Black Friday Spurs Global Brawls, U.S. Protests and Mobile Shopping (Updated)

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The Black Friday bandwagon is creaking a little bit. Yes, it’s a worldwide sales event, with Black Friday fever also overtaking the U.K., Canada and parts beyond today.

Back in its homeland, U.S. political protests are using today to gain attention for their particular causes by attaching them to America’s post-turkey trot to the stores, online or in person. But the object of all that attention—the US shopper—may not be along for the ride.

Annual controversies about whether retail chains should open on Thanksgiving  and the ensuing retail melee have been obviated by the fact that many of them opened “early” for Black Friday at some point on Thursday, and shoppers, predictably, poured in—and fights ensued, earning the moniker (yet again) of Black Eye Friday.

Overall, however, economists found U.S. consumers hestitant, even as hardcore bargain-lovers executed their own personal Black Friday plans.

According to a National Retail Federation survey, Black Friday spending was down 11 percent this year, while the number of people shopping in-store and online was down 5.2 percent over th four-day weekend.[more]

“Consumers remain cautious,” the Wall Street Journal commented, citing the fact that Walmart and Macy’s already cut their fourth quarter forecasts “as a persistent decline in shopper traffic has left the industry jittery about a holiday season that is expected to rely heavily on profit-sapping discounts to drive sales.”

Activists had no such reservations about Black Friday as they tried to hijack the occasion. For the third year in a row, a labor-union-backed movement has tried to embarrass Walmart management by launching strikes at its stores over issues ranging from wages to the chain’s positions on carbon emissions.

Occupy Wall Street is egging on the protests, even though only a relative handful of workers annually strike—but, oh, how the media loves to play them up as strikers and protesters mess with the minds of Black Friday shoppers at Walmart stores.

This Thanksgiving, in the wake of the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, following the Michael Brown grand-jury decision, protesters aim to bring more attention to their cause by protesting at Walmart stores, and Target—just for good measure.

Black Friday also has taken on greater importance for the auto business by targeting year-end holiday deals at this weekend’s crowds. On Monday, the industry is expected to report monthly sales for November that show a continuation of their strong 2015.

Even in the United Kingdom, without being able to rely on a virtual holiday after an American Thanksgiving on Thursday, retailers are embracing the day and increasingly are turning it into one of the country’s hottest shopping days before Christmas. Some British shoppers were even brawling in the stores in the best (not) American Black Friday tradition.

While Canadian retailers look to Black Friday sales to keep shoppers from crossing the border, U.S. retailers are beating the drums at their brick-and-mortar stores to fend off Amazon, eBay and other e-tailers.

IBM took a deeper dive into what was going on with mobile and online spending this Black Friday, reporting that U.S. online sales increased 14 percent over the same period during Thanksgiving 2013; mobile traffic accounted for 52 percent of all online traffic, an increase of 22 percent over a year earlier; and mobile sales accounted for 32 percent of all online sales, a full 25 percent more than in 2013.

And as IBM’s Thanksgiving/Black Friday analysis showed, this year marked the first Thanksgiving Thursday where mobile traffic accounted for more than half of all online traffic.

Here are the online shopping trends reported by IBM’s real-time analytics for Black Friday as of 6 p.m. EST:

  • Online sales (today) increased 8.5 percent over the same period on Black Friday 2013
  • Mobile traffic accounted for 46.7 percent of all online traffic, an increase of 24.2 percent YoY (Year over Year)
  • Mobile sales accounted for 26.1 percent of all online sales, an increase of 24.7 percent YoY
  • Yesterday, Thanksgiving Thursday, was the first time mobile traffic accounted for more than half of all online traffic
  • lack Friday online sales eclipsed that of Thanksgiving online sales as of 5:20p.m. EST.

IBM’s key drivers behind these Black Friday trends:

  1. Consumers Cash-In on Online Bargains: Average order value was $136.87, down 2.4 percent over 2013. Shoppers also purchased an average of 4.1 items per order. This trend may indicate that shoppers are becoming more comfortable and digitally savvy in how they use online coupons and rebates to secure the best bargains.
  2. Smartphones Browse, Tablets Buy: Smartphones drove 33.6 percent of total online traffic, more than double that of tablets, which accounted for 12.8 percent of all online traffic. However, tablets are winning the shopping war. Tablet sales accounted for 14.3 percent of online sales, compared to smartphones, which accounted for 11.7 percent of total online sales, a difference of 21.5 percent.
  3. The Desktop is Not Dead: Even as mobile shopping continues to grow, many consumers chose a more traditional online experience. Desktop PC traffic represented 53.1 percent of all online traffic, and 73.9 percent of all online sales. Further, consumers spent more money on their desktops with an average order value of $144.28 compared to their mobile devices at $120.77 a difference of 19.5 percent.
  4. Apple iOS vs. Android: Apple iOS once again led the way in mobile shopping this holiday season, outpacing Android across three key metrics:
  • Average Order Value: Apple iOS users averaged $127.34 per order compared to $101.82 for Android users, a difference of 25.1 percent
  • Online Traffic: Apple iOS traffic accounted for 31.8 percent of total online traffic, more than double that of Android, which drove 14.5 percent of all online traffic
  • Online Sales: Apple iOS sales accounted for 20.2 percent of total online sales, nearly four times that of Android, which drove 5.6 percent of all online sales.

5. Facebook vs. Pinterest: As marketers continue to rely on social channels to drive brand loyalty and sales, IBM analyzed trends across two leading sites, Facebook and Pinterest. Facebook referrals drove an average of $124.44 per order, while Pinterest referrals averaged $98.62 per order.

• Follow us: @brandchannel on Twitter and brandchannel on Facebook. Connect with Dale on Twitter: @daledbuss

[Image at top via Occupy Wall Street/Facebook]

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