2016 Thanksgiving on track to break $2B in online sales

With Thanksgiving Day in full swing, many are turning to the internet to get their holiday shopping started. Adobe is tracking e-commerce transactions in real time, and it said that by 5pm Eastern time online retailers had clocked $1.15 billion in sales, up 13.6 percent on a year ago. Of that, $449 million was spent on mobile devices ($322 million smartphones; $127 million tablets), a record amount and up 58.6 percent on 2015; $702 million was purchased via desktop sites.

Earlier today, Adobe said Thanksgiving Day would break the $2 billion mark for money spent online. Now, it’s modified that somewhat: spending is now “on track to either hit or come close to $2 billion.”

Why the change? It seems that even if some, like Visa, were projecting more people than ever before shopping online this year, collectively retailers have put their chips on deeper mark-downs to keep both interest and transaction volumes up.

Adobe writes that “heavy discounting seen in the early hours of the day has slowed revenue growth.” Tablets, for example, were marked down by more than 25 percent on average compared to last year’s 12 percent; and that TVs, toys and pet care items “are seeing much larger discounts than last year.” Portals like RetailMeNot have played a key role in promoting those discounts.

This year is continuing the trend of people turning to their mobile devices to start their browsing — perhaps using these smaller, handheld computers as a way of doing this more subtly and without being too antisocial around family and friends (that’s assuming you have agreed on a moratorium on any political conversations).

Some 54 percent of visits came from mobile devices (44 percent smartphone; 10 percent tablet), but mobile accounted for only 39 percent of purchases — meaning some are still turning to their desktop computers to seal the deal. Conversions on smartphones have increased since the morning, averaging 1.7 percent; desktop 3.4 percent and tablets 3.2 percent, Adobe noted.

As in years past, so far iOS devices are bringing in higher value purchases than Android devices, at $144 versus $119. In all, 55 percent of visits to retail sites and 38 percent of online purchases for Thanksgiving Day are coming from mobile devices, according to Adobe.

Meanwhile, IBM is not releasing its bigger Benchmark updates this year, which in the past tracked some 17,000 different online retailers. But it still appears to be doing some of this tracking online.

Its numbers are even more positive for mobile than Adobe’s. IBM notes that nearly 60 percent of all e-commerce traffic right now is coming from mobile devices, but that smartphones and tablets are only accounting for 44 percent of actual sales. Desktop sales continue to bring in higher-value sales compared to mobile, it notes: $134 versus $118.

Still, drilling into specific product categories, it seems that some of the most popular categories have been seeing declines in average spend per order. That may be in part because of the discounts, but perhaps also because people are spending more conservatively. Video game consoles are down 13 percent compared to 2015; toys are down 14 percent; televisions are down 7 percent; jewelry is down 20 percent; and computers are down 15 percent.

Adobe said its figures come from tracking 21 billion aggregated and anonymized visits to retail websites, covering some 80 percent of all online transactions for the top 100 U.S. retailers.

We’ll continue to update these numbers as the day goes on and more people stumble away from tables in food comas that allow for very restricted activities (shopping online being one of them), and we’ll continue to cover how people are buying online through Black Friday and the weekend.

“As people finish up their Thanksgiving Day meals, we’re expecting eager shoppers to jump online and snag the hottest products and best deals, especially as several physical locations will be closed today,” writes Becky Tasker, managing analyst, Adobe Digital Insights.

So far this month, Adobe said that we’ve seen $27.2 billion in sales, but while Thanksgiving sales are likely to see a double-digit boost this year, the same can’t be said for the month overall, where the rise is just 4.28 percent.

This makes some sense: Thanksgiving is not traditionally a shopping day — Black Friday (tomorrow) is usually seen as the start of the holiday sales rush. That means that there is a lot more growth to come, from a smaller starting point, for today. On top of this, physical stores tend to be closed on Thanksgiving, which means that, in theory, there should be even more of a push for online sales from those eager to jump on sales, and stores promoting offers to those consumers.

Unsurprisingly, so far top products for online sales have been consumer electronics, including iPad tablets, Samsung 4K TVs, PlayStation 4 consoles and electric scooters.

Update, 11/25/16, 11 AM ET: Adobe now reports $1.93 billion in Thanksgiving Day sales, up 11.5 percent year-over-year. Thanksgiving saw $771 million in sales from mobile devices, a new record. Mobile accounted for 57 percent of visits and 40 percent of purchases (27 percent smartphones, 13 percent tablets). Smartphones increased their share in mobile purchases driving more than twice as many sales on Thanksgiving Day (27 percent versus 22 percent on Thanksgiving in 2015) than tablets (13 percent versus 15 percent in 2015), the company said.