Black Friday Shoppers Embrace Mobile, Set New Online Records

U.S. retailers crossed a historic new threshold over Thanksgiving weekend as consumers set new records for e-commerce activity and embraced mobile shopping like never before.

The record-breaking US$5.03 billion spent online on Black Friday — a 17 percent increase from a year ago — was in line with expectations, according to Adobe Analytics. Consumers spent about $43.42 billion on e-commerce holiday shopping from Nov. 1 to Nov. 26, about 18 percent above a year ago.

Mobile devices were used for 54.3 percent of visits and 36.9 percent of online revenue on Black Friday, with smartphones accounting for 44.6 percent of visits and 26 percent of revenue. Average order volume was up 0.9 percent at $135.

Adobe has predicted a record Cyber Monday, with $6.6 billion in online sales expected, representing 16.5 percent growth from a year ago. Sales for the day appeared to be on track with that forecast — $840 million was spent online as of 10 a.m. ET, according to Adobe.

Thanksgiving Day Shopping Now a Thing

“Shoppers capitalized on deep discounts on Black Friday, resulting in the largest Black Friday online ever, with online spend totaling $5.03 billion,” said Taylor Schreiner, director, Adobe Digital Insights. “Conversion rates across all devices saw double digit growth throughout Black Friday.”

With smartphone transactions approaching $1 billion, it’s evident that the resistance to shopping on small screens is beginning to dissipate, Schreiner said.

Data from Adobe also shows that average order value [AOV] was higher on iOS smartphones at $127, an increase of 5.5 percent from a year ago, compared with $112 on Android, up 1.2 percent from year-ago figures.

Top-selling products for the weekend included Google Chromecast, Apple AirPods, Sony Playstation VR, PJ Masks, Hatchimals and Colleggtibles, according to Adobe Analytics. Super Mario Odyssey led game sales and Nintendo Switch and Xbox One X were the best-selling consoles.

For the second consecutive year, e-commerce activity on Thanksgiving Day surpassed Black Friday activity, with average order values of $154.15 on Thursday versus $142.86 on Friday, based on data from Monetate, which analyzed more than 200 million U.S. consumer touchpoints over the weekend.

Conversion rates were slightly up on Thanksgiving versus Black Friday, with a 3.2 conversion rate on Thursday versus a 3.1 percent conversion rate on Friday, Monetate data also showed. AOVs were the highest of any channel on desktops, at $173.92, an increase of 5 percent from a year ago.

There was a 30 percent increase in mobile page views on Thanksgiving Day, according to Monetate.

That is an indication that retailers have succeeded in making the browsing experience on mobile devices a more enjoyable experience, said Maribeth Ross, senior vice president at the firm.

Still, shows consumers were more inclined to make their final purchase decisions on a desktop, Monetate found.

“As more and more consumers shop online, especially on Thanksgiving Day, it’s imperative that traditional retailers focus on delivering a strong, optimized e-commerce presence across all channels,” Ross told the E-Commerce Times.

“Traffic seemed pretty steady, with TVs once again the driver, as always,” said Charles O’Shea, lead retail analyst at Moody’s.

“It is clear that consumers like going to the stores during the weekend, with Thanksgiving openings resonating and now embedded in the shopping psyche,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Prime Objective

Amazon mobile app orders were up more than 50 percent on Thanksgiving Day, compared with year-ago figures, making it one of the busiest mobile shopping days of the year, according to spokesperson Kate Scarpa.

In the first five hours of Black Friday, Amazon customers ordered more than 200,000 toys. They also bought millions of items from small businesses and entrepreneurs that sell through the site, she told the E-Commerce Times.

Alexa voice-controlled devices were among the top sellers on the Amazon website: the Echo Dot, the Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, and the All-New Echo. Other top-selling items included the TP-Link Smart Plug, the SanDisk Ultra 64GB Micro SD Card, and the Keurig K55 Single Serve Programmable K-Cup Pod Coffee Maker.

Amazon, which has expanded its holiday sales push into a global event, confirmed that workers in Italy went on strike.

“The vast majority of our workers in Italy came to work and remained focused on delivering the best customer experience. We are proud of our record of job creation in Italy and are confident we will deliver for our customers across the globe this holiday season,” the company said in a statement provided by Scarpa.

“Once again, we’ve given our customers an amazing assortment of deals at the best prices of the night, and with more availability than any other retailer,” said Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer at Walmart. “We delivered on that promise to the millions of customers who shopped our stores and online by selling tens of millions of televisions, video game consoles, movies and toys, and turkeys.”

“More than 70 percent of Walmart.com traffic was driven by mobile,” Walmart spokesperson Danit Marquardt told the E-Commerce Times, reinforcing multiple reports about the increased use of mobile devices over the weekend.

Equal Playing Field

Shopify, a multi-channel e-commerce platform for 500,000 small and medium sized businesses in 175 countries, reported it biggest-ever Black Friday, with more than $1 million in sales per minute on the platform during peak shopping activity, which nearly doubled last year’s activity of $555,716 per minute during the shopping peak.

There was a similar increase in mobile transactions, either using smartphones or tablets, rising to 66 percent of transactions, compared with 58 percent a year ago, Shopify reported.

“It’s exciting to see the growth in our mobile orders from 2016, because it demonstrates that our merchants’ stores are optimized to handle the needs of mobile shoppers,” said Satish Kanwar, vice president of product at Shopify.

Several improvements made to the mobile checkout process helped drive the increase, he told the E-Commerce Times.

Shopify Pay, launched this spring, sends a six-digit verification code directly to mobile phones instead of requiring shoppers to fill out payment and shipping details, speeding checkout by 40 percent.

Google Autocomplete, introduced this fall, helps customers complete their addresses after they type in a few characters, speeding checkout by 20 percent.

Mobile is performing better this year because retailers have learned not to overload their sites with third-party elements such as tracking and advertising applications, said Mehdi Daoudi, CEO of Catchpoint.

“The mobile sites tend to be a little bit better because they tend to be optimized,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

The three fastest websites were Cars at 0.88 seconds, Walgreens at 0.99 seconds and Sears at 1.3 seconds, Catchpoint reported. The three fastest mobile sites were Cars at 0.84 seconds, Walgreens at 0.9 seconds and Amazon at 1.32 seconds.

There were brief outages at H&M on Thanksgiving Day and early on Black Friday, Catchpoint reported, as well as partial outages at Lowe’s and a slowdown at the Gap.

David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain's New York Business and The New York Times.

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