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5 Shopping Trends From This Years Thanksgiving Sales

Thanksgiving is America's favorite holiday for two reasons: uncontrolled feasting and shopping. Between mouthfuls of turkey, sweet potatoes and gravy we spend more money in the Thursday-thru-Sunday period than any other weekend of the year. Naturally the weekend's shopping statistics are eagerly anticipated as a leading indicator of retail sector health, economic growth and the nation's overall mood as we enter the holiday season.

After the weekend, analysts publish shopping statistics quickly, with data-points about Black-Friday and Cyber-Monday sales barked at us with little or no explanation of what-it-all-means. This year, America spent between 6%-13% more than last year, but what does this really signify?  What insight does it give us about the nation's shopping trends?

In this post we aim to give some insight for retailers.  We analyzed the stats and correlated with research, and our own survey of more than 2,000 consumers about their online shopping habits.
Here are 5 shopping trends from this year's Thanksgiving sales:

1. In-Store sales are flat, the only sales growth is online

In our survey of consumers, 87% said they plan to do the same amount or more online shopping this year. The holiday weekend stats clearly showed the increase in online comes at the expense of in-store shopping: According to the Washington Post, the average consumer spent $423 over the holiday weekend, $25 more than last year. Of this 41% was online, an increase from 38% last year.  In other words, online spending grew 14% (from $151 to $172), while in-store spending grew only 2% (from $247 to $251).   Key takeaway:  In-store sales are flat (2%). The real sales growth is from internet retail (14%). 

2. Mobile devices are used for both in-store and online shopping
We've all been buying iPhones, iPads and Android devices. This year we put them to use. According to Internet Retailer, on Cyber Monday 18% of website traffic came from mobile devices (a 70% increase year-on-year). What were people doing with their mobile devices?  They were researching products, reading reviews, and checking prices often from inside retail stores. They were also buying: 25% of online purchases were done via mobile. Key takeaway Retailers need to tailor their shopping experiences for mobile devices, and take advantage of people using devices in-store, for example by offering discount codes online.

3. The biggest online retail days may yet be ahead
TechCrunch reported that Cyber Monday 2012 was the biggest day ever for internet retail, with sales increasing 30% year-on-year to $1.465B.  However, in our survey we found that men are almost twice as likely than women to leave their holiday shopping until December.  This finding is backed up by a Fox affiliate story from 2011, which suggested men are less organized, and prioritize watching sports programs on TV over shopping.  Whatever the reason, women tend to do their shopping early, while men tend to shop at the last minute.  Last year, many websites offered free shipping and extended guaranteed on-time delivery up to 22 December. This means more time for men to fit in last minute shopping online.

4. For internet retail, the cheapest price is not enough
Customers don't always choose a retailer based on cheapest price. In our survey, we identified the "big five" internet-retail factors ranked as absolutely essential by 74% or more of consumers: 
a. Price/cost
b. Product selection
c. Overall website experience
d. Return policy
e. Shipping speed. 
This correlates almost exactly with a Shop.org study that ranked 4 factors important:  ability to see total including fees before checkout, guaranteed on-time delivery, value for money, and clear product descriptions. Just as the in-store shopping experiences important for consumers, the same goes for online. 

5. Internet Retail website speeds have never been more important
When price is not the only competitive advantage, internet retailers need to look to their overall service and online experience to win customers.  Website speed and availability is the area where Riverbed can help: increasing the speed of your website, preventing performance and availability problems during the busy holiday shopping period.

As ZDNet reported, poor website performance is a make-or- break deal for consumers. In our survey we found one third of online shoppers have encountered difficulties when shopping online; 44% have had to cancel an online order mid-way through the checkout process because the website was too slow and 89% of US adults would stop shopping because of poor website experience.   

Please get in touch with us if you'd like to learn more about our consumer research or how Riverbed Technology can help you increase website speeds, maintain availability and ensure high performance for your internet retail website.

1 Responses

  1. Jerry John

    Dec 31, 2012

    Two of the biggest shopping days for the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, also captured a significant sales growth over one year ago dresses

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