Media & Entertainment

Online shopping on Thanksgiving hit $4.2B, up 14.5% on 2018, 45% of sales via mobile


empty wine glass, table/place setting
Image Credits: Steve Byrne (opens in a new window) / Flickr (opens in a new window) under a CC BY-ND 2.0 (opens in a new window) license.

With popular social networks seeing some downtime, most shops closed, and many people off work for Thanksgiving, bargain hunters flocked online to start their holiday shopping. Sales for the day totalled $4.2 billion, according to research from Adobe Analytics.

That makes this year the first time that Thanksgiving Day online sales have passed the milestone $4 billion mark, with sales up 14.5% on last year’s online sales of $3.7 billion. However, overall purchasing also actually just fell short of estimates, which had been $4.4 billion for the day. Now all eyes are on Black Friday spend, where some $600 million has already been spent online in the US during morning hours.

Smartphones and tablets continue to figure strong for both browsing and conversions: 45% of all sales happened on mobile for the day, said Adobe, a 24.4% increase on last year’s figure of 33.5%.

“Thanksgiving soared past $4 billion in spend for the first time yesterday and has fast become a favored day by consumers for accelerating their holiday spending and shopping efforts,” said Jason Woosley, vice president of commerce product & platform at Adobe.

“By stepping up discounts and awareness of Thanksgiving sales, large retailers were able to unlock a 3x boost in revenue that contributed to a total $4.2 billion (14.5% growth YoY) in spend. Don’t expect the momentum to slow down anytime soon; with $7.5 billion in online spend projected for Black Friday, it’s clear that the largest dollar gains for retailers and shoppers have yet to come.”

In terms of who reaped the spoils for the day. the big continue to get bigger, boosted in part by the fact that they simply have more items for sale.

“E-commerce giants” — which make over $1 billion in annual revenues — Adobe said, had a 244% rise in sales on Thanksgiving Day, and smaller retailers saw just a 61% increase. Part of that might have to do with the fact that big retailers usually have more efficient and flexible delivery options: 61% of online shoppers plan to take advantage of same-day shipping or in-store/curbside pickup this year. Options like these have so far this season generated 39.9% more in sales than last year, Adobe said.

Adobe Analytics tracks sales in real-time for 80 of the top 100 US retailers, covering 55 million SKUs and some 1 trillion transactions during the holiday sales period. Shopify, meanwhile, uses data from across the range of online retailers that use Shopify APIs to run their sales.

Both companies are tracking sales over the holiday period in real time, and earlier in the day Adobe had noted that $2.1 billion had been spent online as of 5pm in the afternoon Eastern time, up 20.2% on the same period a year ago. About 46.4% of all online purchases been made on smartphones, up nearly 13 percentage points on 2018’s 33.5%. Smartphone browsing is also up: 63.4% of visits coming from smartphones compared to 56.6% for the month, Adobe said.

Prior to that, at 10am Adobe said $470 million had been spent online, a rise of 14.5% compared to sales figures from the same time last year. Overall, Adobe said that sales are largely on track to hit its prediction of $4.4 billion in total sales for Thanksgiving day.

Over at Shopify, the e-commerce backend provider has been running real-time visualizations tracking sales. At its peak, at 3:05PM Eastern time, it was seeing $671,000 in sales each minute. Its final numbers for Thanksgiving note that its merchants made $442 million on the day from some 5.3 million consumers making purchases. All told, sales were up by a 62% on a year ago.

Within that, Shopify’s figures are largely similar to those of Adobe’s. It noted that some 69% of all sales were being made on mobile devices, with apparel and accessories the most popular category, and New York the top-selling city. Average cart price crept up as the day went on and ended at $81.12 globally, with the figure closer to $82 in the US itself.

Thanksgiving appetiser

In the days before online shopping really took hold, Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) used to be seen as the traditional start to holiday sales: it was a day that many people had off from work to bridge the gap between Thanksgiving and the weekend, and made for an obvious start to Holiday Shopping season.

However, with the arrival of the internet, which has no opening times, and the sheer fact of increased competition for shoppers’ attention, retailers have kicked off their strategies earlier and earlier to get a jump on sales. Consumers spending time at home on Thanksgiving itself are increasingly coming online — on a day when most brick-and-mortar stores are closed — to get the ball rolling with the holiday shopping, or just to cash in on special discounts.

This year, Thanksgiving is coming a week later this year than in 2018 (when it fell on the 22nd of the month), which will make for a more compressed, and potentially more frenzied, selling period.

As Sarah pointed out earlier this week, many retailers this year made an early jump on their Black Friday deals, and so far some $53 billion has been spent in the month of November up to today. This year’s holiday sales overall are predicted to hit nearly $144 billion.

Thanksgiving Day saw some distinct patterns in terms of who was buying what. Frozen 2, L.O.L. Surprise Dolls, and Nerf were the most popular toy brands. Madden 20, Jedi Fallen Order, and NBA 2k20 were the most popular games. And Fire TV, Apple Laptops, and HP Laptops were the most popular gadget purchases.

Other trends it’s picked up include how shoppers are being reached: paid search accounts for 24% of all purchases, while social (20%) and email (9.4%) are the second- and third-most popular way of reaching consumers. Social media influencers are guiding 1 in 10 shoppers to buy products, too. (The number goes up to 1 in 5 among GenZ.)

Adobe notes that in the $53 billion spent so far this month, all 27 days in November have surpassed $1 billion in sales. Eight days passed $2 billion, and yesterday saw $2.9 billion in sales. That was up 22% on a year ago, which either points to increased sales overall, or simply that the strategy of extending “holiday” shopping to start earlier and earlier is paying off for retailers.

Another interesting insight is that some $18.2B in purchases have been made by smartphones this month, which is up 49.5% compared to last year.

“The strong online sales performance to-date suggests that holiday shopping starts much earlier than ever before. Steep discounts on popular items like computers on the day before Thanksgiving indicate that many of the season’s best deals are already up for grabs. This has led to significant growth in online sales (16.1% YoY increase) so far. What will be important for retailers to track is whether the early discounts will drive continued retail growth overall, or if they have induced consumers to spend their holiday budgets earlier,” noted Jason Woosley, vice president of commerce product & platform at Adobe.

Black Friday is projected to net $7.4 billion in sales this year.

Adobe notes that the holiday season is currently shaping up to have sales that are up 14.9% on last year.

More TechCrunch

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

3 hours ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?