Online retailers had good news on two fronts over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend: Sales are up and fraud attempts are down, according to Signifyd.
Signifyd provides fraud prevention services to web merchants. Its network includes 115 retailers in the 2023 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000 ranking of North America’s leading online retailers.
Across Signifyd’s network, fraud attempts are 20% lower compared to the 2022 holiday season, says J. Bennett, chief customer officer at Signifyd. He says that’s because last year, there was a big and sophisticated wave of fraud attempts engineered by a crime ring in Southeast Asia, and that has not been repeated this year.
“Last year was the first time we saw a pretty broad-based attack during the holidays,” Bennett says. “This year, we’re seeing measurable levels internationally, but not in the U.S. market.”
Signifyd estimates U.S. online retailers lost $660 million in fraud in November 2022 alone, mostly theft of such high-end items as:
- Mobile phones
- Computer chips
- Gaming devices
Meanwhile, Signifyd says online sales for the season are up about 6% compared to last year. That estimate is generally in line with ecommerce sales data from Adobe Inc. and other ecommerce technology providers.
Online retailers are upbeat about holiday sales
With supply chain snarls that limited web sales during the pandemic largely eliminated, several retailers contacted by Digital Commerce 360 were pleased with early results from the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Shopping at Nebraska Furniture Mart seemed to start earlier than usual this weekend, perhaps driven by offers of discounts, free shipping and financing, says ecommerce director Jeffrey Douglas.
“We are seeing inventory levels return to pre-COVID levels, so we’re in great shape when it comes to being in-stock,” he says.
Nebraska Furniture Mart is No. 310 in the Top 1000. The Digital Commerce 360 database ranks North American retailers and brands by online sales.
At Beanbox, an online coffee retailer, web sales jumped 15% on compared to last year. That makes it the strongest Thanksgiving Day in terms of sales in the e-retailer’s history, says Ryan Fritzky, co-founder and chief marketer at Bean Box. Bean Box is No. 1329 in the Digital Commerce 360 Next 1000 database. It ranks North American retailers Nos. 1001-2000 in ecommerce revenue.
Instagram ads produce strong results
Fritzky says early access deals aimed at top customers and subscribers helped bring sales forward on Thanksgiving Day and likely contributed to the lower 5% growth on the next day, Black Friday. But he notes Black Friday produced strong subscription sign-ups.
“We’re excited about that because it’s a big opportunity for us to reach people who will be with us for the next year,” he says.
Bean Box got a strong response to its ads on Instagram and relatively weak traffic from Google search ads early in the weekend, Fritzky says. He says many consumers were scrolling through their social feeds on their phones Thursday and Friday and responded to appealing ads they saw, whereas they typically go to Google when they’re searching for items to buy.
“We’ll see stronger search demand on Monday as people scramble to make last-minute decisions,” Fritzky predicts.
More family gatherings help boost sales of baking supplies
At Ann Clark Ltd., sales turned up with the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resumption of social gatherings, says ecommerce director Tom Funk. Ann Clark manufactures cookie cutters and other baking supplies, and it sells direct to consumer at AnnClarkCookieCutters.com.
“U.S. sales growth was modest. As a premium brand, we try to steer away from aggressive discounting,” he says. “International — mostly Europe and Canada — was a bright spot, growing 20% to 50% depending on country.”
Profits have increased as Ann Clark selectively raised prices and tweaked its marketing campaigns, Funk says.
“Paid and organic search declined over prior year,” he adds. “Email revenue grew 35%. We’re a bit more in the mode of engaging existing customers, less about battling to acquire a lot of new customers.”
Sales are ‘better than expected’ for an online gifts retailer
Lynnette Kelley, part owner and business manager of Calamity Worldwide LLC, an online retailer of humorous gift items, says early-weekend sales were “a little better than I was anticipating. Not by much, but considering that our sales were lower than anticipated for Nov. 1 through 22, I’m happy to see that Nov. 23 through 25 so far have exceeded my expectations.”
She says sales were down 20% Thanksgiving Day through Saturday compared to the same days last year, “but we expected sales to be lower this year compared to last, as our whole year has been shaping up to be a little lower than last year.”
She says Calamityware.com customers may have put off purchases until Thanksgiving because the e-retailer promised a holiday giveaway of a reusable grocery bag featuring one of the retailer’s original designs.
“I suspect that has something to do with the lower-than-planned sales in the beginning of the month, and higher-than-planned sales so far this weekend,” Kelley says.
On a positive note, she says Calamity has been able to return to full price for some of its best-selling items this year without cutting into the number of larger orders it has received. That’s noteworthy in a season when online prices are generally lower than they were a year ago — Adobe says average online prices were 6% lower in October 2023 than the same month last year — and discounting is heavy.
Will online sales return to pre-pandemic patterns?
The 2023 holiday season could signal a return to pre-pandemic shopping patterns, with heavy discounting driving strong sales in November that result in muted online revenue growth in December, says Bennett of Signifyd.
“I expect Cyber Monday will be big,” he says. Sales that day often follow the pattern set by Black Friday, which was quite strong this year. “I’m very curious how much this will pull forward from December. November has been stronger than I expected, and I would suspect December will be weaker than we expected.”
Funk, the ecommerce director at Ann Clark, which generates most of its online sales on the Amazon Marketplace, foresees stiff competition ahead.
“Ecommerce, especially on Amazon, continues to be brutally competitive,” Funk says. “I expect it will be a challenging season, where much of our growth comes from new products. We recently launched gourmet waffle and pancake mixes, which are doing very well as folks return to more family gatherings.”
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