Holiday Shoppers Shatter Online Sales Records

Black Friday and Thanksgiving pulled in $5 billion, topping last year's sales by more than $1 billion.

Sales records are being smashed online this holiday season, and by more than $1 billion over Black Friday and Thanksgiving.

That’s according to Adobe Analytics, the research division of software giant Adobe, which reported that Black Friday and Thanksgiving generated $7.9 billion in sales across the 100 largest U.S. online retailers, surpassing the 2016 level by nearly 18 percent.

On Friday alone, online retailers saw a record-setting $5 billion in sales, trouncing last year’s $3.34 billion, Adobe said.

E-commerce platform Shopify reported that at Black Friday’s apex, as much as $1 million per minute was spent online.

Through technology, shoppers this year are armed with more responsive devices, can receive better product recommendations and have easier ways to buy and share gift ideas with family or social media friends. These factors combined with solid levels of consumer confidence, low unemployment and deep discounts have spurred strong advances in online shopping.

Goods were discounted by an average of 28 percent, and 85 percent of the merchandise online included free shipping, according to Salesforce data. Shoppers spent an average of $122 dollars, up from $120 last year.

Mobile devices led the way. Through November, consumers en masse used their smartphones to shop for deals. Phones delivered 60 percent of online retail traffic, up from 53 percent, Salesforce added, which clocked nearly 3 billion e-mails sent, and more than 82 million text messages and mobile push notifications.

Adobe calculated that smartphones and tablets accounted for almost 37 percent of the day’s revenue. “Shoppers capitalized on deep discounts on Black Friday, resulting in the largest Black Friday online ever with online spend totaling $5.03 billion,” said Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights. “Conversion rates across all devices saw double-digit growth.”

In advance of Amazon’s final tally, experts estimated that the e-commerce giant accounted for 50 percent of Black Friday sales. In a note issued Friday afternoon, GBH Insights’ Daniel Ives wrote that “Amazon had an ‘eye-popping’ Black Friday sales performance.” Based on analysis of trends in the preceding 24 hours, “we estimate Amazon comprised between 45 percent to 50 percent of all e-commerce sales thus far.”

Things changed after Friday, though optimism remained. On Saturday, Adobe’s Schreiner said, “As we kick off Small Business Saturday, online sales are trending slightly lower than expected. However, the entire holiday season continues to see exponential growth with Cyber Monday expected to be the largest U.S. online shopping day in history.”

For digital natives, Monday’s expected surge is even more important than Friday’s. “Cyber Monday sales are poised to be the biggest online shopping day of the year,” said Satish Kanwar, Shopify’s vice president of product. The e-commerce company expects sales to peak around noon and again after 9 p.m., as people shift from working into shopping mode.

Adobe is estimating online sales to reach $107.4 billion for the November to December period, compared to $94.4 billion last year. Since Nov. 1, total online sales are over $38 billion. Adobe cited Nintendo Switch as the number-one selling product online during Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.

Analysts also noted that steep markdowns drove most online sales. In fashion apparel, footwear and accessories, analytics firm Edited analyzed 3.5 million stockkeeping units online and noted that 46 percent were discounted Thanksgiving week, compared to 38 percent for the prior week.

Katie Smith, retail analyst and insights director at Edited, said the average advertised discount was 47 percent off. Accessories had the steepest discounts and accounted for over 35 percent of all the markdowns. Tops were next with 21.7 percent markdown share, followed by footwear with 13.3 percent.

Sarah Engel, chief marketing officer at retail analytics firm DynamicAction, said of the online transactions her firm tracks, markdowns and out-of-stocks were ahead of last year.

“Americans logged on to shop on Thanksgiving Day and were rewarded with markdowns, promotions and free shipping,” Engel said. “Markdowns were especially prevalent during Thanksgiving shopping, with a 12 percent increase in orders using a markdown,” versus last year.

“Although retailers are actually holding more stock this holiday season – 23 percent up Nov. 1 to Thanksgiving versus last year — shoppers are experiencing more out-of-stocks of the items they most desire.”

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