A late-day surge brought retailers’ online sales for the day to $3.34 billion, says Adobe, which had predicted a $3.05 billion e-retail day. Mobile sales blew past $1 billion for the first time in a single day, reaching $1.2 billion, more than a third of web sales.

Online retailers have plenty to be thankful for today after deal-seeking shoppers pushed Black Friday web sales to unexpected heights.

Web sales totaled $3.34 billion for the day, up 21.6% from the day after Thanksgiving last year, according to the Adobe Digital Insights unit of marketing and analytics software provider Adobe Inc. That total exceeded Adobe’s projection of $3.05 billion in Black Friday e-commerce sales by $209 million.

Mobile sales exceeded $1 billion for the first time in a single day, Adobe says, reaching $1.2 billion, more than a third of sales.

“Shoppers hit the Buy button at unprecedented levels as conversion rates were up nearly a full percent across all devices in the evening hours on Black Friday,” says Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst and director at Adobe Digital Insights. “With the full day total coming in at $3.34B Black Friday may have just dethroned Cyber Monday’s position as largest online shopping day of the year. Shoppers are still buying at higher-than-expected levels in the early morning hours of Small Business Saturday.”

Reporting on conversion rates Friday evening, Adobe says, “Desktop averaged 5.5%, tablets averaged 4.6%, and smartphones averaged 2.4%. Email also surged as a key contributor of sales (17.8%, up 2.8% percentage points from the holiday average) as retailers sent messages urging consumers to not miss out on Black Friday deals before it was too late.”


Friday’s blockbuster e-commerce results followed a strong Thanksgiving Day when consumers purchased $1.93 billion online, an increase of 11.5% from Turkey Day in 2015, Adobe says, based on the results of hundreds of online retailer clients that use its technology.

In fact, the conversion rate was higher on Thanksgiving Day than on Black Friday—3.75% to 3.04%—for e-retailer clients of personalization technology vendor Monetate Inc. “Gone are the days of rushing from the Thanksgiving dinner table into crowded stores in order to stock up on gifts,” says Monetate CEO Lucinda Duncalfe.

The Monetate data also shows that consumers were doing plenty of shopping around on the web, moving from one retail website to another looking for the best deals. That’s reflected in conversion rates for Monetate clients falling 2.2% on Thanksgiving Day versus 2015 and a far sharper 34% on Black Friday. In addition, bounce rates—the percentage of shoppers who leave a website after viewing just one page—averaged 33% both days, a year-over-year increase of 2.8% on Thanksgiving Day and 7% on the following day, Monetate says.

Online shopper picked up steam earlier this year and is more spread out than in the past, says the Rakuten Marketing digital technology unit of Rakuten Inc.

E-commerce sales began to spike around Nov. 13-14 this year, 10 and 11 days before Thanksgiving, versus Nov. 21-22 last year, four or five days before the holiday, Rakuten Marketing says. The firm also noted a 37% increase in same-store online sales for e-retail clients on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, and said Black Friday online shopping peaked this year at 2 p.m. Eastern time, rather than just after midnight last year, suggesting fewer consumers were checking for new deals as Black Friday began.


“The shifting timeframe of the holiday retail season is indicative of a wider trend that shows consumers are moving to mobile,” says Tony Zito, CEO of Rakuten Marketing. “Shoppers, who are able to browse deals from their homes and get retail alerts on-the-go throughout November, aren’t limited to the traditional midnight line outside of shopping malls.”

Online traffic to retail websites increased by 9% for all of Black Friday and peak traffic increased by 39% “suggesting that the digital engagement strategies by retailers are effectively capturing consumer attention,” says Michelle Dupre, group vice president for hospitality and distribution at Verizon Enterprise Solutions. Online traffic increased 10% for all of Thanksgiving Day while peak traffic was up 22%, Verizon says.

Some retailers struggled to handle the heavy online traffic. The mobile website of electronics e-retailer Newegg Inc. was unavailable for several hours starting around 3:30 a.m. Eastern today, according to Catchpoint, which monitors website performance. It was back online by early afternoon Eastern time.

The websites of Macy’s Inc., Victoria’s Secret and Williams-Sonoma all experienced problems Friday. Macy’s sent out an email to shoppers late Friday saying, “Our site was intermittently down, but we’re back now. Let’s get back to shopping Black Friday!”

While consumers flocked to retail websites in larger numbers Thursday and Friday, traffic at major bricks-and-mortar stores and shopping malls declined a combined 1% for Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, according to ShopperTrak, a division of Tyco Retail Solutions that monitors store footfall. Black Friday traffic was about the same as last year, reversing a trend of Thanksgiving Day store openings cutting into Black Friday store visits. That shift “can be attributed to several factors including fewer store openings on Thanksgiving Day, as well as online shopping,” says Brian Field, senior director of advisory services at ShopperTrak.


The more than 200 midsized and larger online retailers using WebLinc’s e-commerce platform registered a 19% increase in sales on Black Friday versus the same day last year, WebLinc says. Mobile devices accounted for 34.01% of sales, an increase of 45.79%. The average order value for WebLinc client e-retailers was $102.00 on Thanksgiving Day and $114.79 on Black Friday.

Adobe says the heavy shopping Friday exhausted some retailers’ supplies of popular products. Out-of-stock rates finished the day at 10.5%, up nearly 2 percentage points from Thanksgiving Day, but still below the 12% outage rate on Black Friday 2015.

Adobe also reported the following data about Black Friday online shopping:

  • Desktop computers accounted for 45% of visits to retail sites and 64% of sales.
  • Mobile devices accounted for 55% of visits and 36% of sales. Smartphones represented 45% of visits and 25% of sales; tablets 10% of visits and 11% of sales.
  • Conversions for the full day improved over holiday averages, with smartphones at 2.4 percent, tablets at 4.6 percent and desktops at 5.5 percent (compared to holiday averages of 1.3, 2.9, and 3.2 percent, respectively).
  • Clicks from search engines accounted for 38.3% of sales, direct traffic 25.3%, email 17.8%, “shopper helper” sites such as comparison shopping and product review sites 16.5%, display ads 1.2% and social networks 0.9%.
  • The conversion rate on Apple iOS mobile devices was 2.5%, for Android devices 2.2%. Average order value for purchases on iOS phone and tablets was $142 versus $130 for Android devices.

Adobe says its Black Friday estimate is based on aggregated date from 22.6 billion visits to retail websites. Adobe provides web analytics technology to 216 of the retailers in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide, which ranks retailers by their North American online sales, according to Top500Guide.com.