 84% of shoppers were still worried about late holiday-package arrivals, according to a survey from Loquate, a location data provider, of more than 2,700 customers across 10 nations or regions. Eighty-seven percent of those shoppers planned to start shopping before December. In the U.S., 18% said they started shopping in August.
“The reason why people might go participate in a Cyber Monday event is they might perceive that there’s some retailers that have held back offers for Cyber Monday,” Sides said. “But also, it’s a question of going, ‘OK, can I get the item on time given some of the cut-offs that we see out there?’ I think that’s what compelled a lot of folks to shop earlier than they have historically.”