Online sales grew a modest 21.5% on Thanksgiving compared with 2019, according to Adobe Analytics data. Shoppers took advantage of early deals, which may have softened Thanksgiving sales growth, but led to more sales on the Tuesday and Wednesday prior to the holiday.

A pandemic-ridden Cyber 5 kicked off with a 21.5% increase in online sales on Thanksgiving Day, according to data from Adobe Analytics. Ecommerce sales hit a record $5.1 billion in sales Thursday, Nov. 26, up from $4.2 billion on Thanksgiving Day 2019.

Technology vendor Salesforce reported similar results based on their analysis: a 20% gain online on Thanksgiving to hit $6.8 billion in the U.S., and a 27% growth to $30.4 billion worldwide.

While growth in the 20% range is above last year’s 14.5% jump in online sales on Thanksgiving compared with 2018, it’s still far below the pace of ecommerce gains during the pandemic. It’s especially below the annual ecommerce growth of 40.3% Digital Commerce 360 projects by the end of 2020, and it falls short of the 34.9% expected jump in online sales during November and December, according to Digital Commerce 360.

An early start to “Black Friday” and “Cyber” deals may have softened the growth on Thanksgiving Day, as shoppers made purchases throughout the week. Retailers set the stage for longer holiday discounts. 76% of the top 50 North American online retailers were offering a Black Friday deal on Monday, Nov. 23—three days before Thanksgiving and four days earlier than Black Friday. Digital Commerce 360’s analysis is based on visits to the top 50 retail sites ranked in the Top 1000 largest North American online retailers.

It’s clear many retailers offered deals earlier than usual to ease some of the pressure on fulfilling a large volume of online orders all at once when the pandemic has already put a strain on retailers’ and shipping carriers’ fulfillment operations. Some merchants were upfront with customers on their sites. For example, Victoria’s Secret (owned by L Brands) had a banner on Monday, Nov. 23, that said “the gift of Black Friday. This year we’re starting the savings early, with our best deals every day this week.” Sears had listed its Black Friday Doorbusters by Nov. 23 and told its customers on its homepage: “Shop deals early and avoid the shipping rush.”


Victoria’s Secret had already listed Black Friday deals on its site by Nov. 23.

Data shows consumers took advantage of early deals. Digital sales grew 72% year over year on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and 48% on the Wednesday preceding, according to Salesforce data.

“While yesterday was a record-breaking Thanksgiving Day with over $5 billion spent online, it didn’t come with the kind of aggressive growth rate we’ve seen with the start of the pandemic,” says Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights. “Heavy discounts and aggressive promotions starting in early November succeeded at getting consumers to open their wallets earlier.”

Adobe’s estimates are based on more than 1 trillion visits to U.S. retail sites, including transactions from 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers. Data estimates from Salesforce are based on more than a billion transactions globally on retail sites that use Salesforce’s cloud services.

Here are more ecommerce shopping highlights from Thanksgiving:


Mobile shopping

Consumers shopped through their mobile phones more than ever, with a record 46.5% of online sales stemming from smartphones on Thanksgiving, according to Adobe data. In 2019, Adobe reported 44.9% of online sales on Thanksgiving came from mobile devices.

However, with fewer consumers traveling during the holidays due to spikes in coronavirus cases, traffic and purchases from desktops were strong as well leading up to Cyber 5 (the five days beginning Thanksgiving Day and ending the following Monday). Desktop represented 26% of traffic and 49% of sales on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Salesforce data. Conversion rates on desktops averaged 5.8%, two times higher than mobile conversion rates on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thanksgiving, mobile comprised 58% of orders, but desktop traffic still saw two times higher conversion rate. What’s more, desktop purchases had a $122 average order value globally on Thanksgiving, 20% higher than mobile purchases, according to Salesforce.

Curbside pickup

With a strong second wave in coronavirus spikes and some state mandates on limited capacity in stores, curbside pickup options have been popular during the pandemic and especially during the holiday season. Salesforce data shows merchants that offered curbside, drive-through and in-store pickup options increased digital sales at a 26% higher rate versus retailers that didn’t provide omnichannel options during the first few days of Cyber Week (beginning the Monday before Thanksgiving). Additionally, retailers that offer curbside pickup had a 31% higher conversion rate of traffic to their sites on Thanksgiving, according to Adobe.

Many retailers launched curbside pickup this year, a result of the pandemic that has kept consumers out of stores. As of August 2020, 43.7% of the 245 retailers with stores ranked in the Digital Commerce 360 Top 500 offer curbside pickup, a sharp increase from 6.9% at the end of 2019.


COVID-19 restrictions

The pandemic has pushed more consumers online. 9% of all digital sales have been generated by new online shoppers, Adobe data shows. That’s in part a result of store shoppers moving online. This is particularly true on Thanksgiving when many large retailers closed doors for the day. Walmart Inc., Target Corp., Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kohl’s Corp. Ulta Beauty, Best Buy Co. Inc. and The Home Depot Inc. were among the large retailers that closed their physical stores on Thanksgiving but continued to take orders on their ecommerce sites—where most were offering discounts.

In states that have COVID-19 restrictions on family gatherings, Adobe data shows a 3.4-times higher year-over-year growth in online shopping compared with states with fewer restrictions.

A full analysis of Black Friday sales:

A full analysis of Small Business Saturday: