It comes as no surprise that consumers are shopping online more in 2020. But just how much impact did the COVID-19 pandemic have on e-commerce during retail’s biggest days – Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

We analyzed around 8 billion visitor interactions with storefronts powered by SAP Commerce Cloud this year so far and found a 162% increase in year-over-year order volume for the month of November. Consumers are clearly shopping and buying like they never have before. Let’s dig into specifics to see what other trends emerged.

Big Deals Came Early

First, while Black Friday and Cyber Monday – the huge push in the U.S. to buy holiday gifts at the end of November – aren’t going away, retailers took advantage of general increased e-commerce buying habits to offer early deals at the start of November. This led to an increase in orders primarily seen during first and second week of the month, unlike in previous years where we’ve seen a gradual ramp up of orders reaching a peak during third and fourth week. To put hard numbers on it, during the first two weeks of November 2020, businesses in general including retailers had already generated 55% to 60% of the month’s orders, which historically ranged between 44% and 48%, except retail, which was between 35% and 40%.

Going forward, this indicates that the traditional sales bonanza in late November may begin earlier and earlier, as early as retailers are willing to start offering deals and consumers feel ready to jump on them.

2020 E-Commerce Sales Smash 2019 Numbers

As for Black Friday and Cyber Monday and the days in between, the average order value (AOV) of sales was approximately 3 times higher than the AOV of November last year. The takeaway? Consumers are not only shopping more; they are buying more, too.

This was key in driving the gross merchandise value (GMV) up to eight times the amount in November 2019. GMV specifically for retailers of this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend alone was approximately twice as high as last year, and roughly 65% to 70% of November’s GMV was generated during the second half of the month.

Changes in Customer Engagement

Also noteworthy is the ways retailers are reaching customers and helping to drive these numbers. Emarsys, an SAP company, offered a snapshot for a year-over-year comparison with 2019, with Emarsys customer engagement systems recording:

  • More than 90% increase in device push notifications, to 86 million
  • More than 21% increase in emails, to 834 million
  • More than 177% increase in real-time event triggers, or digital campaign triggers based on individual customer behavior, to 189 million
  • More than 29% increase in segment executions, or campaigns aimed at different audience segments, to 14.6 million

As Alex Timlin, vice president of Retail and E-Commerce for Emarsys, explained, “This year, marketers have been hitting customers hard via apps, with Emarsys seeing a 90% increase in push notifications in the run up to Black Friday, to 86 million. These notifications can have a genuine impact on shoppers, with research suggesting they can stimulate up to 25% more web traffic and 30% greater click-through rates.”

While 2021 will look different – hopefully brighter – than 2020, these findings may very well indicate long-term changes to retail and holiday shopping going forward.

Bob Stutz is president of SAP Customer Experience.