Update 11/14/18 – The data for the week ended 11/11 has been updated in Google Trends and the figure index came in at ’23’. At the same time last year, the figure was ’25’. This is obviously a little behind where we were last year, but the good news is that it’s a little closer than things were last week. The next reading is going to be really important to get a potential gauge of retail business not just on Black Friday, but for the holiday shopping season as a whole.
We’ve all noticed that the holiday seasons are coming earlier and earlier every year. This year, search demand for “Black Friday” and related terms started in September. This not only means that people began looking searching for, but retailers began talking about Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) earlier than normal this year.
The chart below illustrates the demand for ‘Black Friday’ (blue line) and ‘Cyber Monday’ (orange line) over the last 5 years. [To make it easier to read, I didn’t include the weeks where there was negligible demand for the terms. Just to make sure that we all understand — the chart above represents data from Google Trends. Google Trends provides comparative indexes of data for periods of time. An index value of 100, is the highest figure for any period of time. As with any index, it’s not the absolute demand figure, it’s an index figure that allows for easy comparison.
Google Trends Holiday Season Chart – Black Friday, Cyber Monday
As illustrated in this chart, each year is “shaped” roughly the same. In the last 5 years, interest in “Black Friday” has begun 8 weeks prior to the actual Black Friday date and peaks the week of Black Friday, which makes perfect sense. For example, Thanksgiving, 2017 was on 11/23, making Black Friday 11/24. The peak demand for the term ‘Black Friday’ was in the week of 11/19 (which is the Sunday before). This year, 2018, Thanksgiving comes relatively early on the 22nd. So as expected, the demand for ‘Black Friday’ popped up over an index value of 1 in the week of 9/30, which coincides with the 8-week time frame. Demand drops very quickly, but not completely in the week after Black Friday, but returns to an index value below 1, which means negligible.
Demand around Cyber Monday terms have a much shorter ‘life”, beginning to be important 2 weeks prior and ending the week of Cyber Monday, returning immediately to negligible demand.
The data supplied by Google Trends is index-based, there is the ability to make some time-based comparisons to gauge overall demand. Black Friday demand averages 4.3 times higher than Cyber Monday in their peak weeks. This compares the Thanksgiving week value of Black Friday to the following weeks’ Cyber Monday value. In Cyber Monday’s peak week, it’s 5.3 times as high as Black Friday in the same week, indicating that people are still looking to see how long Black Friday sales could last.
The average demand for ‘Black Friday’ over the last 5 years is as follows:
- 3 weeks prior: “4.8”
- 2 Weeks Prior: “14”
- 1 Week Prior: “21.6”
- Week of: “82.8”
- 1 Week After: “3.6”
Remember, these are index values and not absolute demand. To understand this, the week BEFORE Black Friday, there is about one-quarter the demand as the week of Black Friday — which is likely the people planning out what they will be doing on Black Friday, and where they will be shopping. Demand two weeks prior is still one-sixth of the demand the week of black friday, which is still significant. Lastly, in the 7 weeks prior to Black Friday and the week after Black Friday, overall demand is roughly 60% of the demand in the week OF Black Friday.
Looking at demand around “Cyber Monday” over the last 5 years:
- 2 Weeks Prior: “1”
- 1 Week Prior: “5.8”
- Week of: “19”
- Week After: “0”
This can be a little bit confusing, but the chart below may provide a better illustration regarding the demand trend. Each year’s Black Friday week is the “0” column with the negatives representing the weeks prior to Black Friday and the positives the week after. This chart illustrates the weeks of preparation and planning that some people do for their holiday purchases as well as the quick drop off.
What does this all say about 2018 so far? That’s the real question and the real thing that we want to know. First, as previously stated, the demand began to pop up back in September, albeit barely. Now that we are getting closer to Black Friday, do we potentially have a gauge on what 2018 holds? The picture isn’t completely clear yet. 3 weeks prior to Black Friday, interest around the term was a little higher than it was in 2017 (about 15-20% higher), but 2 weeks prior to Black Friday we were an equal amount behind 2017. This current week will tell a lot about what the year may hold as the current forecast is for holiday sales to increase between 4.5 and 5.5%, depending on which forecast(s) you look at.
I’ll update this story next week with some updated charts and information..