Thanksgiving and Black Friday Break Online Sales Records

By Helen Vince
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Market – The Adobe 2014 Digital Index saw a record breaking kick-off to the holiday shopping season in the US that started on Thanksgiving Day, with Adobe reporting $1.33B in online sales as shoppers combined online buying with the family gathering holiday tradition that included a turkey dinner. 

The following day, Black Friday, was also an online sales  record breaker that hit $2.4B, in online shopping according to the group’s reckoning. Meanwhile the National Retail Federation (NRF) said overall spending for the two day kick-off to the holiday shopping season in the US was actually down by 11%, as retailers began “Black Friday” sales discounts as early as November 10th, a full 18 shopping days before Black Friday. Total US retail spending on Thursday through Sunday was at $50.9B with an average spend of $380.95, and that number was also down (6.4% ) from last year. Retail in the US is staggering the sales events with stores like Target, Disney and WalMart offering significant savings well before the traditional Black Friday event. Also the convenience of online shopping is eating into the number of people “going out” to shop and that number dropped 5.2% to about 134M US shoppers from Thursday through Sunday, the NRF reported.

Bright spots came on the mobile-commerce (m-commerce) side of online shopping, where sales using smartphone devices doubled on both days, from last year’s purchases made via m-commerce, Adobe reported. Total November sales reached a whopping $32B or 14% increase over last year’s numbers in the US alone. Also encouraging was “brick-and-click” retailers (like BestBuy online etc.) with the biggest jump coming in that space year over year at 30% boost over 2013. Brick-Click-Pick (on-line shopping and pick up at the store) was also up 45%, Adobe Digital Index (ADI) reported.  Average order value was reported at $149 (Thanksgiving) and $142 on Black Friday.

Interestingly, ADI reported large screen smartphones as a driving force in this year’s online record sales, pushing the mobile commerce side of online shopping to new heights, according to Adobe’s principal analyst, Tamara Gaffney. That and what she calls “…the power of big data to build predictive models, [impacting] average discounts, mobile share and overall sales numbers”, she said. ADI’s findings in purchases made on mobile devices include:

  • 29% of sales on Thanksgiving Day came from mobile devices, (up from 21% in 2013)
  • 27% of sales on Black Friday came from mobile devices (up from 24% in 2013)
  • 13% of sales generated from a smartphone to order online (up from just 7% in 2013)
  • 16% of sales from tablets only (up from 14% in 2013)
  • 79% of sales from iOS devices (yep 21% Android)

Globally, a new “Singles Day” Online shopping (event) in China resulted in a sales bonanza for co-creator, Alibaba, hitting a record $9.3B in a single day. The number is up 60% over 2013 online sales for the rather new “China Singles Day” (11/11/14). It became an e-commerce Event in China, when online giant retailer Alibaba re-branded an obscure anti-Valentines Day (Bachelors Day, celebrating adult singles, not couples) holiday into an e- and m-commerce frenzy using time-limited discounts. It encourages impulse and binge online spending for singles, as an antidote to being left out of more traditional couple-based holidays.

The Alibaba plan is working, with $2B in gross merchandise purchased in the first hour alone, and shortening the time to the $2B sales mark by a full eight hours, according to a Guardian.com report on the event published on 11/18/14. By some accounts, Singles Day (11/11) is going global well beyond Chinese borders as the retail online sales giant said it used Singles Day online selling as a “gateway-event” for those looking to crack the China retail market and helped boost its sales with a global approach that offered over 1M unique items available to consumers outside mainland China.

According to the report, individual shopper spending was actually down by 15% over last year’s Singles Day, but boosted by a 20% increase in the total number of shoppers reaching 360M, making it the biggest online sales event ever – and underscoring the “China Online Consumer effect”.

Just how much the special event can remain “special” is yet to be seen, but creative advertising and giving consumers reasons to purchase is taking on new meaning as big data can now be used to track, count and parse out the sales numbers by the hour, minute and even type of (mobile or fixed) online device being used.

So as the Holiday/Event shopping days keep expanding, we will continue to see online sales records continue to be broken. And as our appetite for the very devices that bring us the online shopping experience grows, so to our models of purchasing and distribution continue shift reflecting the change, from the new power found in the palm of our hand. – Steve Sechrist