Online shoppers spent heavily on Thanksgiving and during the first few hours of Black Friday, with mobile shopping accounting for a major share of ecommerce sales.
Ecommerce sales on Thanksgiving totaled $4.2 billion, a 14.5% increase over last year, according to Adobe Analytics Insights. That marked the first time Thanksgiving sales surpassed $4 billion in sales.
Adobe’s data is based on data estimates from more than 1 trillion visits to more than 4,500 retail sites, including transactions from 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers as ranked by the Internet Retailer 2019 Top 1000.
Meanwhile, Shopify Inc.’s more than 1 million merchants generated more than $442 million in online sales, up 14.5% year over year on Thanksgiving, the company says.
Those results are roughly in line with data from Salesforce.com Inc., which reports that online sales on Thanksgiving grew 17.0% to $4.1 billion. The ecommerce technology vendor says global digital revenue grew 24% to $20 billion. Salesforce bases its information on combined data and holiday insights on the activity of more than half a billion global shoppers across more than 30 countries powered by Commerce Cloud, billions of consumer engagements and millions of public social media conversations through Marketing Cloud and customer service data powered by Service Cloud.
“Digital commerce continues to grow overseas this holiday as retailers and consumers adopt traditions like Black Friday and Cyber Monday that create spikes in deals and demand,” says Rob Garf, Salesforce’s vice president of strategy and insights.
Mobile shopping up 30.5% compared to 2018 holiday season
44.9% of online sales on Thanksgiving came from mobile devices, Adobe says, a significant increase of 24.4% over last year—and a 30.5% increase over the holiday season to date (Nov. 1-28), which includes Thanksgiving Day.
Adobe expects 58% of visits and 38% of revenue will come from smartphones on Black Friday. Salesforce reports an even greater shift to mobile devices as 60% of digital orders were placed via mobile device among the retailers the vendor tracked, up six percentage points from 54% on Thanksgiving last year. And Shopify reports that 69% of online purchases on Shopify merchants’ sites and apps were completed on mobile devices, the company says.
Retailers’ average conversion rate via mobile devices increased 4%, according to Salesforce. That suggests consumers are increasingly comfortable making a purchase on a mobile device.
“Not only are these shoppers more likely to get inspiration on emerging digital platforms, but they are also pushing the boundaries of where actual purchases will happen,” Garf says.
$7.4 billion expected Black Friday sales
By 9 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, consumers had already spent $600 million online, a 19.2% increase from last year, according to Adobe. The vendor expects shoppers will spend $7.4 billion online by the end of the day.
That would continue a strong start to the holiday season; every day this month, online sales have surpassed $1 billion, with nine of those days surpassing $2 billion. Overall, consumers have spent $57.2 billion in online purchases this month.
“Don’t expect the momentum to slow down anytime soon; with $7.5 billion in online spend projected for Black Friday, it’s clear that the largest dollar gains for retailers and shoppers have yet to come,” says Jason Woosley, vice president of commerce product and platform at Adobe.
Shopify merchants had a peak of $1.2 million sales per minute early Black Friday morning, but the ecommerce platform vendor does not share full sales data until the day is complete. However, the vendor notes that mobile devices accounted for 71% of online sales on Shopify merchants’ sites and apps in the first six hours of Black Friday.
Digital Commerce 360 (formerly Internet Retailer) projects U.S. online shoppers will spend $27.49 billion during the Cyber 5 period, the five-day stretch that runs from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday. This would be a 16.3% year-over-year increase from the $23.63 online shoppers spent during the same period last year. Digital Commerce 360 also projects that Cyber Monday will remain the largest online sales day of the weekend, with shoppers spending $8.77 billion on the day, which would be an 18.1% increase from the Monday after Thanksgiving in 2018.
ONLINE SALES PROJECTIONS FOR THANKSGIVING WEEKEND
Sales for the five-day Cyber 5 period will hit $27.49 billion 2019 ecommerce sales, by day
- Thanksgiving: $4.18 billion
- Black Friday: $7.20 billion
- Small Business Saturday $3.52 billion
- Sunday $3.82 billion
- Cyber Monday $8.77 billion
“News outlets still had footage of healthy lines, but there were few that wrapped around the block like we would have seen just a few years ago. It remains to be seen how the rest of the weekend shapes up, but right out of the gate I’d say that we are absolutely seeing a digital impact into the real world on Black Friday 2019,” says Jon Reily, vice president of global commerce strategy lead at Publicis Sapient.
Costco experiences website issues on Black Friday
Online shopping wasn’t free from technical issues, however. Costco Wholesale Corp., No. 15 in the Top 1000, encountered a number of problems, including shoppers who were unable to complete their purchases. Costco.com was down completely for a brief time early morning Thanksgiving and experienced intermittent slow load and transaction times beginning late Wednesday evening, according to site monitoring company Catchpoint.
A banner on its site today reads: “The website is currently experiencing longer than normal response times. Please note that all Thanksgiving Day-only promotions have been extended into Friday November 29th, WHILE SUPPLIES LAST. We apologize for any inconvenience.”
