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Editor’s Note:  For the second year, Awin has released its North American Cyber Week sales data directly to Martech Record and its readers. The data in this article aggregates results from across the Awin and ShareASale platforms and contributes to the collective understanding of key trends across the performance marketing industry. If you’d like to compare the data in this report to last year’s, you can find it here.

Affiliate sales for Cyber Weekend (Friday - Monday)  were up solidly in 2023 versus last year, according to North American data from Awin and its partner network ShareASale. Increases in affiliate sales for these critical shopping days largely mirrored results for the entire ecommerce industry.

Top Takeaways

  • Across all categories, total advertiser revenue was up 6.5% for the Friday to Monday Cyber Weekend period. Transaction count increased by 3.4%. 
  • We saw a significant increase in total commissions, up 9.8% versus last year. This increase aligns with an aggressive promotional environment witnessed across the broader retail and ecommerce spaces. 
  • Mcommerce accounted for half of Cyber Weekend advertiser revenue for the first time.
  • Growth in affiliate was accelerated by a big increase in BNPL usage, up 32% year over year on Cyber Monday. BNPL usage was also up across all ecommerce. Consumers wanted ways to stretch holiday spending without entering into long-term debt.
  • Creators played an increasingly important role in driving Cyber Week purchases. Affiliate spend with influencers was up 5% YoY.
  • Cyber Weekend's positive performance indicated that while many consumers may have financial and other concerns, they are still committed to spending, especially when they find great prices and deals.

Solid Cyber Week Growth

Across Awin and ShareASale’s North American platforms, advertiser revenue increased 6.5% over 2022. Total transaction count and publisher commissions also increased while traffic modestly declined. 

 

US Cyber Weekend Affiliate Channel

Change Versus 2022


Advertiser Revenue   +6.5%

Transactions               +3.4%

Commissions              +9.8%

Traffic                           -5.4%

 

Across all ecommerce, Cyber Weekend sales were $32.5b, up 8.3%, according to Adobe Analytics. For the Total Cyber Five period (Cyber Weekend plus Thanksgiving), ecommerce sales totaled $38.1b, up 7.9%.

Black Friday Advertiser Revenue Up 7.3%

Affiliate advertiser revenue for Black Friday was up 7.3% versus 2022, while traffic was down slightly. Commissions were up 6.5%, and transactions increased 4.6%.

 

US Black Friday Affiliate Channel 

Percentage Change Versus 2022


Advertiser Revenue   +7.3%

Transactions                +4.6%

Commissions              +6.5%

Traffic                           -1.4%

 

Across all ecommerce, Black Friday sales increased 13.3% to $9.8b.

Cyber Monday Saw Affiliate Traffic Drop, Revenue and Transaction Growth

Advertiser revenue for Cyber Monday grew 2.7% over 2022. Commissions rose at a much faster clip, up 8.5%. But the big story was that we saw these increases despite a traffic drop of more than 20%. Given the lower traffic level, the revenue and transaction figures indicated that consumers converted at a much higher rate than last season. 

 

US Cyber Monday Affiliate Channel 

Percentage Change Versus 2022


Advertiser Revenue   +2.7%

Transactions               +2.3%

Commissions              +8.5%

Traffic                           -21.0%

 

Across all of ecommerce, Cyber Monday was the biggest online sales day ever, up 9.6% to $12.4b. 

Insights Behind the Numbers

To contextualize what this means for affiliate marketers, we examined our data and external ecommerce trends to provide richer insights into this critical holiday sales period.

Deep Discounts on Electronics, Furniture and Apparel Powered Growth

Record-high deals and deep discounts on popular categories helped power sales growth for the Cyber Week period. Across the total ecommerce industry, Adobe Analytics reported deep discounts for a broad range of categories:

 

Cyber Week Total Ecommerce Industry

Peak Discount Percentages by Category

 

Electronics            31%

Toys                        27%

Computers            24%

Apparel                  23%

Furniture               21%

Appliances            18%

Sporting Goods    15%

 

At the Awin Group, we saw a different split across advertiser sub-sector performance, with the top five most popular categories amongst our merchant portfolio being department stores, fashion, sportswear & fitness, health & beauty, and accessories. 

