Online and Mobile Sales Surge Amid Disappointing Black Friday Numbers

Despite the bold move by some retailers to open their doors on Thanksgiving Day this holiday weekend, many failed to see the results they were expecting. Consumers spent approximately $1.7 billion less on holiday shopping than they did on Thanksgiving weekend last year, according to the National Retail Federation. A survey released by the NRF revealed that while more than 141 million people shopped either online or in store between Thursday and Sunday, representing a 1 percent increase from last year, the amount the average consumer spent decreased from $423.55 to $407.02.

While the smaller transactions may be a sign of consumer budget consciousness in a still-struggling economy, they might also suggest that this year, retailers offered deeper price cuts, according to Jay Henderson, strategy director at IBM Smarter Commerce. "Department stores really stepped up their game this holiday weekend," he says, "and it paid off, because more people came out to the stores than last year."

Not without controversy, the decision to open stores on Thanksgiving Day was almost a necessary evil this year, given the uncharacteristically short holiday shopping season, according to Henderson. Thanksgiving came late this year, and with six less shopping days than usual between Thanksgiving and Christmas, some retailers decided to open stores to avoid costly holiday losses. Though Thursday sales may have chipped away from some Black Friday profits and delivered less revenue than expected, the decision to open on Thanksgiving was "ultimately a good one" for retailers because it attracted a new wave of shoppers, including consumers who aren't early risers, Henderson says.

Though overall sales throughout the holiday weekend were stagnant, online and mobile sales increased by about 15 percent. More impressively, mobile traffic now accounts for 41 percent of all online traffic, representing a 35 percent increase in growth from last year, according to the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, a real-time digital analytics platform that tracks transactions and analyzes data from more than 800 retail sites nationwide. Mobile sales remained strong, according to IBM; they're up by 44 percent from last year, and now represent 23 percent of all online sales.

Part of the reason for the surge in mobile is that retailers sent 37 percent more push notifications during Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday than on a typical day, IBM found. "Asking a consumer to not only come out and shop but also find and clip their own coupons is asking a lot, but putting those deals right at their fingertips through a push notification makes shopping an easier and better experience," Henderson says.

"What we saw from mobile this holiday weekend was unprecedented," he adds. "My prediction was that mobile traffic would hover somewhere around 40 percent, but it has surpassed even that, which is really exciting. Mobile has a lot of potential, and we're just starting to see it unfold."

As Cyber Monday gets under way, mobile continues to be a key player. As of 12:30pm Eastern time, mobile traffic accounted for more than 31 percent of all online traffic. Mobile sales remained strong as well, reaching close to 18 percent of all online sales, according to IBM.

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