Online spending soars on Black Friday weekend

The online holiday shopping season got off to a strong start as shoppers were out in force over the Black Friday weekend.

Online sales reached a record of $6.22 billion on Black Friday, up 23.6% from last year, according to Adobe Analytics. Online sales on Thanksgiving Day rose 28% to $3.7 billion, making it the fastest-growing day for e-commerce sales in history.

There was a 31.2% increase in traffic this year compared to Black Friday in 2017. Similarly, there was a 3.6% increase in online traffic on Thanksgiving Day, and a 32.6% jump in digital traffic for the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving, according to Verizon’s “2018 Holiday Retail Index,” a study that tracks daily traffic volume of the top 25 U.S.-based online retailers throughout the holiday shopping season.

When looking at the entire holiday shopping weekend, digital traffic increased 29.86% on Sat., Nov. 24, compared to last year, and it jumped 22.93% on Sun., Nov. 25. Additionally, e-commerce traffic rose, on average, 25.08% daily between Nov. 20 through Nov. 27, according to the study.

“Black Friday is no longer a single day event as we’ve seen a consistent growth in traffic to retail sites through the whole week leading up to Thanksgiving and continued through the weekend,” said Michele Dupre’, group VP retail, hospitality, and distribution for Verizon Enterprise Solutions. “With Cyber Monday, the challenge for retailers is keeping consumers engaged through the rest of November and into the early part of December.”

While online sales for the entire holiday season are off to a good start, growth is trending “a little less” than the robust growth seen on Black Friday. Black Friday’s online growth also may have been helped by some unfavorble weather early early in the day on the east coast which kept shoppers at home and out of brick-and-mortar stores, according to MasterCard SpendingPulse.

Overall, online sales growth is on pace to hit 20% for the entire holiday season. Spending on Cyber Monday, which commenced on Nov. 26, will contribute to this volume, and sales are expected to set new records.

The categories with the strongest traction on Cyber Monday are department stores, electronics and interior furnishings, MasterCard’s study reported.

More older shoppers are part of the digital shopping mix this year, with most attracted to free shipping options, crowd avoidance, and ease in finding items. Millennials, on the other hand, are influenced to shop online due to better pricing and promotions online and the ability to compare items, read reviews, the study revealed.

“As expected, online sales stole the show, showing big year-over-year increases, and overall sales on Black Friday and through the weekend were strong, in spite of some bad weather in a number of geographies,” said Keith Jelinek, managing director, retail and consumer practice, Berkeley Research Group.

“We expect Cyber Monday to continue the strong online sales trend,” he added. “As retailers head into the ‘homestretch’ this holiday season, they need to be wary of the heavy promotional activity.  They need to stay competitive but watch the impact to margins – this is being felt by retailers.  A number of retailers have expressed some concerns on how much the big promotions are affecting the bottom line. Bottom line numbers for Q4 – as we saw last year – could take a hit.”