Black Friday & Cyber Monday: The Season of Digital Domination

While riddled with uncertainty and fluctuating consumer demand, Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020 saw a significant lift in online sales. Dive into the discounting tactics, product performance and marketing trends used by major fashion retailers in the US.

Written by Atiqah KamarudinDecember 11, 2020


  • Online Sell-Out Soared: The coronavirus pandemic had a significant impact on this year’s holiday shopping season as online sell-out grew by 74% YoY during the Black Friday-Cyber Monday sale period.
  • Aggressive Markdowns: The number of first discounts jumped significantly on Black Friday by more than 400% from the day before. Average discount deployed was also deeper in 2020 at 42% vs. 38% in 2019.
  • The ‘New Core’ Remained Popular: Products that gained popularity during the pandemic such as crop tops, blouses and flowy dresses continued to be in high demand during the sale.

Covid-19 has impacted the holiday shopping season this year in more ways than expected. Many retailers kickstarted their holiday sales campaign as early as October with attractive offers, further blurring the lines with Black Friday promotions. Despite the influx of deals offered prior to Black Friday, the popular sale event has shifted online, resulting in an increase of 22% YoY to USD 9 billion.

To encourage online purchases, retailers provided safer ways for consumers to shop by offering curbside pickup, shipping to store and same-day delivery. This has resulted in USD 10.8 billion worth of online sales on Cyber Monday, cementing it as the biggest US e-commerce day in history.

This report analysed the performance of Black Friday-Cyber Monday sales this year compared to last year for the women’s apparel categories. Over 500,000 data points were screened from 16th – 30th November 2020 (15 days) in comparison with the same period last year from 18th November – 2nd December (15 days) on these key fashion retailers in the US:


  1. Zara
  2. Asos
  3. H&M
  4. Urban Outfitters
  5. Gap
  6. Fashion Nova
  7. Shein
  8. Nasty Gal
  9. Revolve
  10. Forever 21


All data used in this report comes from products retailing online as tracked by Omnilytics, unless otherwise mentioned.

content image-2 Black Friday & Cyber Monday: The Season of Digital Domination

Strong Online Performance

The Pandemic Effect

Despite the bleak forecast for Black Friday, the start of the holiday shopping season recorded a surge in online sell-out at 74% YoY. All retailers analysed observed increase in sell-out on the e-commerce stores compared to last year. As Covid-19 cases continued to surge, consumers have turned to online shopping, making it the first-ever digitally dominant holiday season.

Higher sell-outs were registered during the Black Friday weekend, before dipping on Cyber Monday to just over 4% (Chart 1). This is a stark contrast to last year’s 8% sell-out rate in a single day.

Top Performing Retailers

While all retailers performed better in the online sphere this year, H&M, Urban Outfitters and Shein delivered above average sell-outs. These retailers also observed strong growth in full price sell-out during the discount bonanza.


The success was attributed to the relevant product offerings that met customers’ needs as well as effective marketing activities.

content image-3 Black Friday & Cyber Monday: The Season of Digital Domination

Aggressive Discounting

More First-Discounted Products

Retailers were more aggressive during Black Friday this year as the discounted products accounted for 62% of total assortment vs. 47% in 2019. This was brought by the surge in the number of first discounts on Black Friday itself, which increased to 17,269 SKUs – a whopping 414% increase from the day before.

While most retailers offered more items on markdown this year, H&M and Shein pulled back on discounting.

Discounts Ran Deeper

Overall, retailers offered slightly deeper markdowns this year at an average discount of 42% vs. 38% in 2019. Shoppers who waited until Black Friday and Cyber Monday missed out on better deals a week prior to the main sale event (Chart 4). This was a stark contrast compared to last year, with Black Friday seeing the deepest discounts. Asos, Urban Outfitters, Gap, and Shein were among retailers that offered deeper reductions during the pre-Black Friday sale this year.

Meanwhile, Fashion Nova, Nasty Gal and Forever 21 were more competitive as they had progressively steep reductions leading up to Cyber Monday.


content image-4 Black Friday & Cyber Monday: The Season of Digital Domination

Aggressive Discounting (cont’d)

Deeper Discounts Do Not Guarantee Higher Sell-Outs

Analysing the peak period from Black Friday to Cyber Monday revealed products on deeper discounts did not translate into higher sell-outs. Despite 40-49% off being the most common discount range deployed by retailers, higher sell-out rates were observed from the lower discount ranges of 20-29% and 30-39%.

Products offered in the latter discount brackets were mostly comprised of the in-demand pandemic staples – loungewear, sweatshirts, hoodies and roomy dresses. Meanwhile, dressier and more formal products made up the deeper discount range of 40% and above.

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Engaging Communications

Pre-Black Friday Promotions

Similar to last year, most retailers launched their pre-Black Friday promotions a week before the big day. However, sales were already rampant even prior to the Black Friday warm up. Retailers from Gap to Nasty Gal kicked off their holiday promotions as early as October to avoid the stiff competition online during Black Friday.

Zara was the only retailer that held its Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions on the actual respective days, as it did last year. This strategy did not fare well for the brand as it delivered below average sell-out at 17%.

Constant Engagement

Retailers sent out frequent email newsletters on attractive promotions to engage with consumers compared to last year. Using time-bound offers to create a sense of urgency was also prevalent amongst retailers such as Shein and Urban Outfitters. The former brand was more competitive this year with its Flash Sale Buy 1 Get 1 99% off and 3 for USD25 promotions.

Some Sat Out, While Others Gave Back

While consumers were busy scouting for bargains, some brands opted out of the discount bonanza as part of Green Friday to create awareness on more sustainable, conscious shopping. This included Arket, Baukjen, NavyGrey and Hush.

Meanwhile, H&M used this period as an opportunity to give back as part of Giving Tuesday. It partnered up with Billy Porter to support The Trevor Project, the world’s largest crisis intervention organisation for LGBTQ youth. The campaign that ran through December 2, matched consumers’ donations up to USD 250,000.


content image-5 Black Friday & Cyber Monday: The Season of Digital Domination

This is an excerpt of the report.
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Meet the Author

Atiqah Kamarudin

Nur Atiqah Kamarudin is a Senior Business Intelligence Analyst at Omnilytics. With past experience at Nielsen and Euromonitor, she has spent years analysing data and unearthing insights to help brands and retailers make informed decisions. She currently produces reports on the fashion industry and its changing retail scene across the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Southeast Asia.

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