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This week's top UK Retail stories

The festive retail peak has kicked off to a strong start with substantial growth in search volume and engagement across the UK. The two-week period up to and including Cyber Monday saw a +23% yearly growth in clicks, all at lower cost-per-click (CPC) vs 2019. 

The big peak days, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, both saw strong growth with +27% and +21% yearly growth in clicks. Black Friday weekend days, traditionally strong days for offline retail shopping, saw the largest growth of the two weeks. With restrictions still in place and hesitation towards high street shopping, both days saw over 30% growth in clicks yearly. Shopping ads being a key driver with double digit growth on the Saturday. 

Graph to show the weekend days saw the highest growth.

The rise of the 'midnight hour bargain shopper'

Searches specifically containing ‘Black Friday’ related terms saw a decline year on year of around 27% despite the overall volume growth on the day. This indicates it is becoming more established as a traditional sales period with consumers. Searches containing ‘Cyber Monday’ grew on the day itself by 41% and started building up around 2 days before. With the growth in demand as a result of lockdown restrictions, this suggests that demand may have outpaced supply over Black Friday driving consumers to continue searching for discounts and sale products. 

Black Friday searches themselves ramped up slightly later than in previous years beginning at 10am in the UK. This change may be due to the reduction of commuter and early work riser searches. Another interesting trend we saw across both Black Friday and to a lesser extent Cyber Monday, is that of the ‘midnight hour bargain shopper’. We saw an increase of searches for people searching for ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ related products between the hours of 3am and 5am on both days. 

What did people search for Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

Some of the highest click growth categories were related to products aimed at fending off the cold such as gloves and mittens, blankets and bedspreads which saw an increase of 60% and 41% respectively. Our data also shows that consumers were focused on cosy nights in with a 15% increase in portable media devices and 10% in clicks on slippers (I’m sure we can all relate to this, I have been in my slippers for almost 10 months - a new pair is needed!)

Graph to show the weekly click increase in 'cosy night in' essentials.

Hair styling products saw a 16% increase highlighting that people are perhaps gearing up for nights out around the Christmas period.

Graph to show the weekly click increase in hair styling products.

Discover more Black Friday and Cyber Monday insights here. 

Get ready for Boxing Day 

Earlier purchase decisions, a shift in major queries, and growth in categories well-suited to pandemic life are the current characteristics of the festive shopping season. With over a week to go before Christmas day, plenty of opportunity still exists in the marketplace as consumers finish out their wish lists. Utilise rising queries like those containing “gift”, and categories that are seeing unseasonal growth, to deliver success in the time left this shopping season.  

With Apparel, Consumer Electronics, Home & Garden and Gifting all seeing 30% increase in yearly growth across our network throughout November and December we expect to see an even greater surge in consumer engagement across the next few weeks. Remember that the festive period continues into January with Boxing Day being the next big event. Tina Spooner CEO of IMRG states: "We’re likely to see a higher number launching sales over Christmas and Boxing Day, with some going into sale as soon as their high street shops close their doors on Christmas Eve.” Ensure you plan your festive campaign budgets with this in mind. 

Microsoft Advertising Insights is here to bring you the latest data to help you make informed decisions as you plan the rest of your festive season campaigns. To learn how to leverage Microsoft Advertising shopping-related features like Microsoft Shopping Campaigns and Local Inventory Ads, check out our festive guide. For more retail-related content, product updates, and actionable checklists, visit our dedicated UK retail hub.