Dec 08 2016

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Break Records, Merge to Month-Long Sales Period

The results are in, and this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping periods have officially broken last year’s sales records. Not only have ecommerce retailers enjoyed increases in revenue, transactions, and conversion rates, industry-leading research, as well as our own data, show that more consumers than ever are buying online in place of purchasing items in stores.

Perhaps this is tied to the negative feedback from opening early on the day of Thanksgiving, or maybe consumers are simply tired of waiting in long lines and dealing with traffic, and then of course there are the limited inventory issues. Regardless of the specific reasoning, consumers have spoken by way of where their dollars are spent. Ultimately, a few components truly drive people to buy online, from near instant gratification, ease of use, to finding the best deal, and of course the norm of free shipping.

Online Sales Up, Brick-and-Mortar Down

Blue Acorn has analyzed data from 27 retailers, surveyed 1000 consumers, and compiled research from several partners and respected retail analysts and identified one common theme. When you review the aggregate data, it becomes abundantly clear that for ecommerce, sales are not just a one- or two-day long campaign, but the start of something larger, a month-long holiday campaign. Sure, Amazon will start their promotions at the start of the month, but for the rest, promotions begin on Thanksgiving Day and run through at least the end of November. The hottest days in particular will stretch from Thanksgiving, through Black Friday, and into Cyber Monday. This in turn allows consumers to still go after their virtual doorbusters while sticking around home with the family. In fact a recent omnibus survey we conducted found that 86% of all participants (slightly over 1,000) purchased at least one gift online this year.

Our partner, PayPal, surveyed 192 million customers and 15 million merchants and found that the total payment volume per second on Thanksgiving reached an average of $10,781. On Black Friday, the average peaked even higher at  $15,507 per second. On average, consumers spent $62.35 on Black Friday and $58.51 on Thanksgiving.

Aggregating Consumer Retailer Data

Similar to PayPal, our data shows increases across the board for retailers’ KPIs, including site traffic, transactions, revenue, and conversion rates. For a visualization, check out our Black Friday specific infographic. For the few areas where we did see declines, average order value (AOV) and pageviews per session, Blue Acorn Data Scientist Samantha Previte offers her observations about what caused the shift..

Users Sessions Pageviews Revenue Transactions CR AOV RPV
YOY 15.01% 17.19% 1.09% 23.54% 25.15% 6.79% -1.29% 7.42%

“Pageviews per session have decreased by 14%,” said Previte. “This, combined with the 25% increase in transactions, suggests to me that users are browsing less than they were last year and are experiencing less friction in the process, possibly because they have become more familiar with a site’s layout and/or the sites we examined offered deeper discounts than the previous year.”

Overall, pageviews increased 1.09% year-over-year, whereas AOV declined 1.29%. We attribute the slight decline in AOV to a similar refinement in site features, discounts, and the standardization of free shipping without spending thresholds.

“The decrease in average order value period-over-period is expected since items are so deeply discounted. The decrease year-over-year is more interesting, especially given the drastic increase in revenue. Average order value is down because while revenue increased by 23.5%, transactions increased by 25% so the increase in revenue didn’t quite scale with the increase in transactions. This decrease in average order value and increase in other metrics could suggest that sales were better this time around, so while more people purchased more, the price points were lower, which coincides with the 7% increase in conversion rate we observed,” said Previte.

Omnichannel, Foot Traffic, and Confused Data

Blue Acorn’s client data aligned with a recent National Retail Federation (NRF) survey, which found that nearly 109 million people shopped online this Black Friday period (Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday), and only 99 million shopped in stores.

Data from RetailNext also mirrored the survey results from NRF. According to the analytics firm, net sales at brick-and-mortar retail stores fell 5%, with transactions falling 7.9%. Overall, RetailNext found that store visitors fell nearly 11% in a year-over-year comparison, and in-store sales decreased 10%.

Google, on the other hand, suggests sales in stores should have increased. According to data compiled by Android users who opt-in for geographic location tracking, brick-and-mortar stores experienced a 65% increase in foot traffic compared to the average November weekend day. More specifically, Google stated that consumers tripled their foot traffic on Black Friday and doubled it on Thanksgiving, visiting electronic retailers more than any vertical. Lastly, Google found that the average consumer spends about 25 minutes in a store during a regular day in November, but during Thanksgiving day and Black Friday, they spend between 35 and 90 minutes in the store.

Mobile Sales Hits The Highest Threshold Ever

Interestingly, Adobe reported that mobile sales hit a new record during this same period. On Black Friday, mobile purchases achieved $1 billion in revenue, which is the highest ever for a single day. In comparison, the Adobe Digital Index saw a total of $3.34 billion on Black Friday.

One could correlate the increase foot traffic according to Google with the increase in mobile sales from Adobe to assume there is either an omnichannel (multi-device and in-person buying journey) occurring or simply savvier consumers hunting better deals. The other possible option of course, besides stronger mobile adoption, is that more and more consumers are going to stores to see and feel items before making a final purchase elsewhere.

Although the window between Thanksgiving day and Cyber Monday may be the peak period for promotions and deals, Adobe’s data suggests the full holiday spending season is now nearly two months long. Based on their data from last year’s 31 days, holiday shopping with $1 billion-plus online says days are expected to reach 53 consecutive days.

On average, consumers are expected to spend $636 this holiday season. According to NPD Group, this up 3% from last year.

Elliot Volkman

Digital Marketing Manager

Elliot is Blue Acorn's Digital Marketing Manager. He hold a master's degree in communication from Gonzaga, and has several awards for journalism and digital marketing. In his spare time he is a long-distance runner and triathlete.

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