By Dave Rodgerson, Retail Industry Analyst and Consultant
Dave Rodgerson is a Retail industry expert with more than 25 years of executive experience working with leading Canadian Retailers in sales, marketing, operations and strategic planning roles. He works closely with both clients and associations that share an interest in enhancing the consumer experience. Mr. Rodgerson's expanded bio is provided at the end of this article.
The 2013 shopping season is one of the shortest in history. With only 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas its 6 days shorter than last year. The end result is that retailers have almost a full week less to capture the business available to them through the holiday season. That has prompted a number of analysts to suggest that Thanksgiving 2013 would be a bigger shopping day that it has been in the past. The projection was accurate. According to IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark report, Thanksgiving saw a year-over-year increase of 19.7%. The “early” start to the shopping season may prompt retailers to allocate more focus on Thursday as the drop date for future promotions coming into the week. In Canada the day isn’t recognized as Thanksgiving or a holiday, but that didn’t prevent some retailers from tagging the day as “Grey Thursday”. Analysts at Accenture have suggested that in time, Thursday could become the largest sales day of the week. It makes sense when you think of the competitive nature of retailers and the challenge of capturing as much business as possible in a short window of time.
It was interesting to note that the largest change in Thanksgiving shopping came in the form of mobile transactions. In the past, shopping on mobile devices has traditionally stayed below 20% of total online volume. This year, 25.8% of online sales were generated by mobile devices.
Black Friday did not disappoint the retailers either. The day achieved a record high in online sales growing 18.9% over the same day in 2012. In spite of this increase, the average basket size for Black Friday online orders only increased by 2.2% over 2012. What this does confirm is that the growth in online sales is not coming from increased individual spending, rather, it is the result of more people shopping online during this period. There are two things that contribute to this change in shopping behaviour; consumers are becoming more comfortable with the technology used to make purchases online as well as having a greater trust in the security of shopping online
There is an interesting split in the use of mobile devices during the Thursday to Monday shopping period. Smartphones drove 24.9% of all online traffic on Black Friday compared to tablets at 14.2%. In this sense they established themselves as the device of choice for browsing. They are much easier to use when shopping in stores as well, since most retailers do not offer Wi-Fi and most tablets are not equipped with 4G connectivity. Tablets were however the device used more frequently to complete purchases. Tablets drove 14.4% of online sales, smartphones accounted for only half that figure at 7.2%. Tablets also captured a larger basket than sales attributed to smartphones by almost 19%.
Cyber Monday did not disappoint anyone. Online sales grew by 20.6 percent over 2012. The average order value was $128.77, down 1 percent year-over-year which again makes the point that more people are making the shift to shopping online.
Cyber Monday also generated a higher conversion rate on carted items. Shoppers actually purchased the items they added to their online shopping carts at a 12.6 higher rate on Cyber Monday than Black Friday.
Another trend that is becoming more apparent as online shopping increases through the holiday season is the influence of social media. Websites like Pinterest and Facebook are generating some of the traffic that contributes to online sales. While this percentage is small, (less than 1%) there is a growing trend of shoppers who are referred from these sites to online retailers. On average, holiday shoppers referred from Facebook spent 6 percent more per order than shoppers referred from Pinterest. Facebook average order value was $97.81 versus Pinterest average order value which was $92.40. Facebook referrals converted sales at a rate 38 percent higher than Pinterest.
It will be interesting to watch how retailers connect with mobile shoppers in the future. On average, retailers sent 77 percent more push notifications during the five day holiday shopping period (the alert messages and popup notifications from apps installed on your mobile device), when compared to daily averages over the past two months. The average daily installation of retail application on smartphones also grew by 29 percent using the same comparison. This would seem to indicate no loss of appetite on the part of consumers for smartphone tools that enable their shopping.
“We continue to see a dramatic movement of the new digitally savvy consumer as Cyber Monday once again proved to be the star of this holiday shopping season,” said Jay Henderson, Strategy Director, IBM Smarter Commerce. “The mobile device has become the shopping companion of choice for consumers, driving record mobile sales with 55 percent growth over last year.”
About Dave Rodgerson
Dave has been a member of the faculty of Meritus University where he taught Marketing in their School of Business. In addition, he is on the Board at the University of Alberta School of Retail and works closely with the Ryerson School of Retail Business to support their program. In December 2013, he joined the Board of Directors at iSign Media Solutions.