The Seasonal Six—US Holiday Shopping Breaks Records

By Russell Goldman, Director, Shop+, Mindshare

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‘Cyber Week’ started early in the US, with sales and pre-sales events starting as early as the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The seasonal six-day kick-off (Wednesday-Cyber Monday) to the 2018 holiday shopping season set new retail records in 2018, generating nearly half of all online sales for the month of November in just six days ($26Bn).

Details and Implications:

A boom in consumer confidence in the US is now expected to catapult retail holiday sales over the $1 trillion mark, with more shoppers discovering, browsing and completing purchases via mobile devices than in previous years. Retailers that focused on providing relevant and sustained deals, as well as omni-channel and frictionless shopping experiences, came out on top.

As in 2017, consumers continued to lean heavily on their mobile devices this year. However, unlike previous years, the Black Friday holiday kick-off saw consumers use mobile devices not only for price comparisons, holiday planning and product browsing, but also for making purchases. Mobile traffic powered the lion’s share of digital traffic (67%) on Black Friday and helped over 50% of all shoppers check out with products on Thanksgiving Day.

Retailers worked early and hard to generate Cyber Week sales with an increase in brand messages across SMS and email showcasing new shopping incentives – steep discounts and free shipping – throughout Cyber Week. Retailer’s such as Kohl’s aggressively tiered discounts and linked savings to loyalty shopping: a “Cash in on Cyber Monday” promotion featured 20% off; $10 off when you spend $50 or more, and $15 “Kohl’s Cash” for every $50 spent. However, discounts and perks were strong across retailers during the week with the average retailer offering 27% discounts and 78% off shipping, according to Salesforce. Whilst online and mobile sales hit record highs, bricks and mortar retail sales were reportedly down between 5% and 9% as compared to 2017.

Nonetheless, with over 85% of all holiday sales expected to take place in-store (v. online), the importance of in-store shopping experiences and omni-channel shopping flexibility was clear. Consumers took to social media in support of Old Navy’s “One Dolla Holla” Campaign, featuring ‘$1 give a pair/donate a pair of socks’ campaign, whilst some brands used the shopping holiday to launch new retail storefronts. On the heels of its previous owner, Toys ‘R’ Us closing down, FAO Schwarz re-opened its doors in New York City with its iconic toy soldiers dressed in uniforms designed by social media star and model, Gigi Hadid.

Several large brands, including J.Crew, Lowe’s and REI, limited their participation in Cyber Week. REI closed its doors on Black Friday to promote its annual #OptOutside campaign, to spend more time outdoors and less time shopping – a move that won it a Titanium Cannes Lions in 2016. Lowes and J.Crew, however, were forced to sit the shopping holiday out, as they were plagued with technical challenges. The websites of both companies were unable to meet the demands of heavy online traffic during the peak holiday shopping week – a problem Amazon faced during its 2018 Prime Day.


As expected, the holiday shopping season is off to a strong start in the United States, with more consumers shopping online and using their mobile devices to assist with purchasing across all stages of the consumer journey. Consumer demands for shopping flexibility have resulted in deeper, more creative shopping incentives that last longer, start earlier and are available wherever consumers choose to purchase products.

Further Reading:

eMarketer / NYTimes / Retail Dive / SalesForce / Adobe