Online retailers gobbled up sales this Thanksgiving weekend—making it the largest online shopping weekend in history.
Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 24-25, generated $6.4 billion in online sales, according to Adobe Analytics. Adobe’s data is based on an analysis of more than 1 trillion visits to retail sites in the trailing 12 months. Adobe Analytics measures transactions from 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers.
Even though the Thanksgiving weekend is generally considered the peak of the online shopping holiday season, many retailers are finding that the “peak” is less defined for the 2018 holiday season.
Early shoppers smooth out online holiday sales dollars
Despite strong gains, retailers say the dramatic sales spikes on Black Friday and Cyber Monday of previous years aren’t as drastic this year.
“One thing we’re seeing across the board is less of a focus on Black Friday as a ‘day,’ and more sustained demand beginning the day before, lasting through the weekend, and continuing today,” says Matthew Berk, CEO of coffee retailer Bean Box. “This is in contrast to previous years, when we saw explicit spikes in demand on both Friday and Monday. It’s more like Black Friday/Cyber Monday is becoming a week-long-ish shopping event.”
Tech Armor, an online retailer of mobile device accessories, is also experiencing more even distribution of sales not only during the peak Thanksgiving weekend, but overall for the holiday season, says Peter Marlenga, director of operations.
“As the shopping events become more spread out over the month of November and into December there is less of an emphasis on any particular day or set of days,” Marlenga says. “The spike you used to see in a few days as well as the general December spike is looking more like a November and December plateau.”
Online sales for Tech Armor products via Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000) increased 50% on Black Friday compared with a “normal” sales day in the last few months, Marlenga says. Sales via its website had similar gains on Black Friday and throughout the weekend, he says. “This isn’t as much as we expected but are happy with the jump,” Marlenga says.
This more even distribution of sales throughout the season is not a new phenomenon, but is pronounced this year, says Rob Garf, vice president of industry strategy and insights at e-commerce platform Salesforce.
“With the smoothing of the season’s sales, retailers have responded with a steady drumbeat of promotions and discounts,” Garf says.
Musical instruments retailer Sweetwater Sound (No. 83) was ready for those early shoppers.
“This year, we found success by starting our sales on Nov. 1 and trickled out deals all month long—keeping loyal customers more engaged—and filling in the lull that many retailers now feel in the weeks leading up to Black Friday, where customers postpone shopping to see if a better deal is coming,” says Mike Clem, chief digital officer, senior vice president.
Web traffic and online sales both increased about 20% during the Thanksgiving weekend compared to last year, which is on par with expectations, Clem says.
E-retail Thanksgiving weekend and holiday online sales gains
Despite earlier shoppers, online furniture retailer Renegade Furniture Group (No. 553) still had “robust” year-over-year growth for each of the holiday weekend days so far in the season, says Bruce Krinsky, chief problem solver. Sales since Thanksgiving have roughly increased 40% year over year, he says.
For recreation and sporting goods retailer Dazadi.com, online sales to date this holiday season have increased nearly 40% year over year, with the Thanksgiving weekend contributing to that, says Jason Boyce, co-founder and CEO of Dazadi. “We had a very strong Cyber 5 with big double-digit growth,” Boyce says.
Web-only apparel retailer Lulus Fashion Lounge (No. 244) had its largest online says day ever on Black Friday, with online sales up 35% over Black Friday 2017, says a Lulus spokeswoman.
For the entire holiday season thus far, online sales have increased 25% year over year for online jewelry retailer The Pearl Source, says president Leon Rbibo.
Web-only e-retailer and marketplace operator Newegg Inc. (No. 22) posted “strong double-digit sales growth” Thursday through Sunday, a spokesman says. The value of goods sold by merchants in Newegg’s Marketplace grew 45% year over year over the holiday weekend. Products in the “smart home” category collectively grew sales the greatest amount, up 400% from a year earlier.
At used watch marketplace TrueFacet, online sales on Black Friday were up 4.5-times the previous 30-day average, says a spokeswoman. Part of the sales lift TrueFacet attributes to mobile sales.
While mobile traffic was roughly the same year over year, at 70% of total web traffic, mobile conversion rates increased 89% year over year, TrueFacet says.
Online retail marketing strategies that worked this weekend
Lingerie retailer Adore Me Inc. (No. 308) has prepped for this peak weekend since Valentine’s Day, says Iris Voltaire, business and brand development lead at Adore Me.
The retailer, which launched in 2011, decided to not offer as deep of discounts as in years past, as it is now a more established brand, she says. “We know shoppers are ready and they will purchase,” Voltaire says.
Instead, the retailer had different offers for new or existing customers, such as a site-wide discount for existing customers, or $20 for a new customer’s first bra and panty set. Ads and email promos focused on Adore Me’s best-selling products—in particular a contour bra and panty set. “We did a lot of testing on our ads and email,” Voltaire says. “We went with what we know responds well with customers.”
In addition, the retailer prepped throughout the year to ensure it had enough inventory to meet demands for the kick-off to the holiday shopping season, and to avoid “out of stock” messages on its site during this important stretch. The work appears to have paid off as traffic increased 10% and online sales increased 20% year over year on Black Friday, Voltaire says.
Flash-sale site Zulily.com (owned by Qurate Retail Group, No. 11) focused on its mobile and social audience for the Thanksgiving weekend. On Thanksgiving Day, Zulily had a 300% year-over-year increase on clicks of its mobile app push notifications, a Zulily spokeswoman says. On Black Friday, sales via its mobile apps increased significantly, with a 47% year-over-year sales increase in its Android app, and a 28% increase in sales via its iPhone app, she says.
On the social front for Zulily, sales driven by organic social media posts increased 35% year over year on Black Friday, the spokeswoman says. During Thanksgiving week, Nov. 19-24, Instagram-driven sales increased 134% year over year, and Facebook Live-attributed sales increased 125%, she says.
Beard products retailers Dream Beard switched its marketing approach this holiday season. The retailer used guerilla marketing to encourage more email newsletter sign-ups instead of using its marketing dollars promoting a specific Black Friday sale, says founder Ryan Lane. The newsletters feature style tips and exclusive deals.
The tactic worked. “We had 30,000 new emails generated and saw a 33% increase in sales from last year with 65% less marketing budget,” Lane says.
Business-to-business custom sticker retailer StickerYou Inc. offered a similar promotion to last year—33% off—but decided to promote the deals later into the weekend, on Sunday and then Cyber Monday, instead of on Black Friday. “Anyone selling products meant for businesses should expect to do more business on Monday, instead of Friday, when more people are at their desks,” says founder Andrew Witkin.
Overall online sales for the 2018 holiday season
Overall for the 2018 holiday season, from Nov. 1-25, consumers have spent $50.6 billion online, which is a 20% increase year over year, according to Adobe. And as of 10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time today, Cyber Monday, shoppers have spent $531 million online, according to Adobe. This puts Cyber Monday on track for $7.8 billion in online sales, which would be a 18.3% year-over-year increase.
Despite retailers reporting their dollars spreading out, the Thanksgiving weekend still posted huge online sales gains. Here’s how each day Thanksgiving weekend fared by sales:
In terms of year-over-year increases, Thanksgiving Day had the largest:Favorite