Despite a year of record holiday spending over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, consumers proved less willing to make donations on Giving Tuesday. That development has implications for retailers, even though Giving Tuesday donors have behaved in unique ways in recent years.
Americans donated $3.1 billion on Giving Tuesday in 2023, according to data collected by GivingTuesday Data Commons. The Tuesday after Thanksgiving has grown as an occasion for charitable giving to nonprofits and other organizations.
“We are so inspired to see a show of generosity of this magnitude every year. Our goal with GivingTuesday, not just on the day itself but year-round, is to create an ecosystem of giving that helps communities, causes, and organizations across the globe,” says Asha Curran, GivingTuesday CEO. “However, we are concerned to see a decline in participation in line with giving trends from the past year. GivingTuesday’s mission is to inspire generosity among as many people as possible, not just raise as many dollars as possible. Generosity has such important correlations with civic participation, community cohesion, and well-being.”
Giving Tuesday and consumer spending
Though Giving Tuesday participation did grow slightly in 2023, it was far outpaced by consumer spending. U.S. consumers spent $9.8 billion online on Black Friday and $12.4 billion online on Cyber Monday, according to data from Adobe Analytics. Black Friday spending grew 7.5% year over year, and Cyber Monday grew 9.6%. Total spending during the Cyber 5, the period between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, grew 7.8% to $38.0 billion.
34 million adults in the U.S. contributed on Giving Tuesday, according to GivingTuesday Data Commons. That’s a 10% decline in participants since 2022’s 37 million, indicating fewer people gave this year, but they gave more.
Though Giving Tuesday falls the day after Cyber Monday, they don’t necessarily follow the same trends. 2019 and 2020 both recorded significant growth on each day, but then the paths began to diverge. In 2021, Cyber Monday spending fell slightly from the peaks of a pandemic holiday season, while Giving Tuesday numbers continued growing.
The shopping season is longer than ever
Holiday shopping continues to start earlier in the year. Some retailers got an early start on the holiday season this year with sales in early October. Amazon.com Inc. held its Big Deal Days sale then, and 82.0% of the Top 100 online retailers held some kind of competing promotion at the time, according to Digital Commerce 360 analysis.
Giving Tuesday, however, hasn’t expanded its reach in the same way.
“Retailers are expanding the time frames of deals and promotions this year to entice consumers. The increase in this time frame is diluting what Black Friday and Cyber Monday was intended to be — one-day ‘doorbuster’ deals that now expand to multi-week promotions,” says Audrey Chee-Read, principal analyst at Forrester. “And this noise is drowning out some other events, like Giving Tuesday — which has mostly kept to one day.”
Consumers may be worried about spending
“The 2023 holiday season has retailers sitting more on the edges of their seats due to inflation worries and general consumer spending anxiety,” says Chee-Read. “In Forrester’s Consumer Pulse Survey September 2023, we found that consumers are not expecting to spend more in almost every category, with the exception of groceries — where consumers see the most everyday impact in their lives.”
Spending did increase over the Cyber 5 shopping period, but that doesn’t mean consumers feel secure in their ability to keep spending or to give. More purchases than ever were made with buy now, pay later (BNPL) services, accounting for $940 million on Cyber Monday alone, according to Adobe. That may indicate growing levels of debt. A September survey from Morning Consult found that BNPL users are more likely to carry debt than the average consumer.
Consumers are also feeling the effects of rising prices. In a Numerator survey of 5,035 shoppers, 72% said their holiday shopping was impacted by rising prices, with 36% spending less on gifts during the Cyber 5 period this year.
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