Those issues caused the retailer to lose about 40% of its Thanksgiving online sales as shoppers who encountered problems likely went to other retailers’ sites to make their purchases, says Bob Buffone, chief technology officer at mobile optimization company Yottaa. For example, one shopper noted on Twitter that after attempting to buy an iPad Pro on Costco.com, she ended up buying it on Amazon.
Some other online retailers experiencing technical issues or glitches or limited services Thanksgiving and Black Friday included: Lululemon, J. Crew, Sonus, Nordstrom Rack, Disney Store, Pottery Barn and Petsmart, according to Yottaa.
H&M (No. 29) also was down for a short time—fewer than five minutes—on Thanksgiving Day and went down again shortly on Friday morning, according to Catchpoint. And Home Depot’s (No. 7) website experienced intermittent slow load times midday Thanksgiving Day, Catchpoint says. Not only that, H&M’s app was also experiencing issues on Black Friday, Digital Commerce 360 found.
Some merchants’ issues were specific site features that likely had a limited impact on their overall revenue. For example, Dick’s Sporting Goods’ (No. 58) store locator was unavailable for a time on Black Friday, Yottaa says.
These website issues could hurt retailers’ bottom lines, says Moody analyst Mike Zuccaro. “Retailers need to be on top of being able to invest in the right systems and have a seamless shopping experience, especially with the highest volume sales days of the year on the line,” he says.
Retails expect online sales to increase
Women’s apparel retailer Lulus, No. 130 in the Top 1000, is having an “incredibly busy” start to the Cyber 5 period, says CEO Colleen Winter.
It kicked off a 25% off sitewide sale on Monday at 12:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, which was roughly 24 hours earlier than last year. It let its VIP members know as soon as the sale was available, while the rest of its 3 million email subscribers found out at 7 a.m. PST, according to Noelle Sadler, vice president of marketing for Lulus.
That early start helped make Monday its strongest online sales day this year so far. “We started off really strong, and it eclipsed our sales from last Cyber Monday,” Winter says.
The Black Friday sale will run through Saturday and then flip to a Cyber Monday sale in which it offers a 40% discount on sale items and “buy four sales items, get the fifth free” that will run through Tuesday, Dec. 3. Lulus hopes that sales day is just as strong.
This longer stretch of sales days “gives our customers a longer period to shop, and it helps our fulfillment centers keep up,” Winter notes. “We’ve kept up much better than last year, and our shoppers can’t believe orders are shipping already.”
The retailer opened a second fulfillment center this year. Last year, it only had one, now it has an East Coast and a West Coast one, allowing Lulus to identify where orders are coming from, fulfill them from the closest distribution center location and shrink shipping times.
Plus, giving a longer period of time for shoppers to capitalize on sales “prevents that big traffic hit that brings retailers’ sales period down if their site comes down,” Winter says.
But Lulus still prepared for the influx of traffic. It bolstered its back-end servers so it can easily scale them up and down based on web traffic, Sadler says. The retailer is also directing traffic to a mobile app that it launched this year, although it did not disclose the share of sales coming from the new app versus the web.
Musical instruments retailer Sweetwater (No. 88) is on track for its biggest Black Friday ever, says Mike Clem, chief digital officer. It’s the biggest in terms of total sales and average order volume, which is “the result of layering in an extended financing offer on hundreds of brands,” Clem says.
Holiday decor retailer Christmas Central (No. 993) is seeing spikes in sales this week. “We were unsure whether or not we had peaked this past weekend. Since we sell decor, we thought maybe that would be our big spike,” says vice president Nathan Gordon. But the retailer is still seeing Black Friday traffic and expects to continue spiking in sales through Cyber Monday, he says.
Consumer electronics retailer Monoprice (No. 271) started its promotions on Monday this year and sales have exceeded its expectations so far, especially in the headphone and monitor categories, says CEO Bernard Luthi. “Given the current tariff situation affecting many companies like ours, we placed a heavy emphasis on the quality of our deals instead of quantity this year and we’re seeing it work out wonderfully,” he says. “We are very pleased with the response from our shoppers and look forward to continuing the momentum on Cyber Monday.”
Toys and electronics the most popular Black Friday purchases
The most popular purchases on Thanksgiving were toys and electronics, according to Adobe. The most popular toys were Frozen 2 toys, L.O.L. Surprise Dolls and Nerf products, while the most popular electronics to purchase were Fire TVs, Apple laptops and HP laptops.
Meanwhile, the most popular purchases from Shopify merchants were Bare Necessities Shadow Palette, Pura Vida’s Beach Life Bracelets and Furbo’s Dog Camera, according to Shopify.
“Black Friday and Cyber Monday are changing, and it’s no longer about finding the best sales. Consumers are looking for the most exciting shopping experiences, hosted by innovative direct-to-consumer brands that are changing the face of commerce,” says Loren Padelford, general manager of Shopify Plus.
Digital Commerce 360 will publish another update on holiday weekend activity on Saturday.