analysts and ecommerce leaders have forecast a subdued online Christmas shopping season this year, with sales in the first three weeks of November flat over a year ago due to a weaker economy, inflation and more people returning to stores in the wake of the Covid -19 pandemic. But looking at Thanksgiving, the first major holiday, the numbers seem stronger than expected. Adobe Analytics has published figures which indicate that $5.29 billion was spent online on Thanksgiving Thursday. That’s 2.9% more than a year ago, and more than the $5.1 billion Adobe initially expected for today.
Mobile devices continue to play an increasing role in the way people shop. About 55% of online sales took place on mobile devices yesterday, up 8.3% from a year ago.
“Mobile shopping struggled to grow for years as consumers felt the experience was lacking compared to desktop,” Vivek Pandya, principal analyst at Adobe Digital Insights, said in a statement. “Thanksgiving this year has been a turning point, where smartphones drove real growth and highlights how much these experiences have improved.”
Salesforce has more exuberant figures: it concludes from its calculations, based on 1.5 billion buyers, which globally, Thanksgiving Day online sales grew 1% to $31 billion, while specifically in the US they grew 9% to $7.5 billion. Salesforce also said that 78% of sales traffic came from mobile devices. Average order values, it said, were $105 worldwide and $120 for US sales.
They may have different numbers and metrics, but both are seeing growth, so the bigger question may actually be whether the surge in activity on Thanksgiving will be sustained through the rest of Cyber Week – which includes Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Black Friday of today. the weekend in between – and indeed the rest of the days and weeks leading up to the new year. Overall, Adobe has forecast that Cyberweek will generate $34.8 billion in online spending this year, up 2.8% from a year ago when the week generated $33.9 billion in sales.
Cyber Week of 2021 was actually 1.4% lower than 2020, so this represents a turnaround.
Be that as it may, sales cannot be fully sustained for the next few days. Adobe predicted that sales for today – the famous Black Friday – are expected to reach $9 billion, which is only 1% more than in 2021.
Adobe says it analyzes about 1 trillion visits to US shopping sites, tracks sales for about 100 million SKUs and 18 product categories. The analytics will include anonymized data from some of its customers: it says it’s used by about 85% of the largest online retailers in the US. It said about $77.74 billion has been spent online since Nov. 1 so far.
The holiday shopping season is an important time to keep track of for a number of reasons. First, it is traditionally a retailer’s most lucrative sales period, one that can make or break the entire year. (That’s why Amazon’s recent earningswhere it issued reduced sales guidance and warned of lower-than-expected holiday spending caused the stock to plummet nearly 20%.)
Because of that outrageous importance, e-commerce holiday numbers can collectively serve as a gauge for the e-commerce market as a whole.
But if growth is what we’re after, there are some indicators of stormy water ahead. Adobe found that the first three weeks of November saw flat online sales of $64.59 billion, up just 0.1% from 2021.
The shape of “holiday shopping” has changed a lot with the rise of e-commerce. Online shopping extended the days and hours people shopped – the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, used to mark the “first day” of the holiday shopping season, but that went out the window years ago with sales starting on Thursday, and people taking the day off of work to click. Now, retailers of all sizes are turning to the earlier and earlier Christmas shopping season as a way of trying to generate more sales in a tightening market. And they offer more ways to pay: buy-now-pay-later was up 1.3% in terms of sales and 0.7% in terms of orders (indicating more of it being used for larger-ticket items) .
That’s against the backdrop of brick-and-mortar retailers becoming increasingly aggressive in winning back their audience. The National Retail Federation in the US said it expected 166.3 million consumers for shopping during the long weekend.
“While there is much speculation about inflation’s impact on consumer behavior, our data tells us that this Thanksgiving holiday weekend will see robust retail traffic with a record number of customers taking advantage of value pricing,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. “We’re optimistic that retail sales will continue to be strong in the coming weeks, and retailers are poised to meet consumers however they choose to shop, with great products at prices they’re willing to pay.”
Adobe notes that the biggest discounts it’s currently seeing online are in categories like toys (up to 34% off the listed price), electronics (27%), and computers (18%). Squishmallows, Roblox, Paw Patrol, Hot Wheels, Cocomelon, and LOL Surprise Dolls all sell well.
We will post more updates on sales figures as they come in.