Online and Mobile Sales Shine on Thanksgiving Weekend

Anjali McKenzie, Former UX Researcher

Article Category: #Strategy

Posted on

Every year on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving I like to look through the news articles, analyst reports, YouTube clips, and social snippets that document the madness during and the results following Thanksgiving weekend shopping. It’s like watching an intense TV show -- there’s comedy, adventure, drama, and sometimes (unfortunately), tragedy. But, the thing I like best about post-Black Friday and Cyber Monday reading is the online and mobile sales data that pours in from various sources and retailers. The trends we see with online sales numbers, mobile browsing, in-store device usage, and even social media engagement have historically proven to be good predictors of what to expect for the remainder of the holiday shopping season. If retailers aren’t keeping a close watch on the outcomes of Thanksgiving weekend shopping, they’re missing out.

This year, we saw more early sales than ever before, with physical stores opening as early as 6pm on Thanksgiving day. (Some, like myself, might balk at those who chose to forego a day of family and friends, football, and grand feasts -- but now we’re secretly envying that colleague who snagged the 16GB iPad Air for a low low price of $360.) Even earlier than that, online Thanksgiving “pre-sales” surfaced on many retailer sites. It’s no wonder that online and mobile shopping over the weekend was at an all time high.

Here are some online and mobile highlights from IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark Report for Black Friday and Cyber Monday ...

Online Shopping
Online sales on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday grew by 19.7% and 19.0%, respectively, from last year, and Cyber Monday online sales grew by 20.6%.

Mobile Shopping
Mobile traffic grew to 39.7% of all online traffic, increasing by 34% over Black Friday 2012. Mobile sales were also strong, reaching 21.8% of total online sales, an increase of nearly 43% from 2012. Cyber Monday showed solid mobile sales as well, exceeding 17.0% of total online sales, an increase of 55.4% year-over-year.

Tablets Rule
Smartphones served as the browsing device of choice on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday with 24.9% and 19.7%, respectively, of all online traffic coming from a smartphone. But, when it came to making purchases, tablets drove double in online sales over smartphones, with 14.4% of online sales coming from a tablet on Black Friday, and 11.7% on Cyber Monday. Tablet shoppers also spent $17-$20 more per order compared to smartphone users on both days. On average, tablet shoppers spent $132.75 versus $115.63 among smartphone users on Black Friday and $126.30 versus $106.49 on Cyber Monday.

iOS vs. Android
iOS users shopped more and spent more than Android users. On Black Friday, iOS users spent $127.92 per order compared to $105.20 per order for Android users. Overall, iOS sales reached 18.1% of all online sales compared to 3.5% for Android. The same went for Cyber Monday -- the average order was about $15 higher for iOS users vs. Android users, and the percent of online sales hit 14.5% for iOS vs. 2.6% for Android.

“Push” Promotions
Push notifications were huge between Thanksgiving Day and Black friday this year. Retailers sent 37.0% more push notifications when compared to the daily averages over the past two months.

Social Influence
Facebook and Pinterest both served as key referral sources for shopping this Thanksgiving weekend. Holiday shoppers referred from Pinterest on Black Friday spent 77.0% more per order than shoppers referred from Facebook. Cyber Monday showed the reverse, with holiday shoppers referred from Facebook spending 6 percent more per order than shoppers referred from Pinterest. However, on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Facebook referrals converted at a much higher rate than Pinterest referrals, possibly indicating stronger confidence in personal network recommendations.

Much of IBM’s data falls in line with the results from a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation (NRF):

  • 42.1% of shoppers indicated that they shopped online over the holiday weekend. Of those, the average person spent $177.67 online, which equated to 43.7% of their total weekend spending, up from 40.7% in 2012.
  • Top products purchased online included clothes, DVDs and video games, and books.
  • Shoppers made a dedicated effort to find deals online, with 1/3 of shoppers conducting online searches to find the best deals. Additionally, 36.8% made sure to keep track for emails from retailers.
  • Facebook surfaced as a significant source of holiday shopping deals, with 16.4% of shoppers reviewing retailers; Facebook accounts for information.

Mobile Optimized Sites Take a Bigger Piece of the Online Sales Pie

How do IBM’s mobile numbers stack up against data from retailers who have mobile-optimized sites? Branding Brand, an e-commerce platform which designs mobile experiences for top retailers worldwide, has their own Mobile Commerce Index which samples trends from across the company's client base. In looking at Thanksgiving weekend shopping data from the sample of 152 smartphone-optimized sites, Branding Brand saw smartphone traffic account for 34.4% of its clients’ total e-commerce traffic on Black Friday. This number is nearly 10% higher than what IBM reported, which makes sense since Branding Brand's data comes from clients who have made a dedicated effort to design for mobile. 

All in all, although total sales were down (by almost 3% according to the NRF), online sales soared. Also worth noting is that social is playing a bigger role in influencing purchases, online browsing and shopping is quickly becoming the norm, and passive and aggressive online and mobile promotions are having an increased effect. Most compelling, however, is the year-over-year jump in mobile sales, which are expected to continue. Such numbers reinforce the importance of having a site optimized for a growing mobile audience. Just a few more reasons why retailers should keep pushing the online and mobile e-commerce needle!

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