Black Friday hits $6.2B in US online sales, smartphones accounted for $2.1B

After a record-breaking Thanksgiving with $3.7 billion in digital sales across desktop and mobile devices, Black Friday pulled in a bumper year for e-commerce. Adobe — which tracks trillions of transactions across a range of retail sites — says that $6.22 billion was spent in the day, up just over 23 percent on a year ago.

That was in line with estimates earlier in the day, after tracking sales that saw $4.1 billion was already spent online by 5pm Pacific time.

More than one-third — 33.5 percent — of all sales are coming from smartphones, totalling $2.1 billion. With another 10 percent coming from tablets, mobile overall is coming close to accounting for nearly half of all transactions, a major milestone.

Shoppers have made more purchases online during Black Friday than during all of Thanksgiving the day before, when $3.7 billion was spent (a record amount for the holiday).

Adobe says the day is on track to be the second-largest e-commerce day in US history, behind Cyber Monday 2017, which brought in $6.6 billion. This year’s Cyber Monday is expected to bring in $7.8 billion.

“Black Friday will come very close to eclipsing last year’s Cyber Monday in terms of online sales,” said Taylor Schreiner, director, Adobe Digital Insights.

But interestingly, Adobe had revised down its full-day projection for Black Friday. The analysts’ $6.2 billion was down from its previous projection of $6.4 billion. In all, it’s a a big leap on 2017, when shoppers spent $5.03 billion online.

However, these figures are still far behind another major national shopping day. Alibaba alone made $31 billion in sales on Singles Day earlier this month.

Mobile moves ahead

In keeping with overall trend of people increasingly using their smartphones to make financial transactions, Black Friday this year is on track to pass its previous record of $1.4 billion in one day of e-commerce spend, Adobe says, accounting for 34.4 percent of all purchases being made today.

If you add around 10 percent of sales on tablets into that (which has been the rough proportion so far for November), mobile is now accounting for nearly half of all e-commerce on Black Friday.

Why are smartphones doing so well? It’s partly because phones continue to get more functionality and bigger screens, but also because e-commerce technology has improved to make the mobile shopping experience faster and easier. That has led also to people not only buying with more frequency, but spending more per transaction on smartphones.

In a nod to that evolution, mobile sessions were 5.2 percent shorter, but conversion is up, with 7.6 percent more visits leading to purchases.

“As retailers invest in improving mobile experiences, consumers are clearly feeling more confident in buying higher-ticket items their smartphones,” Schreiner said. “While some Americans might have been waiting in lines at stores today, the data suggests that at least some of them joined their peers in shopping on their phones — and buying more than they did in years past.”

As in previous years, Adobe said that iPhone users are buying more than Android users — currently they are 12 percent more likely to purchase after reaching a website, and they bought 14 percent more than Android users. That trend could be for different reasons: the user experience might be different, but it might also tap into the different demographics that typically use the respective platforms.

“Mobile shopping continues to skyrocket and see increased conversion,” Schreiner said. “Retailers understand that shopping and buying on smartphones is now the norm for consumers, and as a result are delivering better experiences and optimization on mobile devices.”

Adobe hasn’t released figures yet for conversion rates on Black Friday, but on Thanksgiving desktop was still seeing a higher rate of people who would buy after browsing: five percent on desktop versus around three percent for smartphones.

And while tablets are not nearly as popular for people to use — they account for only around eight percent of traffic and purchases — conversion rates on these are essentially on par with desktop.

At the smaller-retailer end of the scale, things are also doing well. Shopify, which provides a real-time sales visualisation for some 600,000 merchants on its platform — typically smaller retailers than the 80 biggest tracked by Adobe — said that average sales per minute for those merchants peaked at around $870,000 per minute, a rise on earlier today, with the average shopping cart order price clocking in at $89.37. Black Friday Shopify GMV, it say, had already surpassed the total Shopify GMV of Black Friday 2017 by 2:30 Pacific time.

Black Friday — once the traditional ‘start’ of the holiday sales period — has downshifted somewhat in importance as retailers have brought up their seasonal promotions earlier and earlier, tapping into a key aspect of e-commerce: shopping anytime you please, not just when a store is open.

At the same time, while Thanksgiving brings online retailers a captive audience — physical stores are mostly closed — Black Friday really sees the two going head-to-head, with the added competitive twist that people get days off after Thanksgiving and use them to take to the stores.

Adobe surveyed shoppers ahead of today, and it found that 60 percent planned to shop online — same as last year — and 43 percent planned to go to physical stores.

The competitiveness at physical stores has had a dark undercurrent, too, with pictures of crazed shoppers trampling over others to get to the best bargains an annual theme in the media.

Interestingly, Adobe notes that there has been a sharp rise in “buy online, pick up in store” transactions, with people buying twice as much on Thursday as on Wednesday to pick up starting Friday. That might go some way to alleviating some of the heated moments in shops.

Adobe says that so far this month, it looks like there has been $44.2 billion spent online, up 19.2 percent on a year ago.

We’ll update this post more with data as we get it.