Thanksgiving dinner

Holiday shopping goes mobile

Thanksgiving dinner

(This post reflects changes made to some BloomReach data included in the original version. The data was incorrectly characterized due to miscommunication among members of the blog team.)

Whether brick-and-mortar stores are open or not on Thanksgiving, the holiday has firmly taken its place as one of the United States’ big days to shop, BloomReach data and other online commerce statistics released Friday show.

Shoppers’ visits to online sites on Thanksgiving were up nearly 19 percent this year compared to last year, BloomReach figures show. The day was also clearly a mobile holiday, with more than 26 percent of purchases made on smartphones, according to BloomReach data, perhaps between passing the potatoes and digging into the stuffing.

Key takeaways

  • Thanksgiving is taking off as an online shopping day with traffic up nearly 19 percent from last year, according to BloomReach data.
  • Smartphones are fast becoming the tool of choice for shopping on Thanksgiving Day with more than 26 percent of conversions taking place on phones, BloomReach data shows.
  • Thanksgiving shopping could see a growth spurt in coming years. Retailers might just be starting to see the online punch the holiday can pack.

That Thanksgiving has gone mobile is evident from all those reporting on shopping habits. The Adobe Digital Index says e-commerce sales rose 25 percent over a year ago, with 22 percent of sales conducted on smartphones. IBM reported on Thanksgiving Day that mobile sales were accounting for 28 percent of digital purchases. Custora, a New York-based predictive marketing company, looked at smartphone and tablet sales combined and reported that mobile sales made up 39.3 percent of online sales. Adobe’s combined number was 37 percent.

The widespread adoption of smartphones is clearly changing the way American consumers shop — and the way they choose to celebrate some of the country’s deepest traditions. Once a day for a big family meals and a side helping of televised football, Thanksgiving is now a day to shop, perhaps while still engaged in the other two pursuits.

(BloomReach analyzed data on product views, conversions and visits by device from Nov. 1 through Thanksgiving.)

Thanksgiving Shopping Data

Thanksgiving Conversion data

 
In a statistic that says plenty about the rise of Veterans Day as a shopping holiday and the rise of mobile as a shopping tool for people who have the day off from work, BloomReach found that Veterans Day and Thanksgiving accounted for nearly the same percentage of total desktop conversions in November (11.16 percent and 11.15 percent respectively). Overall conversions, however, were 22.5 percent higher on Thanksgiving than they were on Veterans Day, a fact that can be attributed to higher mobile conversions that day.

Even as e-commerce is on the rise, especially on Thanksgiving, early anecdotal evidence that Black Friday is on the wane continued to surface this year. It could be that Thursday is the new Friday, though it may be some time before analysts actually know what happened in stores on Black Friday.

 

As for Thanksgiving, the retail industry might still be in the early stages of recognizing the potential that the holiday packs.

“Retailers, at least some of them, have been pretty aggressive in announcing that they are not opening their stores and they’re not starting their online promotions until after Thanksgiving,” Netta Kivilis, Custora’s head of marketing, said Friday. “Some started sending out Black Friday emails yesterday and they also had dedicated promotions for Thanksgiving Day itself.”

Amazon, for instance, started its Black Friday sales a week ago. And Target, which has been very aggressive in building its online operation, reported that Thanksgiving ranked as its biggest day ever for online sales.  (You can find Target’s news release on BusinessWire.)

While it might seem surprising that Target’s online sales would outdistance spending on any single day during last year’s holiday season, it could be a sign of e-commerce’s overall growth. Kivilis also points out that retailers themselves have plenty of levers to pull to increase digital sales on any given day.

“If Target decides they want to put a lot of marketing and promotion money behind Thanksgiving, to some extent they have the power in their hands to make it their biggest shopping day,” she said. “But it kind of shifts from other days. It’s not as if they’re creating new demand.”

Allentown Target

Retailers can also take particular joy in one statistic: The average order value of shopping visits on Thanksgiving was up over last year, a sign that, so far, e-commerce enterprises are not taking a hit due to discounts and promotions. Adobe says the average order value was up 5 percent on Thanksgiving. Custora, which uses a different, and smaller data set, says the average order was up 1.5 percent.

Numbers tend to vary, but there is little doubt that e-commerce and mobile are a very big deal when it comes to the holiday shopping season. Adobe reported that consumers spent more than $1.7 billion online on Thanksgiving and that about $640 million of that represents purchases made on mobile device.

To break down some of the other numbers: Custora’s survey found that e-commerce sales were up 12.5 percent this Thanksgiving over last year. The firm said its 39.3 percent figure for mobile sales was up from 34.3 percent last year. Adobe put mobile’s share of e-commerce at 37 percent. As for visits, BloomReach found that 47 percent of online visits were via smartphone. Adobe put the number at 43 percent.

Whatever the exact numbers, it seems a lot of people spent their Thanksgiving visits with their heads down and faces aglow from the small screen. As Joel Zand, digital insights manager at SimilarWeb told Multichannel Merchant last week:

“In a relatively short space of time, the festive shopping habits of American consumers have changed beyond recognition. While Thanksgiving has been an American tradition for centuries, today U.S. consumers are as likely to be shopping online as they are enjoying turkey and football with family and friends.”

Photo of Thanksgiving table and Target by Mike Cassidy.

Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at mike.cassidy@bloomreach.com; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.