Black Friday Weekend: E-Commerce Thinned Crowds, Mobile Devices Drove Traffic
More complex, omnichannel shopping behavior in evidence over the weekend.
Black Friday ain’t what it used to be. The cultural ritual (if I can call it that) appears to have lost some of its mojo, as many retailers, seeking attention and competitive advantage, make Black Friday-style deals available before Thanksgiving. There has also been a shift of some in-store shopping to online (and mobile).
According to in-store analytics provider ShopperTrak, brick-and-mortar retail sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday this year came in at roughly $12.1 billion, which is lower than in 2014. Specifically, Black Friday brought in $10.4 this year versus $11.6 billion in 2014.
By comparison, Adobe estimated that on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, consumers spent approximately $4.45 billion online. That comparison lends itself to the simplistic narrative now being pushed by some: online soars while stores struggle.
The reality is that many of the beneficiaries of the growth in online sales were traditional retail brands. According to Channel Advisor, Amazon and eBay did well, but so did so-called omnichannel retailers. In an analysis of Thanksgiving sales activity, the company said:
When we dig into the “other 3PM” data, what stands out is the Omnichannel players with stores and online marketplaces (Best Buy, Sears, etc.) did extremely well. This indicates that these “Brick and Clicks” retailers were really able to tie their store and online promotions together with great success.
Some analysts blamed slower in-store sales on “Black Friday fatigue” and the expansion of retailer discounting and promotions ahead of Black Friday. For example, Target was offering 10 days of deals before Thanksgiving. An article in Quartz even speculated that somewhat lower in-store receipts were attributable to a broader cultural “shift in values.”
Over the weekend, I received a torrent of emails from various vendors reporting metrics and estimates about sales and traffic sources. There are simply too many numbers (many of which don’t agree) to discuss them individually. However, there were some consistent themes:
- Mobile traffic exceeded desktop traffic: Adobe reported mobile visits were 57 percent of total traffic on Thanksgiving; ChannelAdvisor said that mobile (smartphones + tablets) averaged more than 60 percent of retail site traffic over the course of the weekend.
- Mobile conversions grew but did not correspond to their dominant share of visits: Adobe said mobile commerce was 37 percent of digital sales; ChannelAdvisor said mobile orders were just over 40 percent of online sales. Custora reported that mobile drove 36.1 percent of e-commerce on Black Friday.
- Apple dominated mobile commerce: According to Custora, “77.6 percent of all orders made on mobile devices happened on Apple devices.”
Of course, today is “CyberMonday,” and we’ll have to see what happens. But it may fall short of expectations given the expansion of e-commerce over the entire weekend. CyberMonday was originally named for the first workday after Thanksgiving when people went into the office and shopped using the broadband connections they didn’t then have at home.
Consumers and retailers both have conspired to break the now-outdated “in stores on Friday, online on Monday” holiday shopping pattern. What we have today is much more fluid behavior as people bounce between stores, computers and their ever-present smartphones.
It’s largely mistaken to treat online and offline retail as zero-sum categories (except in the case of Amazon). In the larger picture, consumer spending appears relatively stable. It’s simply fragmenting across channels and devices, just as media audiences have.