Black Friday 2021 and its cousin consumer holiday Cyber Monday will probably continue to illustrate the widening gap between digital and in-person customer experiences and emphasize the need for brands to ensure they can deliver satisfaction at the click of a button.

While having just enough of what consumers want — rather than an abundance of what they don’t want — is always a product of planning, correctly anticipating demand has never been more critical than now.

Uncertainties caused by COVID-19 and the related worldwide supply chain crunch will directly affect how you plan for Black Friday and Cyber Monday and serve customers.

It will probably remain unknown until November if the waning efficiency of vaccines and a surging Delta strain of COVID will keep shoppers away from physical stores on Black Friday, much as the pandemic curbed in-store retail sales the day after Thanksgiving in 2020.

Ecommerce might seem like the natural fallback. After all, the pandemic has nudged consumers even more toward digital: 43% of them expect to shop more online instead of returning to their pre-pandemic behavior.

But even if your brand has its digital marketing and sales engines revving for Cyber Monday 2021, your tires will keep spinning if a lagging supply chain hampers the delivery of goods.

To prepare for these uncertainties and be in the proper pole position to race ahead of your competitors, it’s critical to accelerate your digital maturity so you can understand how consumers perceive your products and how you can get them out to market without delay.

The Shift Toward Digital Continues Unabated

Black Fridays had become a traditional way for consumers to work off the excesses of Thanksgiving. 

They’d line up outside of stores long before daybreak and scramble down aisles like NFL linebackers as they tried to tackle marked-down merchandise before it left the shelves. 

But all that jostling, along with improvements in ecommerce, had started to slowly convince shoppers to browse online even before 2020. The fear of crowds during a pandemic hastened that shift.

It’s All in the Numbers

In 2021, only 15% of consumers who kicked off their holiday shopping on Black Friday did so exclusively in stores, a 26% decrease from 2019 and a 41% drop from 2018. On the flip side, 74% of holiday shoppers made their purchases online on Black Friday 2020, a 13% increase from 2019 and a 27% jump from 2018, according to 

Indeed, instead of the sound of cash registers, brands saw a flurry of digital dollars that day with record consumer spending of $9 billion, up from $7.4 billion the previous year, reports ABC News.

Three days later, Cyber Monday more than lived up to its name: shoppers spent $10.8 billion online, up 15% from the previous year, setting a record for the largest U.S. online shopping day ever, says CNBC.

Adobe had originally predicted last year’s Cyber Monday would bring in $12.7 billion, but with the pandemic making almost all of 2020 a “Cyber Year” (online sales hit $791.70 billion in 2020, up 32.4% from 2019, says Digital Commerce 360) it turned out consumers stretched out their online shopping beyond the day itself. Retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, and Target extended the calendar by offering online deals in October.

The byte-sized takeaway from last year’s digital days was that even though Black Friday and Cyber Monday saw big numbers, the pandemic has further transformed consumers into everyday online shoppers and made the two big shopping days into a longer event.

Uncertainty Will Probably Again Cloud Holiday Shopping

Black Friday 2021 and Cyber Monday three days later has the potential to further illustrate the appeal of ecommerce and again demonstrate the appeal of those two days simply carries across the calendar. 

The digital consulting company Publicis Sapient surveyed consumers about the upcoming shopping days and 56% said they would shop online during the four-day stretch following Thanksgiving, while 74% of them said they would prefer to buy online during the entire holiday season, right into late December. 

The survey also found that in the U.S., baby boomers are more likely to accept the delivery times of online purchases than younger generations are, while in the U.K, Generation Xers joined baby boomers as the demographics most accepting of when items arrive. 

Still, that doesn’t mean they’re stress-free about delivery: the survey said 61% of respondents will be concerned about receiving items in time for the holidays when they shop online this coming Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Delays and Shortages 

Shipping and inventory will undoubtedly be top of mind for just about every brand this holiday season as the Delta variant increases COVID cases and hospitalizations and has people again rethinking how and where they’ll shop.

It hasn’t helped brands that since the beginning of the pandemic, an imbalance in supply and demand caused by increased sales and issues such as labor shortages have stalled cargo ships and containers and slowed the delivery of everything from computer chips to coffee cups. 

Salesforce recently estimated that logistical challenges could force retailers to spend $223 billion in the second half of 2021 to compete with the pandemic: with manufacturers adding $12 billion due to the continued risk of COVID-19, stores spending $48 billion because of a severe shortage of employees, and logistics companies adding $163 billion to their budgets to compensate for a dearth of shipping containers and capacity on ships, says

Hang a New Stocking on Your Improved Digital Shelf

Shining during the holiday season is tough enough, but even more so during a pandemic and global supply chain disruptions. The last thing your brand can afford during these complicated times is a lack of focus and understanding of your digital shelf.

The more insight you have about products on your digital shelf — basically, all the digital touchpoints through which consumers interact with your brand — you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of how shoppers view your products and how you can best get those products into their hands during the holiday shopping season, despite those many big hurdles.

It’s not too late to assess the maturity of your digital shelf. Ideally, your brand should leave behind the fractured data points and siloed teams that hinder your ability to collect proper information. 

You should instead deliver product content to all of your digital channels through a centrally managed location so that you can improve customers’ experiences with rich content that boosts engagement and ROI. 

As other brands wonder if they can surmount the challenges of the holiday shopping season, you’ll have uniform and up-to-date insights that will let you adapt to the pandemic, weak supply chain, and other market forces.

Download this toolkit and explore our interactive ecommerce calendar to learn how to leverage the right strategy, tactics, and tools to drives results this holiday season.


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