Holiday Shopping Weekend Insights: Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Beyond

Target's Cyber Monday #targetfail website woes may have dominated headlines over the past 48 hours, but the biggest retail weekend of the year brought no shortage of highs and records that may portend a very merry season, indeed.

Instead of finding the deals they hoped for, Target shoppers Monday morning encountered an error message on the retailer's homepage. "We knew there'd be a tremendous response to our 15 percent off sitewide offer, and the demand was even higher than we anticipated," said Jason Goldberger, president of and mobile, in a statement on the company website. "Early in the day, orders were coming in twice as fast as our busiest day ever. And by early in the night, Target had already surpassed the previous record for online sales — making Cyber Monday our biggest online sales day ever."

Retail Dive reports that Target insists its site didn't crash, rather the retailer simply metered incoming traffic to ensure all shoppers could be accommodated.

"As we experience spikes in traffic, our systems place guests in a queue and prompt them to access the site later," a Target spokesperson said in a statement. "We apologize to guests who experience any delays, we appreciate their patience, and encourage them to try again in a few minutes by refreshing their browser."

Meanwhile, Walmart reports that mobile emerged as the "dominant shopping trend," not only in driving traffic but also in spurring sales. "Mobile is making up more than 70 percent of traffic to, and now, nearly half of our orders since Thanksgiving have been placed on a mobile device – that's double compared to last year," says Fernando Madeira, president and CEO, "Our customers went from previously mostly searching and browsing on mobile, to making purchases at a much higher rate."

ICSC: Black Friday still a draw, and physical stores are, too
The International Council of Shopping Centers polled consumers to get their take on the debate around shopping on Thanksgiving versus Black Friday.

Of the two days, Black Friday still takes the lead when it comes to attracting shoppers, ICSC finds: its popularity is holding steady, with roughly half of Americans (50 percent) saying they made purchases on that day. But Thanksgiving shopping is on the rise: overall, one third of Americans (36 percent) shopped on Thanksgiving Day this year – up from 23 percent in 2014.

Of those who shopped on Thanksgiving and/or Black Friday, 80 percent say they made a purchase at a physical store. On Black Friday specifically, 32 percent of shoppers made a "click and collect" purchase: buying items via online retailers that have a physical location in order to pick up their items in store. More than half of shoppers (58 percent) made additional purchases when picking up an item that was bought online in store on Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday.

The average Thanksgiving and/or Black Friday shopper spent $557 over those two days, spending $245 in physical stores, $120 with online-only retailers, $110 online via omnichannel retailers on items shipped to their home, and $82 online via omnichannel retailers for "click and collect" orders. What's more, the average shopper visited 2.7 stores and made a purchase at 2.5 stores on Thanksgiving Day, while on Black Friday, shoppers visited 3.3 stores and made a purchase at 2.8 stores (though Foursquare says people visited 2.8 stores that day and spent 4.9 hours shopping).

"The use of 'click and collect' this Thanksgiving holiday weekend highlights the growing popularity of omnichannel shopping," said Jesse Tron, ICSC Spokesperson. "Even with competition from online retailers, the physical store continues to play a central role in the shopping experience, and this is not expected to change."

Meanwhile, department stores and sporting goods/apparel retailers experienced the greatest increases in Black Friday foot traffic, according to numbers from Foursquare. Although Best Buy led the pack with 4.2 times greater traffic, J.C. Penney (4.1x), Macy's (3.8x), Dick's Sporting Goods (3.6x) and Sports Authority (3.5x) all benefitted.

Where are the shoppers? In bed
Brand performance marketing company HookLogic reports that overall Cyber Monday web traffic was significantly higher than 2014. The HookLogic platform, which drives product ads for brands and provides resulting sales attribution data across retailer sites such as Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and Macy's, reports that Cyber Monday retail site traffic and conversions were up 6x and 9x respectively, compared to the typical daily average.

The company saw a dip in overall mobile traffic on Cyber Monday as shopping occurred at work and home rather than on the go, with mobile shopping coming in at 46 percent and desktop at 54 percent. Mobile traffic was highest at 6 a.m. ET on Cyber Monday as many shoppers browsed from bed before the workday began. The "mobile moment" — the biggest share in mobile e-commerce traffic, occurred at 7 a.m. ET on Thanksgiving Day, coming in at 71 percent (vs. desktop at 29 percent).

Conversion rates were highest from 9 p.m. – 10 p.m. ET on Cyber Monday, making that hour – the "gifting hour," the biggest hour in U.S. online shopping history. This is the exact same time the peak occurred the past two years as shoppers finished up their workday, and were ready to make purchases.

