United States consumers grappling with inflation and a difficult economic environment shopped for deals this Black Friday. Online retail sales broke 2020’s pandemic-fueled record, reaching a new record: $9.12 billion on Nov. 25. That’s up 2.3% from $8.92 billion in 2021, according to Adobe Analytics, a unit of Adobe Inc. that bases its estimates on 1 trillion visits to U.S. retail sites.
Online sales surpassed Adobe’s original estimate of $9 billion, a projection Adobe shared Friday morning after reporting consumers spent a record $5.29 billion on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 24), up 2.9% year over year. Online sales for the first three weeks of November (Nov. 1-22) suggested consumers waited for deals, as sales during this period increased only 0.1% compared with the same Nov. 1-21 period in 2021.
For the entire holiday season, Digital Commerce 360 projects online holiday sales to grow 6.1% in 2022.
Technology provider Salesforce Inc. reported U.S. Black Friday online retail sales reached $17.2 billion. That’s a 10.2% increase year over year. Salesforce said the average discount rate online in the U.S. was 30%. In 2021, the average discount over Nov. 23-29 was 26 percent in the U.S., down 8 percent compared with 2020.
Mobile also played a big role in consumer shopping, accounting for 78% of web traffic, according to Salesforce. Social platforms accounted for 12% of all mobile traffic referrals in the U.S. and globally, up 22% in 2022 compared with 2021.
Salesforce said its estimate is based on an analysis of 1 billion transactions that passed through its ecommerce and digital marketing software.
Adobe Analytics also reported that U.S. consumers are increasingly comfortable shopping from their phones. Black Friday mobile shoppers accounted for 48% of online sales compared with 44% in 2021.
Despite inflation, online consumers are still spending
This year, more retailers have a surplus of goods and are using higher discounts to entice shoppers to purchase, said Vivek Pandya, lead insights analyst at Adobe.
“Black Friday this year stands out from the past as higher discounts drove larger spend,” Pandya says. “Consumers are using different payment methods, such as smartphones, for transactions.”
Adobe Analytics’ figures are not adjusted for inflation.
“But even if you factor [inflation] in, ecommerce inflation has been nearly flat in recent months, down 0.7% year over year in October, for example,” Pandya says. Online prices were up 7.7% year over year in October, according to the Consumer Price Index.
Budget-conscious consumers opt for buy now, pay later
Higher prices have also resulted in consumers changing how they pay Pandya says. Buy now, pay later (BNPL) orders have increased 78% on Black Friday when compared with the previous week (Nov. 19-Nov. 25), according to Adobe.
Cautious consumers are embracing flexible payment options to manage their budgets in an uncertain economic environment, Pandya says.
Buy now, pay later is an attractive proposition for many shoppers watching how they spend this holiday season, says Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at consumer financial services company Bankrate.com.
“These plans are pushed aggressively online [at checkout],” Rossman says. “BNPL [companies] often don’t charge interest, especially ‘four payments over six week’ plans.”
Meanwhile, the average credit card is charging 19.2%, according to Bankrate.com data. That’s “the highest since we started measuring this in 1985,” Rossman said.
Electronics, smart home items, audio equipment and toys sell well
According to Adobe Analytics, categories that drove online retail sales growth on Black Friday compared to an average day in October include:
- Electronics online sales increased 221%
- Smart home items increased 271%
- Audio equipment increased 230%
- Exercise equipment increased 218%
- Toys increased 285%
Hot sellers included Fortnite, Roblox, Bluey, Funko Pop!, and Disney’s Encanto toys. The gaming category stood out as online shoppers purchased Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 gaming systems, along with games FIFA 23, NBA 2k23, and Pokémon Scarlet & Violet. Other top sellers included Apple MacBooks, and Dyson airwrap and vacuum products, according to Adobe.
More shoppers visited stores on Black Friday 2022
While online retail shoppers spent record amounts online, consumers also ventured out to stores in 2022. In-store traffic increased 2.9% on Black Friday compared with 2021, according to Sensormatic Solutions, a unit of Johnson Controls that monitors retail store traffic.
Plus, more shoppers ventured inside the stores, as fewer online shoppers opted for curbside pickup, according to Adobe. Online orders picked up curbside accounted for 13% of all online Black Friday orders for retailers that offer the service, according to Adobe. That’s down from 21% in 2021.
Total retail sales, both in-store and online, grew 12% year over year on Black Friday, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment and is not adjusted for inflation. In-store sales increased 12% and ecommerce retail sales increased 14%, according to Mastercard.
Shopify Inc. announced a record-breaking $3.36 billion in sales on Black Friday, a 17% increase from 2021.
Shopify is the ecommerce platform provider for 45 of the retailers in the 2022 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000, an annual ranking of North America’s leading retailers by online sales. Adobe Commerce is the base ecommerce software 82 of the Top 1000 retailers use, and Salesforce has 65 retailer clients in the Top 1000.
Stay on top of the latest developments in the ecommerce industry. Sign up for a complimentary subscription to Digital Commerce 360 Retail News.