It’s official: The days of waiting in line at 5 a.m. for Black Friday doorbuster deals are over.
This year, Black Friday sales set two records: most total sales on a Black Friday and most mobile sales on a single day to date. The national shopping event drove $3.34 billion in total sales, a 21.6 percent increase year-over-year and the first time Black Friday sales have ever surpassed $3 billion. Friday also became the first day in the history of retail that mobile devices drove more than $1 billion in sales—$1.2 billion in total sales came from smartphones and tablets, according to Adobe Digital Insights.
The strong sales on Black Friday eased concerns regarding the prolonged effects of the election on online sales. As a result of shoppers’ preoccupation with national affairs, retailers experienced an estimated loss of $800 million in sales between November 1 and November 14 and a slowed sales growth rate of 1.3 percent (compared to the forecasted growth of 7.8 percent) on November 8.
Analysts cautioned that it would be challenging for retailers to make up for the blip in sales on Thanksgiving weekend. However, in a statement, Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst and director at Adobe Digital Insights, said this year’s Black Friday performance is telling of a promising rebound.
“The negative impact on online shopping we saw following the election has not been fully made up, but consumers are back online and shopping,” Gaffney said. “With spending ramping up on Black Friday, we are [getting] back on track. We still expect Cyber Monday to surpass Black Friday and become the largest online sales day in history.”
However, the hype of Cyber Monday is starting to wane, as retailers and brands have begun teasing digital deals long before the Monday after Thanksgiving. Jim Prewitt, vp of retail industry strategy at JDA Software, said that Black Friday and Cyber Monday have started to blur, largely due to retailers offering up discounts for extended periods of time.
“Now we’re seeing in-store and online offers starting in October,” he said. “The spread of discounting across the time period really softens the impact of Cyber Monday.”
Becky Tasker, managing analyst at Adobe Digital Insights, attributed this year’s rise of mobile shopping to consumers feeling increasingly comfortable making purchases directly from their devices. In addition, they’re using their phones and tablets to look up alternative items and run price comparisons when visiting brick-and-mortar stores. In the event that a particular item is out of stock at their local shop, they’re relying on mobile commerce to make purchases remotely.
Another noticeable change this year was the increase in number of retailers offering free shipping, which incentivized consumers to shop online, according to Prewitt. In a survey conducted by JDA, one in four consumers said they would not shop from a website that does not offer free shipping.
Like Prewitt, Tasker anticipates that Black Friday crowds will continue to die down, but rather than prolonged sales, she pointed to mobile devices as the cause—as they create a shopping experience that puts convenience at a premium.
“Why face the crowds when you can have the convenience of [shopping] from home or on your phone and avoiding the lines?” she said.