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Dashing Thru the Data Analysis: Big Thanksgiving for Online Retailers
By Will Devlin
12/2/2013 6:25:00 PM

(This analysis is based off updated metrics from our Dashing Thru the Data dashboard, where we track online shopping trends this holiday season.)

The unofficial kick-off to the holiday shopping season has traditionally been Black Friday, but in recent years, some retailers have made news by opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day. This, along with some stores offering “Black Friday Deals” several weeks before the big day, may be changing the mindset among many shoppers in making Thanksgiving the “start date” for holiday shopping.

While the web is always open, online shoppers typically wait until the deals hit each year before doing the bulk of their buying. With stores opening on Thanksgiving, deals are hitting earlier each year, and this year was no exception as online retailers on our platform saw a nice boost vs. 2012.

Thanksgiving Day orders up 10%, Black Friday down slightly

Last week, we talked about the challenges of comparing year over year shopping data for our retailers since the 2012 holiday shopping “season” was the longest possible, and 2013 ends up being the complete opposite, with 6 fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Before last Thursday, it was hard to really predict how things were going to progress because last year’s data included numbers recorded when holiday shopping was in full swing. Retailers this year have fewer days to get shoppers to buy from them (in a down economy, no less), so discounts and promotions will likely be earlier and bigger than they’ve been the past few years.

Our retail clients saw a 10% increase in orders on Thanksgiving Day this year vs. 2012. Even though average order value is down about 15% so far this season due to the discounting, that’s a nice start to the online rush.

We usually think of Black Friday as being a big day for brick-and-mortar retail, but there’s historically been a spike for online retailers as well. Our retail clients saw a 3% decline in orders vs. last year on Friday, but with the big Thanksgiving Day most had, some of those sales just happened earlier. Orders were up 1% for both days combined.


Big increase in traffic from tablets and mobile devices

Another trend we’re keeping an eye on is tablet and mobile device usage. Last year at this point in Q4, almost ¾ of shoppers visited retail sites via desktop. That’s changed dramatically:

Tablets account for 19% of traffic so far this year, while 20% of visits are coming from a mobile device, although their experience will be greatly influenced by whether the retailer has a mobile-friendly site or not. Here’s a look at the percentages of orders by device:

It’s hard to decipher the intent of a mobile user, however; they could be shopping or they could be looking for information about physical store locations or upcoming sales. Most retailers do not present a mobile site for tablet users, although some do serve up tablet-optimized sites instead of the full desktop experience.


Biggest online shopping days still ahead

We think of Black Friday and Cyber Monday as being the biggest shopping days of the year, but for most retailers, the biggest days in terms of volume are still ahead. Some key dates to watch coming up:

  • Mon, December 9 – “Green Monday”. Coined by eBay in 2007, the 2nd Monday in December is typically the month’s busiest shopping day. The popularity has more to do with timing than promotions/deals from retailers though.
  • Mon, December 16 – This day might not have a catchy name, but it’s typically a huge day for holiday shopping as packages shipped ground are still likely to arrive on time. Sundays and Mondays are usually big shopping days online, and this will be the last Monday to comfortably shop online before Christmas.
  • Wed, December 18 – “Free Shipping Day”. Thousands of retailers have jumped on this bandwagon in recent years, offering free shipping and guaranteed Christmas Eve delivery for orders placed on that day.
  • Fri-Sat, December 20-21 – “Super Friday/Saturday”. Procrastinators and last-minute deal seekers will be out in full force on the final weekend before Christmas. For online retail, Friday is likely going to be the last big day before Santa arrives, as expedited shipping options will still allow for packages to arrive on time.

Keep an eye on our blog and the Dashing Thru the Data dashboard over the next few weeks for more updates and analysis! Or you can follow our updates on Twitter via #merrydata

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Tags: merrydata, influence & impact, holiday data, research
Categories: Commerce Insights Blog
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