Online holiday sales take a big but fleeting dip
A post-Black Friday retreat from online sales was evident this weekend, with average daily e-commerce traffic volume down 18% on Saturday compared to the same day last year, according to the Holiday Retail Index by Verizon, which studied traffic to U.S. retailers' sites.
Traffic picked up the next day, however, with volume 2% higher than the same day last year, according to the report, emailed to Retail Dive.
Shoppers likely did other things on Saturday, possibly including shopping in stores rather than online, according to Michele Dupré, a vice president with Verizon Enterprise Solutions Group. Dupré warned that retailers need to get creative if they want to woo shoppers back.
This past weekend’s online sales numbers paled in comparison to the weekend before, when Verizon found e-commerce traffic surged 24% on the Saturday after Black Friday, compared to the same day in 2016, and jumped 29% on that Sunday (Nov. 25).
The findings track with other reports on online sales over the Thanksgiving period. Adobe found that digital sales over Thanksgiving week hit a record high, driven largely by steep discounts on in-demand merchandise. Nov. 23 through Nov. 26 brought in $13 billion in digital sales, up 14.4% to last year, according to Adobe. Thanksgiving Day specifically totaled $2.87 billion (up 18.3% to last year), and Black Friday notched more than $5 billion (up 16.9%).
Many more Americans than anticipated — more than 174 million — shopped in stores or online from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, according to number-crunching from the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights and Analytics, which earlier had forecast 164 million shoppers for the period. And the registers just kept ringing, virtually and otherwise. Online retailers on Cyber Monday alone brought in nearly $6.6 billion, 16.8% more than last year and on track to be the largest online shopping day in history, according to Adobe.
The lull recorded by Verizon is natural, for a number of reasons. Consumers tend to hit the brakes in the aftermath of the big holiday sales events — it’s just inherent in the cadence of holiday shopping, most of our experts said. Retailers worked hard to get customers to buy things at Thanksgiving-time, culminating in the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend. For many consumers there’s little reason to shop much right after that, at least for a little while. And for many people, their pay day plays a role in when they do their holiday shopping, said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst of The NPD Group.
"One of the things that retailers haven’t realized is how [to] spread this out," Cohen told Retail Dive in an interview. "You’ve got to realize that consumers only have a certain amount of money. There’s only a certain amount of room in their paychecks, and there’s only a certain amount on their credit cards."
- Verizon Holiday Retail Index Key findings from the first weekend of December
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