BNPL a Big Winner in 2023

While consumers were ready to buy this Cyber Week, their mix of payment methods changed significantly compared to 2022. Cyber Monday advertiser revenue via Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) services like Klarna, AfterPay and Affirm increased 32.3% over last year, to an all-time high. 

Strong BNPL performance bodes well for our channel for the season, as several of the top providers work on a performance basis with many leading affiliate programs in the US and Canada. 

Mcommerce Gains Momentum 

For Cyber Weekend, 50% of advertiser revenue came from mobile phones, 49% from PCs, and 1% from tablets. This is the first year in which mobile accounted for the largest share of total advertiser revenue.  For total ecommerce, 54% of sales on Black Friday were made on smartphones, versus last year’s 48%. 

Influencers Help Drive Digital Commerce Growth 

Other interesting developments in our data include an uptick in transactions impacted by the integration of affiliate and influencer programs. This is an important industry development and has been a focus for the Awin Group for many years. 

Awin and ShareaSale have forged strategic partnerships with many leading players in the influencer space, dramatically boosting performance-based and hybrid partnerships between advertisers and creators. And this is reflected in the advertiser investment we saw into creator partnerships this Cyber Five, with influencer spend up 5% YoY.  

Contextualizing this a bit more, a PYMNTS consumer survey of 2,671 Black Friday shoppers noted that 29.8% of respondents made a Back Friday purchase influenced by a social post, 20.7% by a TikTok video, and 14.4% by an influencer post describing the creator’s own holiday purchases. 

Tech Partner Adoption Escalates

The Awin Group has been a first-mover in encouraging the adoption of on-site, performance-based technologies into a brand’s technology stack. These tech partners typically focus on boosting conversion rates and AOV, thereby ensuring advertisers are successfully converting the customers their traditional affiliate partners are driving to their websites. And the proof is in the pudding, with tech partner adoption across Cyber Weekend up 40% in the US and 25% globally on Awin and ShareASale. 

This is a significant development because it shows how affiliate marketing is being integrated more deeply into clients’ businesses versus simply operating as a traffic-driving niche channel. These technologies help ecommerce metrics for all traffic, not just visitors driven to the site by affiliate publishers. Many companies are leveraging affiliate to add conversion optimization technologies because the pay-for-performance model is preferable to expensive long-term contracts with large set-up fees.  

Closing Thoughts

Generally speaking, brands approached this holiday season with some jitters. Given 1) the uncertain economy, 2) consumers feeling stretched by lingering inflation and high interest rates, and 3) the turbulent global geopolitical climate, some feared the season wouldn’t be strong. Many retailers, especially those focused on apparel, strategically reduced inventory levels, wanting to ensure they weren’t stuck with a lot of goods if the season proved weak. 

Over Cyber Weekend, nervous advertisers could breathe a healthy sigh of relief as consumers opened their wallets wide, motivated by rapidly approaching holidays and powerful promotional events. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), a record 200.4m people shopped over the Cyber Five, 18.4m more than projected and 3.7m more than in 2022. Online shoppers outnumbered in-store shoppers every day but Saturday.

 

Cyber Five Total Ecommerce Industry

In-Store and Online Shoppers by Day (Millions)

 

                                   Online             In-Store            Difference

Thursday                      35.1                        22.5                  +12.6

Friday                           90.6                       76.2                  +14.4

Saturday                      58.3                       59.0                    -0.7

Sunday                         36.9                      28.0                   + 8.9

Monday                         73.1                      20.9                  +52.2

 

While we saw a small overall decline in affiliate traffic, advertiser revenue and transactions were up, reflecting an increased conversion rate. Customers driven by Awin Group affiliate partners were there to buy, and buy confidently.

Over the last several years, much has been made about how consumers are moving many of their purchases to earlier in the quarter. Nevertheless, the strong results for Cyber Weekend show how critical this period continues to be for brands and publishers alike. Maximizing affiliate sales in the holiday period is a long game requiring rich insights into your customers, competitors and the overall environment. Now more than ever, a robust partner strategy, smart merchandising and agile timing help brands drive maximum value from the channel.