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Key Learnings from Cyber 5 2021

The data is in, and it shows that Black Friday and Cyber Monday have informally become terms for a months-long deal event. While many advertisers saw Cost-per-Click peak on Black Friday specifically, due to competition from increased ad spend, impressions and traffic had more modest gains. Rather, holiday shopping began far before the big holiday deal event, as early as October with signs pointing to continued shopping and deal-hunting post-Cyber Monday.

With Prime Day 2021 pulled into Q2 this year, the landscape ahead of Cyber 5 2021 looked a lot different than previous years. Additionally, labor shortages, supply-chain disruptions, and other challenges have greatly impacted sellers and brands this quarter. Retailers like Amazon have more recently projected confidence in their inventory for Q4 and the holidays after taking steps to solve supply chain problems. However, global supply chain disruptions still posed widespread inventory limitations, causing many brands to adopt more cautious Cyber 5 strategies this year as a result.

Consumers shopped early this year, and many brands and retailers met them with deal events beginning as early as October. Over the Cyber 5 event, we saw stronger demand on Thanksgiving Day itself than we have in previous years. The lengthened holiday season continues in 2021 after Cyber Monday as well, as many large brands repeat or extend their deals into December.

Performance Trends

Initially, eMarketer forecasted that eCommerce Cyber 5 will have slightly higher growth than last year. And surprisingly, they forecasted Thanksgiving Day itself to have the highest growth rate year-over-year for eCommerce shopping, which were fueled by brick & mortar store closures on the holiday itself and earlier than usual Black Friday promotions than in previous years. So, what happened? Exactly that. According to Pacvue data, the Turkey Day holiday saw an 8.51% increase in Sponsored Products ad spend, and a 12.76% increase in Sponsored Brands ad spend. Meanwhile, impressions appeared to remain on the lower end this year.

In the lead-in to Black Friday, Pacvue Cost-per-Click (CPC) data appears to follow a similar trend line as seen in previous years, with CPCs up around 30% during Cyber 5 weekend versus the previous week.

  • One home goods brand saw CPCs jump up 100% on Thanksgiving Day itself, reinforcing the eMarketer stat in that Black Friday eCommerce really isn’t about Friday itself anymore.
  • Many brands saw their CPCs peak on Black Friday. Cyber Monday, while still elevated week-over-week, was at the lower end of the event surge.
  • Pacvue first-party data shows that ad spend was up about 200% week-over-week on Black Friday.
  • Brands were still willing to spend to promote during the peak traffic event. However, it appears that consumers did not flock to Black Friday deals at the same level.


Cyber 5 2021 is in the books and will be known for not showcasing as many promotional deals than in previous years. “The Black Friday average promotional discount is lower than in previous years, according to data compiled by Refinitiv and StyleSage Co,” reported by Reuters. Some categories even saw fewer-than-expected promotions, likely due to inventory limitations. During peak events like Black Friday, it’s almost impossible to reach Top of Search on Amazon without running deals, so those that were running deals this year had a major advantage.


Despite the ceaseless news stories about supply chain disruptions, traditional retailers have reported a strong inventory position for the holidays.

  • Walmart: U.S. inventory in Q3 was up 11.5%, and the retailer is “in a good position to continue delivering strong results.”
  • Target: inventory is up 20% compared to last year
  • Best Buy: 20% more inventory than two years ago and in “a good inventory position for the holidays.”

Some brands took the approach of spreading out their inventory amongst retailers. One toy brand that was featured in the Holiday Toy Guide ran out of stock on Amazon, but still had in-store inventory available from Walmart and Target. Other brands without an omnichannel presence yet, opted for more conservative strategies to better manage inventory given the constraints.

New Site Experiences

2021 was a year filled with new retailer site experiences for advertisers. Both Amazon and Walmart leveraged a few new features for consumers during this year’s Cyber 5 deal event weekend.

  • Amazon added a dynamic savings call-out in Sponsored Brands if one of the ASINs in the ad had a deal (“Save up to 24% off)
Amazon added a dynamic savings call-out in Sponsored Brands if one of the ASINs in the ad had a deal (“Save up to 24% off)
  • Both Amazon and Walmart leaned heavily into shoppable livestreaming. On Amazon, the livestreaming widget was featured at the top of the Black Friday deals page.
Amazon and Walmart leaned heavily into shoppable livestreaming. On Amazon, the livestreaming widget was featured at the top of the Black Friday deals page.
Kelly Clarkson Amazon Livestream Cyber Monday 2021
  • Amazon Fresh has a prominent placement before Thanksgiving in the middle of the Black Friday experience. 2 of 4 cards above the fold on the homepage were for Fresh, plus one slot in the rotating hero.
  • One in six Americans were expected to use Buy Now Pay Later this season.

Key Takeaway

As we look towards the rest of Q4, the year ahead, and the emergence of a possible game-changing COVID variant, the theme from Cyber 5 is that consumers are in always-on shopping mode for eCommerce. Brands need to be increasingly more omnipresent and multi-channel to capture demand outside of traditional cycles.

To better prepare for the holiday season and yet another unpredictable year ahead, take a moment and download a copy of our 2021 Cyber 5 CPC Report for access to week-over-week and year-over-year trends in CPC, ACoS, spend, and key Amazon Advertising takeaways from this year’s event.

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