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Was Black Friday Worth It? The Crawled eCommerce Data Answer

Posted on December 4, 2017 by

Now that we’ve had a chance to recover from the Black Friday and Cyber Monday crazes, which chalked up record sales this year, it’s time to ask the inevitable question: was Black Friday worth it? Were products actually cheaper during this period, or was it all (massively successful) marketing hype meant to increase retail sales?

There’s no clear-cut way to answer to this question without actually seeing the stats that Jeff Bezos and his ilk have access to, but we decided to give it a go using the e-commerce data we already crawl and collect. We extracted this data using Python to access our own e-commerce data feed, then did some basic analysis in Excel. We looked at crawled data from thousands of products on leading e-commerce sites before and after Black Friday to see whether prices were actually lower (using the historical pricing field, which captures price changes for a specific e-commerce product every time it is crawled).

Please note that we ran this analysis on a random set of a few thousand products, and the dataset we used wasn’t enough to reach any scientifically valid conclusions. The fact that we found 0% sales on doesn’t mean there were actually 0 sales. However, it does offer some insight into the overall Black Friday trends in the e-commerce industry.

So without further ado, our answer to the original question: was Black Friday 2017 actually worth it? Here’s what we found, looking at the data:

1. Less than 50% of the products were actually cheapest to buy on Black Friday.

lowest prices before and during black friday

Only 46% of the products we looked at were actually cheapest to buy during the period between Black Friday to Cyber Monday. For the majority, our crawlers found lower pricing points earlier in 2017 – so buying these products during the week between Black Friday to Cyber Monday would not have netted you any gains versus the regular sales and discounts that happen throughout the year.

2. Some sites are more lucrative than others.

When we came to compare which sites had a larger percentage of products on sale, we found some interesting disparity. We define “sale” similarly as before, i.e. that the product’s lowest pricing point was during the period in question. While an impressive 78% of Etsy products were priced lowest during Black Friday, other sites were not as generous. Of the dozens of products we crawled an (an online fashion retailer), we could not find a single one that was actually cheapest to buy during Black Friday. The two behemoths, Amazon and Walmart, both occupied a happy middle at ~55% sales during Black Friday.

Percentage of products on sale in major retails sites during black friday

3. Were retailers shoveling bad products to Black Friday sales? Apparently, no.

Average user reviews of ecommerce products

This was a bit disappointing, because we were hoping to find that the products on sale were the ones which consumers gave lower ratings to, which could have been a major scoop. However, the average rating of products that were on sale during Black Friday was actually significantly higher than those that were not. So no Pulitzer for us, unfortunately.

So… was Black Friday 2017 worth it?

While our analysis is limited in scope, it’s clear that there are massive disparities between various online retail sits, and within product categories in the same site. Unsurprisingly, you shouldn’t rush to buy anything, Black Friday or no Black Friday, without comparison shopping. Also, it never hurts to ask yourself whether you actually need the specific item that’s supposedly on sale.

Want to do your own research on e-commerce websites? Get your free e-commerce API key now.

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One thought on “Was Black Friday Worth It? The Crawled eCommerce Data Answer”

  1. Emer Natalio says:

    This is interesting.

    I would be curious to know a hypothesis
    of which category of products were discounted the most = electronics?

    On the other hand, since Etsy was also active active
    perhaps it’s another category? Thoughts?

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