In search of a record-breaking holiday season: 5 key insights from Black Friday 2020

November 30, 2020 Ashley Stirrup

Hitting the shops is a Thanksgiving weekend tradition with savvy shoppers seeking a good deal. 2020 is no different, except more shoppers than ever are letting their fingers do the shopping with COVID-19 concerns top of mind. The infamous Black Friday was set to break all records this year, with $189B in total sales in the US alone — up a staggering 32.7% from 2019.

Even prior to Black Friday, between February and June 2020, Algolia saw a 43% increase in search volume across our customers and industries worldwide, in large part due to the pandemic. How has this played out during Black Friday 2020? 

Here are 5 key insights that we’ve seen across our 9,500+ customers who have their sites built on Algolia’s search-as-a-service platform:

1. A record-breaking Black Friday 2020

As expected, shoppers massively turned to online shopping this year. Across a cohort of retail customers, Algolia measured a whopping 66% increase in search traffic this Black Friday compared to Black Friday 2019.

2. From Black Friday to a Grey November

With COVID-19 cases surging recently, retailers have needed to heavily rely on their online channels and rolled out sales events in early November to make the most of the start of the holiday season. 

As a result, Algolia has seen over double the search queries (a 110% increase to be exact) across its retail customers in November 2020 compared to those same customers in November 2019. 

In 2019, the average daily search traffic during the month of November, excluding Black Friday and Cyber Monday, was 26% higher than the month of October. In 2020, it has been 32% higher in November than in October.

3. Record event for independent and direct-to-consumer brands 

Smaller retailers and brands have suffered more during the pandemic and felt the repercussions more than larger ones. This holiday season represents a great opportunity for them to claw back some much-needed revenue.

One of Algolia’s ecommerce platform partners, Shopify, is a preferred platform among small and medium-sized businesses. Shopify reported $2.4 billion in Black Friday sales globally on their platform, a 75% growth in sales from last year.

Algolia’s search data confirms the huge trend among its Shopify customers with a stunning 175% increase in search queries in November 2020 compared to the same customers the prior month. 

4. Soaring traffic, record conversion rates

With heavy advertising budgets and campaigns, retailers compete fiercely to attract shoppers to their online stores during this season, all of which is generating significantly higher search traffic for Algolia customers.

The good news is that those retailers using Algolia also benefited from conversion rates that increased by 29% on Black Friday 2020 compared to Black Friday 2019, in part due to an optimized search and discovery experience that helps people find exactly what they are looking for quickly.

5. These stay-at-home times lead to new bestsellers

To find out what people have been searching for during this Black Friday 2020, Algolia aggregated search data from a sample of representative retailers. And as expected, during this unique time, some new insights have emerged from the most searched terms.

For Fashion and Apparel, keywords like “sweat”, “sweatpants”, and “tracksuit” appeared in the top queries, showing the desire for shoppers to be comfortable while spending more time working and playing at home.

In the Consumer Electronics arena, highly searched items tended to be for the home office with common searches for office chairs, monitors, prints and headphones, as well as the recently released PlayStation 5. In terms of overall categories, Smartphones and TVs are still Black Friday best sellers.

Key takeaway: use a robust search solution for those record sales days

This year, Algolia processed more than 4.5 billion search queries on Black Friday alone, with peaks reaching 7.2M requests per minute, up 85% from the highest peaks in 2019.

We supported numerous customers through 12x spikes from their average search traffic—and up to 170x for one of them—without any down time, nor slow down, in providing relevant search results. One customer even relied on Algolia Analytics as their sole view on their real time performance, as their Google Analytics instance struggled to ingest all the data.

Guaranteeing lighting fast, relevant search at scale, reliably, all over the world is part of our DNA. Contact us if you’d like to free your mind from closely monitoring this key part of your ecommerce stack in 2020 and beyond.

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