Black Friday 2020: E-commerce Takes the Win

Black Friday 2020: E-commerce Takes the Win

Written by Sufiana SharuddinDecember 9, 2020

Black Friday 2020: E-commerce Takes the Win

Black Friday 2020 saw an exodus of consumers shopping online as Covid-19 concerns stray shoppers away from physical stores. 

As we reported earlier, most retailers started the holiday sales season early due to market uncertainty and returning lockdowns. In the US, the sales kicked off with Prime Day, that was delayed to 13 October. This prompted more American retailers to bring forward the sales period – some starting immediately after Halloween. 

The first ever digital-led Black Friday reserved most of the door-busting deals online. According to Adobe Analytics, online spend surged as much as  22%. This year’s Cyber Monday raked in the most digital sales ever in US history, with a growth of 15% compared to  2019. 

Europe’s more dire Covid-19 situation prevented most stores from opening on the day itself. Physical and online sales had dropped by 16.7% in the UK, according to Barclaycard. France opted to hold off any sales altogether as the nation waited for the lockdown to lift on 15 December, as per the latest update by the French government. The same was also observed for many other European countries where the virus is returning.

What did Consumers Buy on Black Friday?

Black Friday 2020 - Top product categories in the UK and US markets.
Top product categories in the UK and US markets. Source: Omnilytics dashboard

Based on an analysis of Black Friday to Cyber Monday in the UK and US markets, consumers preferences have hardly changed since the pandemic first began. Activewear remains a staple for the apparel category.

Joggers were the leading product for menswear – unsurprisingly, the top brands were Nike, Puma and Adidas, in sequence. Women’s activewear pants & leggings were also a hit for Black Friday, furthering the overall category’s dominance in apparel.

Other than pandemic staples, we saw a rise in demand for feminine styles coming into the holiday season. Skirts recorded a high sell-out rate at fast fashion retailers like Shein, Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing and H&M. With the lowest median price of USD $8.44, Shein’s skirts category achieved a 26% sell-out rate. A majority of that sell-out was attributed to the wrap and bodycon styles.

Shein also led the sell-out contribution for dresses, closely followed by Pretty Little Thing. Among the bestselling styles include drape dresses, A-line dresses, shirt dresses and asymmetrical dresses. Key seasonal colours for the sales were blue, pink and red.

Black Friday 2020 - Pattern distribution for the dresses category
Pattern distribution for the dresses category. Source: Omnilytics dashboard

Over 40% of the sold-out dress SKUs were patterned – florals, stripes and animal print were the most popular patterns. Florals had the highest number of SKUs, 6% of the total were sold by Shein, while 13% of all animal print dresses were sold by Pretty Little Thing. 

In the non-apparel category, Omnilytics detected a massive jump in sell-out rate for bags and accessories. The demand for bags and accessories were consistent across segments but it was especially significant for luxury brands and retailers, as shoppers took advantage of the discounts. 

Legacy brands such as Salvatore Ferragamo and Chloé saw success with small leather goods, ties, scarves and belts. Street style favourite, Off-White had a number of bags go out-of-stock over Black Friday weekend at Farfetch, Saks Fifth Avenue and SSENSE.

Discount Depths 

Due to the tough trading season throughout 2020, some mid-market and luxury brands decided to steer clear of Black Friday or only opting to discount a small selection of products to reduce the impact of lost margin. 

However, many were still unable to avoid it altogether. American luxury retailers like Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue ran the deepest discounts, reducing prices up to 70%. British luxury behemoth, Selfridges & Co. had the most minimal discount spread between 26-32% off. 

On the opposite side of the spectrum, most fast fashion retailers doubled down this Black Friday. Discounts were so deep that Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing were blasted for selling items as low as £0.04 (USD $0.53) while under scrutiny for bad ethical practices in its supply chain.

Across major retailers like ASOS, Boohoo, Shein and more, Omnilytics found a 44.5% increase in discounted SKUs compared to 2019’s Black Friday. This year’s discounts also yielded better sell out rates compared to the year before. Sell out peaked on the day after Black Friday, beating out Cyber Monday. 

The overall discount spread was between 20-50% off and the average discount rate was 36%. While Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing were under fire for extremely low discounts, Fashion Nova had an even higher number of discounted SKUs at 90% off and beyond.

Types of Promotions & Messaging 

H&M's homepage during Black Friday 2020
H&M’s homepage during Black Friday 2020. Source: Omnilytics dashboard

On top of blanket discounts as seen on the image above, most retailers offered additional discounts on selected products. H&M offered 30% off across fashion categories, even into its home & interiors category, plus a 60% discount on key items at checkout. 

Black Friday 2020 - Black Friday promotional images from Boohoo and ASOS
Black Friday promotional images from Boohoo and ASOS. Source: Omnilytics dashboard

Fast fashion retailers Boohoo and ASOS used similar limited-time discount codes for additional offers to create a sense of urgency – the former utilised its discount code for free delivery as shown in the newsletter. ASOS’s discount codes changed for various types of offers every day, over the four-day shopping period. Both retailers used the term “biggest” to emphasise the scale of this year’s Black Friday.

Other creative ways retailers promoted their markdowns was by creating special pages on the website to house all of the discounted items as seen with luxury e-tailer, Net-a-Porter. Nordstrom incentivised its curbside pickup system for Black Friday by providing customers with a USD $15 promo card.

Black Friday 2020 - Black Friday communication from Net-a-Porter and Nordstrom
Black Friday communication from Net-a-Porter and Nordstrom. Source: Omnilytics dashboard

What You Need to Know About Black Friday 2020

The key takeaways from Black Friday 2020 are, 

  • E-commerce dominated sales as lockdown and social distancing restrictions made it difficult for stores to operate at full capacity, e-commerce has become the only viable sales channel. 
  • Apparel sell-out was still driven by pandemic favourites with the addition of feminine styles for the holiday season. Consumers also took advantage of discounts to snap up bags and accessories that were rarely marked down.
  • Luxury retailers opted to reduce discount depth while increasing the number of discounted products, while fast fashion retailers doubled down on both volume and depth of discounts. 
  • Limited time codes were instrumental in increasing basket sizes. Incentives were also introduced to urge customers in trying new touch-points such as curbside pickup.

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