Thanksgiving Day Online Sales Leap 14.3 Percent in 2014

Even while the traditional Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing lay still warm on the table, Christmas shoppers were on tablets and desktop computers making purchases, boosting U.S. online sales some 14.3 percent over Thanksgiving 2013, according to a report released early November 28.

The data came from IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark, which is using data from tens of thousands of ecommerce sources to monitor online sales trends in near real time. Separate sources also reported significant growth in online sales for Thanksgiving Day 2014. As an example, Walmart Senior Vice President of Merchandising, Laura Phillips, said in a release that Thanksgiving Day was her company’s “second-highest online sales day ever — topped only by Cyber Monday last year.”

4 Important Online Sales Insights

The IBM Thanksgiving Day, U.S. online sales data revealed four important online sales insights that could impact how some ecommerce businesses operate and market for the rest of the 2014 holiday season or even how those businesses operate during future peak shopping periods.

These insights include a drop in average order value, mobile sales growth, desktop sales stability, and the effectiveness of certain social media marketing efforts.

Average Order Values Fell

The typical Thanksgiving Day online shopper spent $125.25 per order (desktop and mobile combined), down some 1.8 percent from last year, according to IBM. What’s more the average number of items purchased per order actually rose some 16.2 percent to 4.3 products.

Taken together, this means that shoppers were seemingly paying less for more.

There are several possible explanations for the tend, including two likely drivers.

  • Retailers offered deeper discounts earlier. Many Black Friday discounts were available online on Thanksgiving Day. Best Buy, as an example, had sold out of $199.99, 50-inch televisions online by midday on Thanksgiving.

  • The product mix may have changed. Sales of health and beauty products grew about 55 percent on Thanksgiving Day compared to 2013, and sales of apparel similarly rose about 36.7 percent, meaning it is possible that shoppers simply tended to buy less expensive items this year.

Mobile Traffic and Sales Rose Significantly

Mobile devices accounted for 52.1 percent of all U.S. online traffic on Thanksgiving Day, according to IBM, up 22.4 percent year-over-year. What’s more, about 32.3 percent of U.S. online sales originated from a mobile device, an increase of some 25.4 percent over Thanksgiving Day last year.

“Smartphones drove 36.4 percent of total online traffic, more than double that of tablets, which accounted for 15.4 percent of all online traffic.  However, tablets are winning the shopping war.  Tablet sales accounted for 17.9 percent of online sales, compared to smartphones, which accounted for 14.4 percent of total online sales, a difference of 24.2 percent,” IBM reported.

Owners of Apple devices were more likely to use a mobile device to go online, make an online purchase, and spend more on each purchase relative shoppers using Android devices.

“Apple iOS traffic accounted for 35.7 percent of total online traffic, more than double that of Android, which drove 15.9 percent of all online traffic. … Apple iOS sales accounted for 25.2 percent of total online sales, more than three times that of Android, which drove 6.9 percent of all online sales. …Apple iOS users averaged $118.57 per order compared to $95.25 for Android users, a difference 24.5 percent,” IBM reported.

This mobile data — Apple iOS versus Android aside — confirms that ecommerce businesses must be optimized for mobile sales. Having a responsive site is a must in 2014 and beyond.

Desktop, Laptop Ecommerce Stable

Nearly half (47.6 percent) of all U.S. online ecommerce traffic originated from a laptop or desktop personal computer. Visitors using laptop and desktop PCs accounted for 67.6 percent of U.S. online sales on Thanksgiving Day 2014, according to IBM.

Shoppers using a PC tended to spend more, averaging about $132.48 per order compared to $112.69 for mobile devices (iOS and Android together).

IBM’s Thanksgiving Day desktop- and laptop-driven sales data tracks well with a November 25 report from comScore, which estimated that for the first 23 days of November ecommerce sales originating from desktop or laptop devices had risen 11 percent from 2013 to $17.5 billion.

All told, comScore predicted that U.S. Thanksgiving Day desktop online sales would reach $766 million.

Facebook Marketing May Be Outperforming Pinterest

Many ecommerce marketers had placed more value on Pinterest as a social commerce channel than they had on social media giant Facebook.

In part, these was due to several reports and studies that showed that shoppers arriving from Pinterest were likely to spend more than shoppers clicking through from Facebook. For example, Shopify (the ecommerce platform) reported in 2012 that the average order value for a visitor coming from Pinterest was $80, while the average order value for a customer coming from Facebook was just $40.

IBM’s Thanksgiving Day 2014 U.S. online sales data, however, showed a very different result, with shoppers clicking through from Facebook spending an average of $107.73 per order compared to an average order value of $95.24 for shoppers arriving from Pinterest.

It is also likely that Facebook drove more overall traffic.

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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