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12/04/2020

Yup, Black Friday weekend still matters

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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holiday shopper with laptop

Black Friday weekend produced an expected rise in online and omnichannel shopping, but also delivered a couple of surprises.

In a recent column, I made three predictions for Black Friday weekend (the five-day-period spanning Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday). With this pivotal retail event behind us, I will give a brief analysis of each prediction’s accuracy, as well as highlight a fourth Black Friday consumer shopping trend I didn’t see coming. 

It was big

I think I called this one fairly well. While brick-and-mortar sales declined significantly year-over-year on Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day, digital sales during the extended holiday weekend broke records. 

Although some observers felt digital holiday sales growth underperformed expectations, the fact remains Black Friday weekend produced new e-commerce sales totals. New single-day online spending highs included $9 billion on Black Friday (up 22% year-over-year) and $10.8 billion on Cyber Monday (up 15% year-over-year). Especially considering the glut of online holiday sales promotions which started in October, I’d call these impressive numbers.

Stores played a crucial role

To directly quote my previous column, “Regardless of the number of shoppers that show up to browse shelves and stand in line, physical stores will prove vital to Black Friday success.” Not a whole lot of customers (comparatively speaking) shopped stores, but statistics show brick-and-mortar was still a critical success component for retailers.

According to Adobe Analytics, curbside pickup options continued to see strong growth on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with in-store and curbside pickup increasing 52% on Black Friday compared to the same day a year earlier. On Cyber Monday, Adobe analysis shows curbside pickup increased 30% year-over-year. And Salesforce data indicates retailers that offered curbside, drive-through and in-store pickup options increased digital revenue by 29% year-over-year, on average.

More money, fewer problems

Nobody is perfect, and while my advice to prepare for outages and cyberattacks stands, there were no headline-worthy e-commerce site crashes or malfunctions during Black Friday weekend. Despite significant increases in online traffic, e-commerce infrastructure held relatively steady with the occasional short disruption or glitch. This likely reflects the maturity of the scalable, flexible cloud platforms that now support most retailers’ digital operations.

While there is always the possibility that as-yet-undetected hacks occurred over Black Friday weekend, it is reassuring that so far, nothing indicates any major network intrusions or online fraud events took place. I’m happy to say my prediction that something would go seriously wrong appears to have been wrong.

Unpredicted: Holiday shoppers mobilize

Within the larger trend of digital sales growth was a sub-trend I did not anticipate – a sharp rise in consumers using mobile devices to make holiday purchases. Black Friday mobile shoppers spent $3.6 billion, according to Adobe Analytics, up 25% year-over-year and representing 40% of total online spend. 

Adobe data also indicates mobile devices accounted for 37% of Cyber Monday digital sales. And it was truly a mobile Black Friday for e-commerce platform Shopify, which saw 69% of sales that day made via mobile device. 

While I didn’t foresee this development, I’m not exactly shocked. You don’t need to have Santa’s magical ability to see what all the girls and boys are doing to know that whether they are naughty or nice, they are doing it via smartphone.

 

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