Holiday Sales Sprint   //   December 4, 2023

‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ have lost their meanings as brands extend promotions

Cyber Week has proven that when brands proclaim it is the “last chance” to shop a sale, rarely does that prove to be the case.

Last week, brands both big and small prolonged their official Cyber Monday campaigns for several days. As of Friday, for instance, Petsmart was still offering its 20% off “Cyber Week” promo code on its website. Similarly, REI and Zappos still had Cyber Week deals going through this weekend, while Nike’s Cyber Monday offers ran through December 2. 

Even companies that removed the Black Friday/Cyber Monday campaign language were still offering heavy “holiday” discounts throughout the week. These include Best Buy, Sephora and Ulta, among other major chains. Meanwhile, J.Crew’s flagship brand and Madewell ran discounts throughout the week following Cyber Monday — nearly identical to the Thanksgiving weekend offerings. Direct-to-consumer brands also elongated their Cyber Week, including Our place and Boll & Branch and Nectar. Others, like Casper and Our Place, transitioned to calling it a “holiday sale” by Friday.

As evidenced by the “Black November” phenomenon, shoppers can expect both earlier and later promotions to sandwich the once-exclusive Thanksgiving weekend deals. Only a few years ago, Black Friday was defined by a select number of doorbusters, but these days it’s moved toward broad discounts and extended sales.

This trend is the latest evolution of Cyber Monday, originally created by retailers to encourage shoppers looking for online deals after Thanksgiving. But even social media users have noticed BFCM sales getting drawn out, and it’s not just their imagination. 

Kristin McGrath, shopping expert at coupon company RetailMeNot, said, “for several years now, we’ve been seeing retailers extending Cyber ‘Monday’ sales into more of a Cyber Week concept.” She added the move is similar to how major retailers extended Black Friday sales on the other end by kicking them off extra early. 

“Retailers want to elongate the early holiday shopping season as much as they can, to convince shoppers to make multiple trips and to sell out of the things they don’t want on shelves after December 25,” McGrath explained. With all the hype and urgency built into the terms Black Friday and Cyber Monday, McGrath noted “retailers are clearly experimenting with how far they can push the boundaries of those days, before they switch over to ‘last-minute’ marketing.” 

McGrath pointed to RetailMeNot data showing that deals listed as “doorbuster” continue to decline, and were down 24% this year. In contrast, 26% of the “Cyber Week” sales messaging started on Black Friday, 20% on Thanksgiving, and 13% on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. 

Online retail brands have reason to take up this strategy, especially in a year still plagued by inflation.

“Our objective in extending holiday sales beyond Black Friday and Cyber Monday is simple: To drive year-over-year sales growth during the entire holiday season, which we view as starting in mid-November through to the end of the year,” Ali Radel, vice president of marketing at Win Brands Group said.

The group’s brands, which include Homesick and Gravity, were both still running their Cyber Week deals as of Friday. Gravity offered buy one, get one free promotions sitewide, while Homesick promoted 30% off discounts for its Cyber Week sale. Radel explained the brands experience their biggest sales volume during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday period. Hence, the decision to extend its Cyber Monday sale was a strategic one — to optimize brand awareness and give existing customers reasons to purchase throughout the season.

“But our goals don’t stop there; our holiday marketing strategy is interwoven with promotions steeped in what has previously performed well for us,” Radel said. These include BOGO deals, free shipping and sitewide discounts, as well as upsell opportunities to encourage cart add-ons and drive up AOV, some of which will run through December.

“For example, we’ve promoted beanie wash bags for Love Your Melon, ring dishes for Qalo, wick trimmers, matches and car fresheners for Homesick,” she said, as well as add-on personalization across Homesick and Qalo, like choice of box color and custom labels. 

For its first-ever Black Friday sale, DTC hair care brand OurX decided to take a slow, curated approach to Black Friday. With so many brands across the web offering deals, OurX CEO Meghan Maupin said it can be easy for customers to miss email notifications during the busy holiday weekend. 

“This time of year, advertising gets really expensive,” Maupin told Modern Retail. So going into Black Friday, the company partnered with other brands on cross-promotions. This included offering gift-with-purchase and a homepage of curated products by other Black-owned brands, like Oui the People, Helix Hair labs and Ami Colé. “Part of what we’re doing by extending our Black Friday campaign is extending that messaging around highlighting some of their founders and deals,” Maupin said.

Maupin said OurX is primarily using the long discount window to convert subscribers by offering new customers 50% off regimen bundles. So far, the move has helped the brand stand out in people’s inboxes, resulting in higher-than-expected cart sizes.

“It appeared that some people were waiting for Black Friday to purchase things that were in their cart,” she said. But as Cyber Monday arrived, that transitioned to new customers opting for other bundles, like 30% off the hydration trio and the 40% off protection set. 

These elongated shopping periods are expected to continue in the coming weeks, and likely become the norm during future holiday periods.

Win Brands’ Radel said the extended Cyber Week strategy has multiple benefits for the company, ensuring revenue growth across brands while bringing value to customers throughout the holiday season. “We expect to see the trend towards an ever-increasing Cyber Week window to continue,” Radel said.