A Pulse on Peak Week & Q4 2021’s Hottest Categories

7 Dec, 2021
Written by Sandrine Thompson

With stores reopened and shoppers able to buy in-store again this year, it’s been hard to know just how much Q4 shopping would stay online for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Affiliate sales for Black Friday 2020, when most stores were closed, increased 16% YOY - and this was in the middle of a peak shopping period in which sales had started early, increasing 17% YOY in the two weeks prior to Black Friday. Cyber Monday, on the other hand, has shown signs of becoming a less relevant shopping day, particularly in 2020 when a late-year Amazon Prime Day event and early Black Friday deals grabbed a share of shoppers’ wallets early. Cyber Monday’s affiliate sales volume declined -4% YOY in 2020.


Black Friday and Cyber Monday Shared the Wealth in 2021

After years of delivering consistent year-on-year growth, the volume of retail sales in the CJ network on Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2021 each declined -16% YOY while still being the largest online shopping days of the period. Seasonal deals that came out as early as October, paired with shoppers buying earlier to avoid inventory or delivery issues both effectively lowered the growth of these retail calendar stalwarts.

But in terms of sales revenue, Black Friday and Cyber Monday didn’t disappoint - both days each registered 6% YOY growth in revenue, driven by an impressive 20% growth in average order values. Indeed, across the entire peak week period, average order values were consistently up 20-22% each day.

[Check out CJ’s 2021 Q4 Peak Shopping Benchmarks for more performance stats.]

Peak Week’s relative soft performance in volume of orders is not a sign that shoppers are spending less, but instead spreading out their shopping. For example, Adobe Analytics reports that between November 1st and November 29th, US consumers spent $109.8 billion online, an 11.9% increase over the same period last year, and 22 days have exceeded $3 billion in online sales this November, up from nine days in November 2020.


CJ Global Peak Week Performance | Actions

% Change YOY


Overall network sales edged upwards beginning Monday, November 21 yet YOY growth was the exception and not the rule. This is a reversal of trends and atypical for what is often called 'Peak Week' that concludes with Cyber Monday.

Further complicating the story of this season’s sales growth is the high rate of overall growth experienced in the affiliate channel in 2020. Retail sales volume in the CJ network for November - December 2020 increased 27% YOY, and many categories saw 50% growth YOY. To account for this, many retailers have been comparing 2021’s growth against both 2019 and 2020.

Travel’s Big Year

This year’s Peak Week performance needs to be viewed in the context of what shoppers feel they’ve missed out on over the past 18 months, namely travelling. Travel sales in CJ’s network in Q4 are up 115% YOY in November as many global consumers took the opportunity to plan future trips over the Christmas period and beyond. Impressively, 2021 Q4 travel sales have also surpassed 2019 numbers showing an impressive 8% increase when comparing 2019 to 2021 actions. A trend of gifting travel or travelling to see friends and family in lieu of traditional retail gifts may be contributing to this year’s strong growth in the travel sector.


CJ Global Travel Sector Performance By Week | Actions

% Change YOYcj-affiliate-2021-network-travel-sector-by-week-v2


High Growth Categories

In the CJ network, growth was driven by categories that bucked the norm on Black Friday 2021 to increase sales YOY two years in a row, such as the Beauty, Accessories, and Sports & Fitness categories. Beauty sales increased 22% on Black Friday this year on top of 23% YOY growth in 2020; Accessories increased 7% YOY on top of 4% growth in 2020, and Sports & Fitness increased 10% after 10% growth last year.

Cyber Monday’s decline this year and last is partly due to early shopping grabbing share of wallet before Cyber Monday begins. In the years ahead, the idea of sales 'peaking' around Black Friday and Cyber Monday may fade, although the tradition of Black Friday shopping is very entrenched with US shoppers in particular, and has become a calendar event for many consumers the world-over. Retailers will likely have to create budgeting promotional strategies that account for the extended shopping period like the one we’ve seen this year while also catering to the ongoing norm.


Top Products

The sales of art supplies, small electronics, clothing, computers, shoes, home goods, and beauty items were both the most purchased and highest growth products across Black Friday and Cyber Monday when net growth is factored against 2019.

Black Friday, for example, continues to be a strong sales day for computers and electronics, with a net increase of 22% compared to 2019. Items for the home were also top volume and top growth items on Black Friday, with a net increase of 35% YOY.

As the shopping season progresses, shopper sentiment will likely turn to items that can ship quickly, be bought online/picked up in-store, or be purchased digitally. For example, with many more people intending to travel to be with family, or take an extended family trip, gift cards will be increasingly popular (easy to carry, easy to buy).

Once the dust has settled on this year’s peak shopping season, affiliate marketers will need to consider how an extended, and potentially flattened, peak shopping season will affect next year’s investment and promotion planning. For now, focusing on shoppers’ needs over the next three weeks as gift buying continues is the best strategy for achieving growth.

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