November 28, 2013, 12:24 PM

Carving out time to shop online

With the dishes done, online shopping began in earnest Thanksgiving night.

Lead Photo

Responding to heavy retailer promotions, especially in the evening, consumers took time out from holiday festivities to shop heavily online on Thanksgiving Day.

Sales were up 19.7% on Thanksgiving Day over the 2012 holiday, IBM reports, with a strong surge coming late in the evening.

“We believe online sales skyrocketed at 8 p.m. EST when many retailers both opened their physical stores for shopping and posted new Black Friday
promotions on their sites,” an IBM spokeswoman says. The average order amounted to $127.59, down 3.8% from $132.57 on Thanksgiving 2012, according to the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark survey, which is based on data from some 800 IBM clients.

Whether they were buying or just checking out store hours and deals, consumers flocked to retail web sites early and late on Thanksgiving Day, reports Akamai Technologies, whose content delivery network speeds page delivery for scores of major e-retail sites.

Traffic peaked at 9.2 million page views per minute on North American retail sites at 10 p.m. Eastern time, 21% higher than last Thanksgiving’s peak and higher than the busiest time last Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving. Earlier in the day, Akamai reported a peak of 7.12 million page views at 11 a.m. Eastern time, 43% higher than the Thanksgiving 2012 morning peak of 4.96 million page views.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. reported 400 million page views on Thursday as well as 10 million sales at its bricks-and-mortar stores between their opening at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. But the retail chain did not report sales in dollars. Web-only luggage and handbag retailer reported a 41.1% year-over-year increase in Thanksgiving Day sales, following 29.2% growth Wednesday. is No. 4 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide and eBags No. 149.

Not all retail web sites stood up to the extra traffic. Consumer electronics and appliances retail chain h.h. gregg reported its web site having problems late morning; it took about four hours for it to return to normal functioning. The retailer is one of several chains opening its stores at 8 p.m. Thursday night.

Sales on Amazon and eBay were up sharply on Thanksgiving for retailer clients of online marketing firm ChannelAdvisor Corp. ChannelAdvisor CEO Scot Wing reports on his blog that same-seller sales were up 48.5% on Amazon and 20.3% on eBay compared with Thanksgiving last year, as of 2 p.m. Eastern time. "Amazon is running a ton of promotions already," Wingo says on his blog. "EBay is also running Thanksgiving deals every hour that seem to be going well." Sales for ChannelAdvisor clients were up 38.2% from comparison shopping engines, 13.1% from paid search ads and 85.9% from Google Shopping ads.

For all of Thanksgiving Day, IBM reported:

  • Smartphones and tablets accounted for 42% of traffic to retail sites, up 32% from last year, and 25.8% of sales, up 49%.
  • Mobile phones represented 26.6% of the traffic and tablets 15.3%. But consumers were buying more on tablets, which accounted for 16.5% of sales, versus 9% for smartphones.
  • Apple Inc. mobile devices accounted for 21% of online sales, versus 4.6% for Android devices. Consumers shopping on devices using Apple’s iOS software spent on average $121.61 per order versus $106.44 for Android users. Apple devices accounted for 30% of traffic, versus 12% for Android devices.
  • In terms of the influence of social networks, consumers coming to retail sites from Facebook converted 2.8 times higher than those coming from Pinterest, which IBM says may reflect greater confidence in recommendations obtained from the more established social site. There was not much difference in average ticket, as consumers coming from Facebook spent $105.97 on average compared to $103.05 for Pinterest users.
  • The leading cities for online sales were New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, DC.

In another measure of e-commerce activity yesterday, analytics technology provider MixPanel reported that consumer activity on e-commerce sites and mobile apps late morning on Thanksgiving was double that of last Thursday, Nov. 21. MixPanel tracks actions, such as putting an item into a cart or sharing a product on a social network, and not page views.

Some 140 million U.S. consumers will shop Thanksgiving through Sunday, predicts the National Retail Federation, with 33 million of them shopping today. In part, they are being drawn to begin their gift buying by major retail chains opening on Thanksgiving night. Among those that opened last night were: Wal-Mart, Sears, Kmart, Target, Macy’s, Office Depot, Belk and JoS A. Bank Clothiers.

Many of those chains, as well as major online retailers like Inc., No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500, began promoting their Black Friday sales in advance of Thanksgiving. Sears and Kmart are part of No. 6 Sears Holdings Corp., Office Depot is No. 7, Macy’s No. 12, Target No. 18, Belk No. 162, and JoS A. Bank Clothiers, No. 191.

Sales on Thanksgiving Day 2012 totaled $633 million, up 32% from $479 million in 2011. On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, e-retail sales grew 28% year to $1.04 billion. Online retail sales in 2012 hit a peak of $1.47 on the Monday after Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday, a 17% increase from the prior year.

Online retail sales will increase 16% in November and December of this year from 2012, comScore predicts. The web measurement firm estimated that e-retail sales totaled $42.3 billion during the holiday period last year.



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