Sale shopping has become as ubiquitous to Thanksgiving weekend as turkey and pumpkin pie, but finding the best deals can be overwhelming — especially when it comes to dividing your time and dollars between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Black Friday is a retail tradition in the United States, with many shoppers holding out all year in anticipation of the doorbuster deals and steep price cuts offered. Cyber Monday, Black Friday’s younger, e-commerce cousin, has allowed online retailers to get in on the action.
Adobe Digital Insights reported that in 2016, Cyber Monday revenue surpassed industry projections and raked in $3.45 billion — setting the record for the most successful day in ecommerce history. But how do Black Friday and Cyber Monday — two quantifiable retail juggernauts — stack up against each other? And what can discount-hungry shoppers do to find the best deals on each day?
Black Friday and Cyber Monday by the numbers
First come Thanksgiving Day sales, then comes Black Friday. Finally, Cyber Monday marks the last major shopping holiday of November.
Many retailers have begun to expand the number of days allocated to each of these consumer events to accommodate the large volume of shoppers. Depending on the store, Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals may be offered for multiple days, and some even all week long. Because of this, Thanksgiving weekend is widely considered the season opener for holiday shopping, a tour de force for retail sales across the country.
In 2015, the National Retail Federation reported that the holiday season, November through December, accounts for as much as 30 percent of a retailer’s average business for the year.
According to the NRF, holiday spending in 2016 reached $655.8 billion, a 3.6 percent increase from 2015. More than 154 million people shopped during Thanksgiving weekend last year — 44 percent reportedly shopping online and 40 percent shopping in-store. Alternately, a 2016 NRF report found that there were 122 million consumers who planned to shop on Cyber Monday.
Adobe Digital Insights reported that in 2016, $12.8 billion was spent online during the five-day period from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday.
Navigating Black Friday and Cyber Monday
While many Black Friday deals are offered both online and in-store, Cyber Monday is exclusively an online enterprise. Created in 2005 by marketing companies seeking to drive online sales, Cyber Monday has since earned its place as a highly profitable retail day during the week of Thanksgiving.
A deal’s a deal, regardless of whether it’s marketed for Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but here are some factors to consider when navigating between the two:
• What are you shopping for?
Black Friday tends to dominate when it comes to certain high-end products such as electronics, appliances and jewelry; Cyber Monday may offer better discounts on items such as apparel, shoes and housewares. If you’re looking to score on a new HD TV, your best bet is probably Black Friday. But if a new pair of winter boots is high on your list, consider holding out for Cyber Monday.
• Do you already know what you want?
In general, Black Friday sales feature higher individual discounts on specific products, whereas Cyber Monday sales are great for site-wide saving opportunities, such as 30 percent off your entire purchase. If you know exactly what you want, keep an eye on it during Black Friday. If you’re simply looking for blanket discounts from your favorite retailers, Cyber Monday delivers.
Pro-tip: The sales over Thanksgiving weekend aren’t only reserved for retail products and consumer goods — Cyber Monday is a great opportunity to find price cuts on travel services as well. Hotel reservations, flights and vacation packages are often marked down during this time, so if an impromptu getaway is calling your name, consider booking at a discount.
• Does the store have brick-and-mortar locations?
For stores with brick-and-mortar locations, Black Friday is usually the main event for finding the best discounts both in-store and online. Stores that strictly do business online may offer more robust deals on Cyber Monday than their brick-and-mortar counterparts do.
Do your research
Many stores begin advertising deals for Black Friday and Cyber Monday well in advance. Check out what deals the stores are advertising to be sure you find what you’re looking for — especially if you need to act fast. Many Black Friday retailers offer in-store exclusive discounts, and many Cyber Monday retailers offer flash sales.