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What does Cyber Monday mean in a digital-first world?

November 29, 2021 By: Elissa Quinby

We are in the midst of the “holiday shopping peak,” with today (Cyber Monday) supposedly culminating in a surge of online sales. But, with most of us shopping online everyday, we’re starting to see the idea of one or two peak shopping days become a thing of the past. 

Data from the first part of our holiday benchmark series showed that consumers started their shopping earlier than ever this year, with many primarily shopping online in sporadic spurts over the past few months. This significantly changes how consumers approach Cyber 5 and most importantly Cyber Monday. What should retailers expect today and for the duration of the holiday season?

To answer these questions we took a close look at anonymized retail activity from the first three days of Cyber 5 (Thanksgiving through Small Business Saturday) to better understand just how holiday shopping is evolving. 

Here are our big takeaways: 

Cyber 5 is shifting to Cyber Fall.

Many consumers started their holiday shopping as early as August or September, with the Quantum Metric platform beginning to see ecommerce conversions starting to climb in mid-September. This has made Cyber 5 less of a peak in the holiday season. When comparing Cyber 5 traffic to the monthly average for November, 2021, Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Small Business Saturday saw less of a spike than they did in 2020. Thanksgiving actually saw significantly less traffic than the monthly average. 

Retailers also saw conversion rates in early November, 2021 that were twice as high as what was seen in 2020. Even with conversion rates already high, Quantum Metric’s retail customers saw an additional increase in conversion rates over Cyber 5. However, we are seeing less spikes in holiday sales and more of a gradual increase in online shopping activity that has extended over the fall and early holiday season. 

Daily conversion rate: 2021 v. 2020


Cyber Monday will likely see a continued decline in both traffic and conversions, following the pattern seen in 2020. As retail continues to adopt a digital-first approach, Cyber Monday will continue to lose its significance and become more of a regular day in the holiday season, especially as consumers choose to shop online early and often. 

Consumers are less frustrated, but more likely to leave.

Despite higher prices and out-of-stock concerns, consumers were actually less likely to get agitated during their Cyber 5 shopping this year. In fact, the monthly average frustration rate (per Quantum Metric data) for November 2021 was half of what was seen in 2020. Cyber 5 itself had little to no increase in customer frustration this year, compared to the huge spikes seen in 2020. 

This isn’t because inventory issues were any better this year. Our recent survey found that 62% of consumers say they’ve had more out-of-stock issues this year than in 2020. What we are seeing is the result of consumers being more prepared for inventory challenges and retailers being more proactive about managing them. 

Inventory issues, while expected, are making consumers more likely to leave a site mid-purchase. The percentage of retail traffic that abandoned before checkout almost doubled for November, when compared to 2020, and was significantly higher during the beginning of the Cyber 5. 

2021 Site Abandonment Rates


I’d predict site abandonment rates to spike today, as more retailers struggle to manage stock after the holiday shopping weekend. Consumers will likely be looking to purchase items wherever and whenever they can find them, with no loyalty to a particular retailer. The retailers that win will be those who prioritize omnichannel services that allow shoppers to access items from online and in-store inventory. 

Mobile is driving the holiday shopping experience. 

Mobile shopping drove holiday traffic during Cyber 5, with 71% of holiday shoppers visiting retailers from a mobile device. Mobile shoppers were also more likely to make a purchase, driving an average of 68% of overall sales from the first three days of Cyber 5. 

This pattern will continue for Cyber Monday, with mobile leading in traffic and sales. With many returning to work after the holiday weekend, we’ll see the majority of today’s sales come from distracted shopping while consumers sit in meetings or take time out of the day to get those last minute gifts. As our recent survey shows, 72% of consumers admitted that this is their preferred way to shop, and easiest to do on mobile. 

Activity driven by device: 2021


With higher traffic rates also comes more frustration. Mobile saw twice the frustration rate of desktop during the beginning of Cyber 5. Mobile also saw significantly higher rates of customers abandoning their carts  before a purchase. When looking at the percentage of customers who added items to their cart, almost three quarters of those potential sales were abandoned on a mobile device on Black Friday alone.  

I’d expect abandoned cart rates on mobile to spike for Cyber Monday, as consumers jump from site-to-site to find inventory for particular items to wrap-up their holiday shopping. For 53% of consumers this will include potential host gifts or other items that they haven’t confirmed a recipient for. 

So what can we expect for the rest of the holiday season? 

Cyber Monday will follow the trend of other Cyber 5 days and see a significant drop in traffic and sales. Today will be less about starting holiday shopping and more about finishing up the odds and ends to wrap-up the Christmas list. 

This is a shift that will continue into December. With 56% of consumers planning to have their holiday shopping done by the end of November, the final month of the holidays will be an opportunity for retailers to capture consumer interest with “something better” or something for themselves. 

In the next report from our holiday retail benchmark series, to be released next week, we’ll be breaking down in greater detail what Cyber 5 2021 means for the holiday season. In the meantime, you can also checkout the initial findings from our first report for other trends on holiday shopping habits. 

Happy Holidays!

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