While Black Friday has traditionally only been the last Friday of every November, an increasing number of retailers and brands are starting sales much earlier.
This trend of starting sales as early as the Monday before Black Friday is known as “Cyber Week” or “Black Friday Week.” The sales are getting bigger, the week is growing longer, and consumer anticipation of the event is growing.
And the tactic seems to be working. BBC reported that Black Friday 2019 gave retailers a “welcome boost” this year. As reporter Ian Westbrook writes,
Barclaycard, which processes nearly £1 of every £3 spent in the UK, says that sales volumes from 25 November to 2 December were up 7.1% compared with 2018, while sales value rose by 16.5%.
The UK isn’t the only country where records shattered this year. In the United States shoppers spent 7.4 billion dollars, the most ever on Black Friday and the second-highest spending record ever, only slightly trailing 2018’s Cyber Monday record.
So while Black Friday’s popularity is clearly growing, and Cyber Week becomes more important, many consumers want to know...are the deals actually that great?
We were curious, so we dug into our data and analyzed almost 4,000 popular products throughout Cyber Week to see how prices actually changed.
This data set compares the lowest price on the Friday before the start of Cyber Week (November 22nd, 2019), to the lowest price point during Cyber Week itself (anytime from November 23rd-29th).
The results were interesting, but not altogether surprising. Keep reading to find out what we learned about the Cyber Week market.
The top 150 products had a price drop of more than 50% during Cyber Week
The first data point we found was that the top 150 sellers on the market experienced a major price drop. At some point during Cyber Week, the price for these products dropped at least 50% compared to the Friday before Cyber week.
Brands that were in this category include Nintendo, Samsung, Canon, Max Factor, Lego, L'oreal, Maybelline, Fisher Price, Intel, and more.
However, many products that were not in the top 150 sellers also had attractive price drops. Take a look at the table below to see some popular products that had steep price cuts:
- Apple MacBook Pro (15" 512GB) - 32.35% drop
- Apple iPad mini (Wi-Fi, 64 GB - 19.54% drop
- Sony FDR-AX100 4K Ultra HD Camcorder - 20.03% drop
- Samsung C27FG73 (27 inch) Monitor - 57.73% drop
- Nintendo Switch Lite, Standard - 58.56% drop
- FIFA 19 - Standard Edition - 30.83% drop
- Mario Kart 8 (Standard Edition) - 26.82% drop
- Xbox 360 Wireless Controller - 25.74% drop
- Canon LEGRIA HF R806 Camcorder - 25.12% drop
- Football Manager 2019 (PC) - 24.49% drop
- Samsung SM-T580 Galaxy Tab - 22.43% drop
- Amazon Echo (2nd Generation.) - 27.50% drop
- Canon IXUS 190 Digital Camera - 27.31% drop
- Microsoft Surface Pen Platinum Gray - 21.18% drop
- PlayStation4 - Console (500GB, black, slim) - 12.76% drop
- Canon EF-S 18-200mm - 81.52% drop
The data shows that the market does change significantly during Cyber Week. There are large fluctuations in price, and opportunities for great savings.
But is the price cut really that great?
When you compare Cyber Week prices to those of the Friday before, the price slashes seem enormous.
But if you zoom out and look at historical prices, are the discounts really that great?
Take a look at the graphs below.
Each graph shows the historical price of a different product, each of which was advertised heavily on a major retailer’s website during Black Friday.
You can see the average price of these products week-by-week for September, October, and November.
Finish All-in-One lemon-scented dishwasher tablets
Finish All-in-One Grease Fighter Tablets, 100 pack
Oral-B Genius Electric Toothbrush
You can probably already see an interesting trend: the prices at the end of November during Cyber Week certainly dip...but they don’t dip too far below the three-month average low.
This trend is also true for longer periods of time. Look below at the analysis of Gillette Fusion Proglide + 6 razorheads from June to the end of November. The price during Cyber Week is actually somewhat higher than the price in late August!
Gillete Fusion Proglide + 6 razorheads
This means that Cyber Week promotions for these products weren’t that much different than regular promotional periods during the previous months.
So while buying on Black Friday is advantageous, the discount might not be “special” for consumers.
Another trend you can see across all of the above products is a price increase in the weeks leading up to Cyber Week and Black Friday.
This means that certain retailers may artificially inflate prices before Cyber Week to make the discounts seem steeper.
In other words, a “50% discount” during Cyber Week may not be accurate for average market price of that product throughout the rest of the year.
This is a sales trick, and it may be intentional for many retailers. It pushes people to buy because consumers feel they are getting a better deal during Cyber Week than at any other point during the year.
However, many retailers may not do this intentionally, but instead don’t know the historical average price for that product.
Without access to historical data trends, retailers and brands simply don’t know how a product has been priced over the previous months. Instead, they follow market prices to keep up with the Black Friday frenzy...and don’t understand the discounts they give are not that steep.
This presents both a problem for retailers and consumers.
Consumers can quickly lose trust in retailers who engage in this practice. And it’s become a large part of the news cycle every year to “debunk” the actual savings around Cyber Week.
But for retailers and brands who don’t know whether they’re offering a good discount or not, the effects can seriously damage the bottom line. If your store understands how steeply you can discount, you can plan a much better game in the week itself.
While price drops can be huge during Cyber Week, the price slashes might be more of a marketing trick than a real saving.
However, just because price discounts aren’t as steep than regular promotional periods doesn’t mean shopping on these days is a complete waste. These are promotional prices - so it’s worth taking advantage of the discount.
Additionally, many retailers combine promotions with different perks like free shipping or buy-one-get-one-free offers.
If you’re a consumer, the best way to prepare for Black Friday is to start price-watching ahead of time. If there is a specific product you are searching for, keep your eyes open for price drops in October and November.
Sander Roose isn't just a business Founder and CEO - he's a proud father of two, a sports enthusiast, and a serial entrepreneur. He holds an MSc degree in Industrial Engineering & Management Science from the Eindhoven University of Technology, where he graduated cum laude. With two decades of retail and eCommerce experience, working on the retail side of Procter & Gamble, to specialising in retail strategy consulting at Harvest and Commerce Squared. Sander loves puzzling through retail’s most significant pricing and market challenges by combining strategy, AI and technology. As CEO, he sets the course for Omnia and guides the company through strategic changes and growth.