Analyzing Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Overall Retail Sales

Cyber Monday online sales reached $1.47 billion, up 17 percent over last year, representing the heaviest online spending day in history, according to digital tracking firm comScore, which also reported that Black Friday sales reached $1.04 billion, besting last year’s amount by 28 percent. Online spending for the month of November 2012 reached $20.4 billion, a 15-percent increase over the corresponding period last year according to comScore research.

Cyber Monday

This day saw digital content and subscriptions outperform other product categories with a year-over-year growth rate of 28 percent. Consumer electronics, led by strong sales of smartphones, ranked second at 24 percent, and the computer hardware category grew 22 percent, helped by strong sales of tablets. Nearly half (47.1 percent) the money spent online at U.S. websites came from work computers, down slightly from last year’s 50.2 percent. According to IBM, the average order value was $185.12.

Experian Marketing Services tracked the most visited websites and found that Amazon received 35 million visits on Cyber Monday, up 36 percent from 2011. Walmart came in second with 18.6 million visits, up 21 percent over last year. Best Buy took the third spot with 9.3 million visits, an increase of 10 percent over 2011, followed by Target with 8.7 million shoppers, a decrease of four percent from 2011. J.C. Penney attracted 5.3 million visitors, a decrease of one percent compared with 2011.

Smaller online entrepreneurs enjoyed a jump in holiday sales this year. Network Solutions, a provider of small business web services, said that its more than 7,000 ecommerce customers saw a collective 10 percent year-over-year increase in sales on Cyber Monday.

Black Friday

On Black Friday, digital content and subscriptions saw a 29 percent increase over 2011, with toys a close second, achieving a 27 percent rise. Sales of consumer-packaged goods rose 23 percent over 2011.

The most visited websites were the same as Cyber Monday. was the most visited website on Black Friday, followed by Walmart, Best Buy, Target and J.C. Penney, according to Experian Marketing Services.

Free Shipping Boost Sales

More than half of ecommerce transactions during the past three weeks of the holiday season have provided free shipping, with a peak of 57 percent during the week ending Sunday, November 25, reports comScore. During the first five weeks of the holiday season, consumers spent an average of 42 percent more on free shipping transactions than on paid shipping transactions, including a 51 percent higher average order value during the week ending November 25, according to comScore. For example, the average order value online on November 25 was $137 for orders with free shipping versus $91 for those with paid shipping. One possibility for this difference is a high minimum order value to obtain free shipping.

Brick-and-mortar Sales

Some analysts had anticipated that new online tax rules that went into effect this year in California and other large states would level the playing field for traditional brick-and-mortar stores but that apparently did not occur. However, 247 million shoppers spent more than $59 billion in physical stores from Thursday through Sunday, according to a BIGInsight survey conducted for the National Retail Federation. That’s an increase from $52.4 billion and 226 million shoppers in 2011.

ShopperTrak, which tracks retail foot traffic, estimates that compared to Black Friday last year, retail foot traffic rose 3.5 percent, to almost 308 million store visits. However, actual retail sales decreased 1.8 percent, with shoppers spending an estimated total of $11.2 billion.

This may be attributable to the fact that retailers began their sales on Thanksgiving Day. These deals attracted some of the spending that usually occurs on Friday. Another possible reason is that shoppers did a bit of showrooming — see “Showrooming Challenges Brick-and-Mortar-Retailers,” my previous article on that topic — and then went home and bought online.

Social Networks

Social network referrals constituted .34 percent of 2012 referral sales on Black Friday, down 35 percent from 2011. For Cyber Monday, the corresponding statistics were .41 percent, down almost 27 percent from 2011. The weak showing surprised industry analysts. This lack of traction may mean that consumers simply do not see social networks as a resource for shopping recommendations.

Predictions for December

One worry is that shoppers may have done all their buying in the heavily discounted five-day November period. comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni stated in a press release, “While we still saw three billion dollar days this week, growth rates dampened following the peak demand of the Thanksgiving-to-Cyber Monday promotional period. This is a similar pattern to what we observed last year. In addition, unseasonably warm weather throughout many parts of the country may have given consumers some added impetus to shop in-store rather than rely on online shopping.”

Marcia Kaplan
Marcia Kaplan
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