Who won the November 2015 holiday sales battle? Online merchants. Shoppers opted to buy online rather than fight the crowds in brick-and-mortar stores.
Brick-and-mortar sales on Thanksgiving Day dropped to $1.8 billion from just over $2 billion in 2014. Black Friday brick-and-mortar sales also dipped slightly. Analytics firm RetailNext reported overall sales for both days fell 1.5 percent from last year, perhaps because stores started offering discounts right after Halloween, blunting the effect of the Thanksgiving Day holiday shopping extravaganza.
Spending in physical stores fell 10 percent from last year on both Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, according to retailing research firm ShopperTrak. Black Friday sales in physical stores were off more than $1 billion — dropping from $11.6 billion a year ago to $10.4 billion.
In contrast, online sales were up by double digits for Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. A contributing factor was that fewer large chains were open on Thanksgiving Day. Physical stores that closed on Thanksgiving saw robust online sales. Also, last year brick-and-mortar retailers found that Thanksgiving Day sales occurred at the expense of those on Black Friday. Stores such as Nordstrom, REI, Staples, and GameStop that were closed this Thanksgiving Day all saw a substantial increase in online traffic and sales.
According to Adobe Digital Index, consumers spent $1.73 billion online on Thanksgiving, 25 percent more than a year ago. The average order value was $162, a nine percent increase year-over-year. Discounts averaged 26 percent.
For the first time, mobile shopping trumped the desktop, attaining a 57 percent share — 43 percent smartphones, 14 percent tablets. Mobile accounted for 37 percent of online revenue — 22 percent smartphones, 15 percent tablets — and drove a record-breaking $639 million in sales.
Ecommerce analytics provider Custora reported lower figures — only a 12.5 percent increase in revenue over 2014, and a 1.5 percent increase in average order value — but pegged mobile sales slightly higher at 39.3 percent of all online sales.
Adobe Digital Index calculated that shoppers spent $2.74 billion online on Black Friday, an increase of 14.3 percent over 2014. There were $905 million in mobile sales, representing 33.2 percent of all sales compared with 27 percent in 2014.
Custora reported online revenue up 16 percent over 2014 Black Friday with orders increasing 15.6 percent year-over-year. Mobiles sales were estimated at 36 percent of all online sales. Apple devices accounted for 77.6 percent of all mobile orders. Email marketing was the primary channel driving online sales, accounting for 25 percent of transactions. Social media drove a disappointing 1.7 percent of sales.
Adobe reported that $3.07 billion was spent online on Cyber Monday, a 16 percent increase over last year, with 26 percent of sales — $799 million — originating from mobile devices.
According to Custora, Cyber Monday online revenue was up 16.2 percent over 2014, and orders increased 14.7 percent. Social media networks drove only 1.5 percent of orders, while email advertising accounted for a more robust 22 percent of orders. The average order value was up only 1.3 percent. Twenty seven percent of online sales were placed on mobile devices, an increase of 23 percent over Cyber Monday 2014. Of these, 76 percent originated from Apple devices.
Amazon’s year-over-year sales increases were at least 21 percent for each of the three days, while Ebay saw only a 7 percent increase for Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday and less than 2 percent on Black Friday, according to ChannelAdvisor. Google Shopping also showed healthy increases over last year, ranging from 18.6 percent to 40.3 percent.
People are doing more shopping online and less at brick-and-mortar stores.
The significance of each of these three shopping days is declining as merchants offer discounts earlier in the year and continue through December.
More people are shopping via mobile devices. However, while mobile shopping saw strong growth over the holiday with a 34 percent share of online sales, the role of tablets declined. Tablets drove 15 percent of online sales on Black Friday, a two percent decrease from 2014, according to Adobe Digital Index. Smartphones generated 22 percent of online sales, 70 percent more than in 2014.
This year most online merchants offered free shipping on fairly low order values. Consumers expect free shipping on these major shopping days.
- Brick-and-mortar retailers may rethink opening on Thanksgiving Day because shoppers are just as likely to shop online and Thanksgiving Day sales simply cannibalize Black Friday sales. There is also a social backlash against stores that deny their employees a holiday.
- Smartphones are the mobile devices of choice. Merchants need to optimize websites for the smaller screens. iPhones are the preferred shopping device among holiday shoppers.
- Ecommerce merchants must have adequate inventory. Adobe Digital Index reported that out-of-stock items hit record levels on Cyber Monday.. Thirteen out of every 100 product views resulted in an out-of-stock message — twice the normal rate.