Holiday Weekend a Big Win for Mobile

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Thanksgiving may have been disappointing from an in-store retail sales perspective, but Black Friday spending was up 14 percent, according to preliminary figures from ShopperTrak. In fact, brick-and-mortar spending reached its highest levels since 2012, totaling an estimated $10.4 billion, while Thanksgiving-day receipts were $1.8 billion, down significantly from the $3.2 billion ShopperTrak recorded last year.

If consumers proved reluctant to spend their Thanksgiving holiday in stores, they demonstrated few qualms about shopping online. According to IBM’s annual benchmark report, Thanksgiving-day digital commerce rose 26 percent year-over-year (YoY), while Black Friday online spending was up 21.5 percent over 2014. Adobe’s annual tracking shows consumers spent $2.72 billion online on Black Friday, 14 percent more than last year, and $1.73 billion on Thanksgiving, up 25 percent YoY.

Whatever the yardstick, the holiday weekend was, as predicted, a big win for mobile. Website traffic from smartphones and tablets topped the 50 percent mark, outpacing the desktop for the first time, IBM found. Mobile’s share of Black Friday digital commerce climbed above 36 percent, also a new high. On Thanksgiving, mobile yielded more than $639 million in sales, a new record, according to Adobe, topping Black Friday’s $583 million take. Smartphones accounted for 45 percent of Black Friday site traffic, the largest single portion out of the three device categories IBM measures.


Conversion rates and average order value (AOV) were higher on tablets than smartphones, however, indicating that larger mobile screens continue to be more conducive to shopping. Tablet AOV also exceeded that on the desktop, another first. Overall Black Friday AOV declined by just over one percent, to $127.84, IBM found. Adobe likewise registered a two percent drop in blended AOV, to $141.

Black Friday by Device

Interestingly, whereas Thanksgiving is unique to the U.S. market, Black Friday is becoming a retail event in other countries. Amazon, which had a hand in “exporting” Black Friday to the U.K., albeit with more of a focus on online shopping, recorded its largest single-day sales in the British market last Friday. Retail analysts estimated total online spending in the U.K. would top the £1 billion mark for the first time.

As might be expected, with among the highest smartphone penetration rates in the world, mobile is an integral part of the U.K. holiday shopping experience as well. In a new study by adsquare, nearly three-quarters of smartphone-owning consumers (71 percent) said they never leave their devices at home while shopping. Among the key findings:

  • 60 percent of smartphone owners buy products on their devices
  • 47 percent buy products they’ve seen in stores on their smartphones
  • 48 percent use mobile to navigate and discover shops
  • 40 percent use mobile couponing services
  • 35 percent scan barcodes to get more information about products
  • 33 percent use mobile payment services

With the exception of the significantly higher incidence of mobile payment usage, these figures look roughly similar to the behavior exhibited by U.S. consumers. The U.K. smartphone owners adsquare surveyed also exhibited common product interests (books and media, consumer electronics, health and beauty products, fashion items, and kitchen and home goods), indicating a degree of homogenization among smartphone owners.

With Black Friday becoming more of an online retail event in countries where the day after Thanksgiving is not a holiday for most people, and with holiday digital commerce in the U.S. market starting earlier and earlier, that eventually could spell shopping fatigue for the now-anachronistically named Cyber Monday. Single-day spending still is likely to be higher, but look for a more even distribution in the days prior to and following in years to come. That’s the nature of always-on shopping, something that’s becoming a global phenomenon as smartphone ownership increases. Put another way, Cyber Monday seems destined to evolve into “Mobile Monday.”

Noah Elkin is Street Fight’s managing editor.