Thanksgiving Online Sales Top $1.7B, 26% Of Purchases Made On Mobile

Thanksgiving is now in full swing in the U.S., and while many are focused on food and football, some are turning their attention online to kick off their holiday shopping.

Adobe, which tracked over 100 million visits to some 4,500 retail sites so far today (including 80% of all online transactions from the top 100 U.S. retailers), says that over $1 billion has been spent so far online, and that the final figure is on track to be $1.7 billion — growth of 22% compared to Thanksgiving a year ago, with Star Wars being one of the big brands driving sales.

“Thanksgiving Day online sales continue to trend ahead of expectation as we head into the evening hours, when mobile shopping comes back into the mix,” said Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst, Adobe Digital Index. “We expect the day to come in up 22% YoY at over $1.7 billion, driven by stronger than expected toy sales due to Star Wars items and much higher shopping via email promotions (+25% YoY).”

Meanwhile, IBM — which also tracks sales across thousands of websites in the U.S. — is publishing real-time numbers showing how people are buying online. As of 3 PM Pacific time today, the average value per order has been $142.55. As a point of comparison, a year ago, IBM said the average order value was $125.25; and in 2013, it was $132.

Black Friday — that is, tomorrow — is thought by many as the traditional start to the shopping season. But, on a day when most stores are closed (or people may be pelted with uncooked stuffing for suggesting trips outside to shop in the ones that are open), retailers like Walmart and Amazon are already promoting deals. Adobe says that the average discount on goods today was 24% and that this number will grow as more Black Friday deals are released.

If anything, it looks like the online holiday shopping sales bug is creeping in earlier and earlier.

IBM says that online sales the day before Thanksgiving were up by 35% compared to the same day a year ago, with average value per order up by $9.10. (As comparison, U.S. e-commerce sales overall are only expected to go up by 14% this year compared to last, so 35% is high).

Taken together, yesterday’s and today’s numbers indicate not only that more more of us are shopping online, but we are spending more in the process. We’ll have to see how those numbers bear out over the next days and weeks before saying whether this is a sign of people getting in early and dropping off, or whether this is a bellwether for a strong season overall.

Overall, the period is projected to bring in between $70 billion $95 billion in e-commerce sales.

Mobile shopping in force

Yesterday, comScore published some numbers predicting that mobile would account for less than 17% of all sales in November and December ($11.7 billion out of $70 billion); but that it would represent nearly all the growth. IBM’s numbers today so far are actually improving on those projections. It says that just under 28% of all sales are being made on mobile devices. And mobiles are also account for just under half (48%) of all e-commerce traffic — that is, browsing for goods if not buying outright.

Adobe, on the other hand, is reporting slightly lower numbers for mobile. It says that $283 million in sales have come mobile devices so far this Thanksgiving, with smartphones accounting for 15% of that and tablets 11%. Adobe says this is a big leap over last year’s 18% but actually lower than the 29% it had expected “but will pick up again during Thanksgiving dinner time.”

Significantly, IBM’s numbers are actually down on a year ago, when mobile took one-third of all Thanksgiving day sales and more than half of all site traffic. (Remember we still have most of the day to get through, however.)

As you can see from the graphic below, IBM’s numbers indicate that iOS continues to be the stronger platform when it comes to attracting consumers who will actually buy on their smartphones or tablets compared to Android, and other platforms like Windows don’t appear to be significant enough to figure at all.

Screen Shot 2015-11-26 at 17.05.56

But before you start thinking that mobile sounds like the way forward, note that IBM’s figures indicate an average conversion rate right now of just 2%, with desktop visits on average providing nearly double percentage points over mobile.

Updated with more detail from Adobe and IBM. Read more from us on holiday sales here.