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Thanksgiving Weekend Is More and More an Online Event


For the second straight year, overall spending declined on the holiday season’s first big shopping weekend—this year by 11%, according to the National Retail Federation. The NRF, via tallies conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, reported that 15 million fewer shoppers visited brick-and-mortar stores this year, a 5.2% drop from 2013.

“A highly competitive environment, early promotions, and the ability to shop 24/7 online all contributed to the shift witnessed this weekend,” says NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “We are excited to be witnessing an evolutionary change in holiday shopping by both consumers and retailers and expect this trend to continue in the years ahead.”

More excited, to be sure, are e-commerce players such as Amazon. The dominant online seller posted a year-over-year sales increase of 46% on Saturday to put the punctuation mark on 24%-plus gains on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, according to Channel Advisor, an e-commerce software provider. Total online sales, according to the company’s tracking of clients that also include eBay and Google shopping, increased 27% on Cyber Saturday.

The IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark pegged online sales for the entire weekend at 17% higher than last year, spurred on by a 25% increase in mobile traffic. For the first time in the history of this over-analyzed holiday weekend, mobile accounted for more than half of all visits to e-commerce websites.

“Mobile shopping has become the new Thanksgiving Day tradition. People are sneaking looks at deals on their smartphones at the dinner table,” says Jay Henderson, director of IBM Smarter Commerce. “More than half of traffic coming via mobile is an undeniably significant number. What’s astonishing about it is that, in 2010, mobile accounted for only 6.5% of visits.”

Transactions via mobile devices increased 25% this year, according to IBM, accounting for some 29% of online sales. Tablets still dominate as purchasing tools, driving 17.6% of Web sales to 11.2% for smartphones.

While average order value at stores over the weekend dropped about $26 to $380, according to NRF, average online orders remained flat at around $124 dollars. That’s consistent with reports—such as from the Commerce Department’s consumer spending analysis—that Americans are keeping closer watch over their money.

“Individual spending has not increased online, but the baseline of Web shoppers gets bigger every year,” Henderson observed. “Believe it or not, there are still people out there learning to shop online and on mobile for the first time.”

The IBM Digital Index is expecting the online surge to continue into today, predicting a 15.8% online sales increase for Cyber Monday.

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