Analysts and e-commerce executives have predicted a subdued online holiday shopping season this year, with sales being essentially flat for the first three weeks of November 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 ahead to Thanksgiving, the first big day of the holiday, the numbers seem stronger than expected. Adobe Analytics released figures showing that $5.29 billion was spent online on Thanksgiving Thursday. That’s up 2.9% year over year and higher than the $5.1 billion Adobe originally expected for the day.
Mobile devices continue to play an increasing role in the way people shop. Around 55% of online sales were made via mobile devices yesterday, up 8.3% from a year ago.
“Mobile shopping has struggled to grow for many years as consumers find the experience inadequate compared to desktop,” said Vivek Pandya, senior analyst at Adobe Digital Insights, in a statement. “This year’s Thanksgiving has become a tipping point where smartphones have driven real growth and shows how much those experiences have improved.”
Salesforce has livelier numbers: Its calculations, based on 1.5 billion shoppers, show that global online sales rose 1% to $31 billion on Thanksgiving, while in the US specifically they were up 9% increased to $7.5 billion. Salesforce also said that 78% of sales traffic came from mobile devices. It said they were average order values $105 worldwide and $120 for US sales.
They may have different numbers and metrics, but both are showing growth, so the bigger question might actually be whether the Thanksgiving surge in activity will carry through to the rest of Cyber Week — including today’s Black Friday, Cyber Monday and… the weekend in between – and actually the remaining days and weeks before the new year. Overall, Adobe has forecast Cyber Week to generate $34.8 billion in online spending this year, up 2.8% from last year when the week brought in $33.9 billion in revenue.
Cyber Week 2021 was even down 1.4% compared to 2020, which is a trend reversal.
To compare these numbers, the National Retail Federation forecasts sales growth of 6% to 8% in the holiday shopping season, while another analytics group, Digital Commerce 360, forecasts 6.1% growth for the period.
Whatever the case, sales may not be fully maintained or even in the coming days. Adobe forecast sales for today — the famous Black Friday — are likely to hit $9 billion, up just 1% from 2021 figures.
Adobe says it analyzes about 1 trillion visits to US retail sites and tracks sales for about 100 million SKUs and 18 product categories. Its analytics will include anonymized data from some of its customers: it’s said to be used by about 85% of the largest online retailers in the US About $77.74 billion has been spent online since November 1.
The holiday shopping season is an important time to track for a number of reasons. First, it’s traditionally a retailer’s most lucrative sales period, one that can make or break year-round. (That’s why Amazon’s recent earnings, which came with reduced sales guidance and warned of lower-than-expected holiday spending, sent the stock down almost 20%.)
Because of this outsize importance, the ecommerce holiday numbers as a whole can serve as a guide for the ecommerce market as a whole.
But if we’re looking for growth, there are some signs of tumultuous times. Adobe noted that the first three weeks of November saw stagnant online sales of $64.59 billion, up just 0.1% from 2021.
The form of “holiday shopping” has changed massively with the advent of e-commerce. Online shopping lengthened 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 disappeared years ago with sales that began Thursday and people use the day off to click. Now, retailers both large and small are leaning on the increasingly earlier start of holiday shopping to try to squeeze in more sales in a tighter market. And they offer more payment options: “Buy now, pay later” is up 1.3% in sales and 0.7% in orders (suggesting more of it is being used for larger items).
This is in light of physical retailers becoming increasingly aggressive when it comes to winning back their audience. The National Retail Federation in the US expects 166.3 million consumers to shop over the long weekend.
“While there is much speculation about the impact of inflation on consumer behavior, our data tells us that this Thanksgiving holiday weekend will see robust store traffic with a record number of shoppers taking advantage of bargain prices,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay in a statement. “We’re optimistic that retail sales will remain strong in the coming weeks, and retailers are poised to meet consumers, no matter how they choose to shop, with great products at prices they want to pay.”
Adobe notes that the biggest online discounts today are seen in categories like toys (up to 34% off list price), electronics (27%), and computers (18%). Squishmallows, Roblox, Paw Patrol, Hot Wheels, Cocomelon, and LOL Surprise Dolls are all selling well.
We will post further updates on sales numbers as they come in.