According to ChannelAdvisor, Cyber Monday featured the highest conversion rates the company has ever seen, across all device types from smartphone to tablet to desktop. On Cyber Monday, smartphones accounted for 43 percent of traffic and a conversion rate of 3.04 percent, resulting in 24 percent of orders. Tablet traffic held steady at 12 percent, and conversion rates were 5.41 percent, driving 11 percent of orders. Overall, mobile drove 55 percent of total traffic and 35 percent of orders for Cyber Monday.

Computer traffic perked up a lot on Cyber Monday at 45 percent as consumers shopped from work, ChannelAdvisor found. Desktop computers also had a very strong conversion rate of 7.91 percent, driving 65 percent of orders.

Verizon Enterprise Solution's Retail Index reports a dip in Cyber Monday activity, on the other hand. Broadband traffic attributed to e-commerce shopping activities on Cyber Monday dipped dramatically from the Sunday Index (121 versus 97) and was actually 3 percentage points below average daily volumes, which was a similar trend last year. What's more, mobile traffic attributed to online shopping was also down on Cyber Monday and was 1 percentage point below average daily traffic volumes.

"Following a flurry of online shopping activity over the weekend when consumers had more time to shop, Cyber Monday appears to have been emblematic of a more typical Monday," said Michele DuprÉ, group vice president of retail, hospitality and distribution for Verizon Enterprise Solutions. "From here on out, retailers will need to be very creative in coming up with special offers that will spark consumer attention and then convert that interest into sales."

DuprÉ believes the Verizon Retail Index findings demonstrate Cyber Monday is not what it once was. Consumers are now online daily as a matter of course and are being constantly bombarded by promotional offers from retailers that began in early November.  The challenge for retailers in the coming weeks will be to really understand and engage with their customer base and not be complacent with their promotional offers as they race to get rid of seasonal inventory and capture market share.

Loyalty's alive and well
Retail brand loyalty is alive and at the heart of U.S. consumers this holiday season, according to UberMedia, a cross-screen mobile insights, advertising and measurement platform that combines more than 1.5 billion first-party mobile data signals. The company reports proprietary data surrounding its in-depth look at holiday shopping behavior, insights that were gathered from analyzing a sample of approximately 1.7 million U.S. shoppers who visited 13,000 retail locations during the Black Friday shopping weekend.

By far, one of the most interesting key learnings uncovered by UberMedia's Mobile Behavioral Analysis was that although Black Friday holiday shoppers visited multiple stores, these early bird shoppers overwhelmingly visited the same retail locations they normally do on non-holiday shopping weekends.

"As the competition for holiday shoppers heats up, one thing is very clear: holiday shoppers are religiously visiting their favorite stores," says Michael Hayes, chief revenue and marketing officer at UberMedia.

"This seems to indicate that the retail experience matters and that brand loyalty trumps 'door buster' deals from competitors trying to gain market share. As consumers, our mobile devices are always on, always connected, and always with us," Hayes continues. "These mobile digital breadcrumbs are powerful signals of interest and intent that if analyzed can reveal powerful insights for retailers in understanding the heart of their holiday consumer and their shopping journey."

UberMedia's team of data scientists analyzed mobile behavior patterns of U.S. consumers who visited Walmart, Target, Macy's, Nordstrom, J.C. Penney, Kohl's, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe's and other national retailers. Consumer visits to these retail locations uncovered interesting similarities and differences between Black Friday "deal seekers" versus shoppers on a typical weekend.
First and foremost, Thanksgiving day openings and overnight deals bring in a different crowd than the typical customer. These early-bird "deal seekers" tend to be less affluent (up to 4 percent lower median income and 9 percent less median house value).

However, by Sunday of the Black Friday holiday weekend, more affluent customers start their shopping. This could reflect the desire to stay home for the Thanksgiving holiday but still get a jump on the shopping season before the weekend is over.

Black Friday shoppers are willing to travel farther for deals; the median travel distance increased 16 percent from a typical weekend. JCP and Target shoppers had the largest increase in travel distance (15 percent), while Walmart and Home Depot shoppers had the smallest increase in travel distance (2 percent) when comparing Black Friday holiday weekend versus a typical weekend.

UberMedia's cross shopping affinity analysis also revealed that Target customers are four times more likely to shop at Kohl's than at Nordstrom, and Macy's customers are twice as likely to visit JCP than Kohl's.

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