Amid reports of relatively sparse crowds in many retail outlets on Black Friday, the venerated kickoff to the holiday shopping season still remains the king for U.S. retail profits, thanks to a strong performance in online sales. Black Friday saw a 13 percent increase in sales from last year, suggesting that it will remain the top digital shopping day of the holiday season, according to a report by Sales Force.
Black Friday saw the highest conversion rate (4.9 percent) of the entire year. Conversion rate, a measurement of how many shoppers end their visit with a purchase, is a strong indicator that shoppers are buying with intention. Mobile devices are becoming the consumer medium of choice, accounting for 67 percent of all digital traffic on Black Friday, up six percent from last year, while accounting for the largest order share at 49 percent. These numbers support the ongoing trend away from brick-and-mortar retail outlets, with more and more consumers turning to digital shopping.
Retailers have begun to make their Black Friday sales push earlier and earlier, as this year there was no difference in digital discount rates from Thanksgiving to Black Friday. Mobile text notifications from brands dramatically increased on Thanksgiving this year, up 159 percent from last year, compared to only 29 percent on Black Friday.
Data also shows that social media sites — particularly Facebook and Instagram — have a growing influence on traffic to retail sites. This year Facebook and Instagram accounted for 94 percent of all social traffic for retailers. Gaming consoles and connected devices represented the largest group of products generating buzz on social media, with the Playstation, iPhone, Echo, Vizio, and iPad capturing the top five spots. Starbucks led all brands in the social conversation online, followed by Apple, Samsung, Google, and Nintendo. Top retail hits on social media were led by Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy. In an interesting quirk, the craft marketplace Etsy captured the fourth spot among retailers generating social media favor.
“This holiday season retailers will experience the growing purchasing power of Gen Z and millennials,” National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Whether they are still in college or raising children, these consumer groups embrace the tradition of prior generations and take full advantage of Thanksgiving weekend deals both online and in stores.”
Despite the strong move toward online shopping, brick-and-mortar retail outlets still have tradition on their side.
“People shop because that’s what they’ve always done,” Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist at Golden Gate University told Popular Science about the mindset behind Thanksgiving week shopping. “There’s a huge element of tradition. Some people have truly done this every year since they were kids.”