While a 21.6% online sales bump is higher than 2019's Black Friday growth, it falls short of projections likely because of retailers offering deep promotions early in the season. Like all of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic impacted spending behavior on Black Friday, with more consumers shopping online, more consumers opting for buy online pick up in store, and retailers offering promotions earlier than ever.

Online sales on Black Friday hit $9.03 billion, a 21.6% year-over-year increase from last year, according to Adobe Analytics. Like all of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic impacted spending behavior on Black Friday, with more consumers shopping online, more consumers opting for buy online pick up in store, and retailers offering promotions earlier than ever.

While a 21.6% growth is higher than 2019’s 19.0% year-over-year growth, it falls short of both Adobe’s projection (39.2% growth) and Digital Commerce 360’s projection (38.5%).

 

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One likely reason could be that retailers offered deep discounts, normally saved for the five-day stretch of Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, much earlier in the season. “Heavy discounts and promotions starting as early as late October succeeded at getting consumers to spend more earlier in the season,” Adobe says.

In fact, of the top 50 online retailers that Digital Commerce 360 ranks in its Top 1000, 76% of them offered a “Black Friday” deal on Monday, Nov. 23, four days before Black Friday, according to a check by Digital Commerce 360 editors. Only 12 of the top 50 merchants were not offering a Black Friday deal on Nov. 23. While merchants typically try to get consumers to shop early for the holiday season, the urgency is more real this year, when many retailers are struggling to full online orders in a timely way. The coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent online shopping boom have pushed online retailers’ and shipping carriers’ operations to the maximum.

And consumers listened, likely pulling sales that may have been spent over the Cyber 5 weekend earlier in the season. According to Adobe, consumers spent more than $3 billion online for nine days over the Nov. 1-29 period.

 

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Lingerie retailer Adore Me Inc. (No. 316 in the Top 1000) noticed the sales shift to earlier in the month. For example, in 2019, the online revenue on the Monday before Thanksgiving generated about 18% of online revenue it received on Black Friday, says Ranjan Roy, vice president of strategy. This year, the Monday before Thanksgiving pulled in 36% of Black Friday’s sales, he says.

Online sales increased 178.3% year over year on the Monday before Thanksgiving. Plus, online sales were up 144.3% on Tuesday and up 80% on Wednesday. And it’s not just because of promotions, Roy says.

“The days surrounding Black Friday/Cyber Monday are becoming significantly more important for retailers,” Roy says. “There has been speculation that pre-Black Friday sales might attract more shoppers, but we can tell you, even without aggressive discounting on those days, we’re seeing a huge increase in shopping activity.”

Still, consumers shopped online in record amounts on Black Friday. Web-only merchant GlassesUSA.com says online sale increased 70% year over year on Black Friday, average order value increased 15% year over year, and its conversion rate increased 33% compared with Black Friday 2019.

Because of health concerns from the coronavirus pandemic, many consumers are avoiding indoor spaces with crowds, such as stores, during the Cyber 5 weekend. In fact, traffic to stores on Black Friday decreased about 50% year over year, according to Coresight Research. In general, shoppers did not rush to stores early in the morning, with most stores seeing foot traffic increase after 10 a.m. and grow stronger in the afternoon and evening, according to Coresight, which bases its data on store checks, consumer surveys and retailer interviews.

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This pushed many consumers to shop online on Black Friday and Thanksgiving. One example that highlights this is for consumers in states with COVID-19 restrictions around family gatherings. According to Adobe, year-over-year online shopping growth in those areas was 265% higher compared with year-over-year growth in states with fewer restrictions.

What’s more, global consumers spent 116.6 million hours shopping on Black Friday, a 20% year-over-year increase, according to ecommerce platform and service provider Salesforce Commerce Cloud, which bases its data on 1 billion global shoppers that shop with retailers that use its services.

The surge in omnichannel fulfillment also showcases shoppers either wishing to avoid stores, not wanting to pay for shipping or not wanting to wait for the package to arrive. Online orders fulfilled via buy online pick up in store or curbside pickup increased 52% year over year on Black Friday, according to Adobe.

Retailers that offer these omnichannel services outperform online merchants that don’t, according to Salesforce. U.S. retailers that offer BOPIS or curbside increased online sales 19% more on Black Friday than retailers that don’t have these options.

One concern over the pandemic is that many of the retail gains went to large retailers that sell a variety of products deemed “essential,” such as Walmart, Home Depot and Target, and so could stay open, and not to many small businesses that were forced to close physical stores and possibly their warehouses for a period of time. Large retailers also typically pull in an outsized share of shoppers during the Cyber 5, Adobe says, as consumers shop for multiple gifts at large brands with deep discounts.

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During the Thanksgiving weekend this year, however, consumers appeared to make more of a conscious effort to shop small. Large retailers (annual revenue more than $1 billion) increased online sales on Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday compared with their October daily average by 403%, while smaller retailers increased 349%. In 2019, large retailers’ Black Friday sales increase 380% compared with their daily October average, and smaller retailers increase 173%.

“While larger retailers have always performed better during Cyber week than smaller brands, consumers seem motivated to spend more with small retailers in 2020 as the gap shrunk by over 200%,” Adobe says.

Adobe also finds that smartphones generated 40% of online spend on Black Friday, and reached $3.60 billion, which is a 25.3% year-over-year increase. Smartphone conversion rates were 3.1%, while laptop and other devices had a 6.8% conversion rate.

Adobe Analytics’ is the data insights arm of software company Adobe Inc. Adobe’s data is based on transactions from more than 1 trillion anonymous online visits to retail sites, including 80 of the top 100 retailers in the Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000.

 

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