Web retailers enjoyed a resurgent Black Friday last week as online sales jumped by double digits over the same day in 2009, according to various reports.
The most conservative estimate came from comScore, which said Black Friday Web sales jumped 9 percent over last year (a total of $648 million in the U.S.). Coremetrics, a research arm of IBM, put that number at 16 percent. Visits to the top 500 retail sites increased 13 percent, according to Experian Hitwise.
The undisputed winner of the day was Amazon, according to both comScore and Experian Hitwise. The one-time book site's expansion into everything from appliances to lawn furniture continued to pay off this year with a 25 percent jump in traffic over Black Friday 2009, via comScore. Top sites directly behind Amazon - which has consistently topped the list in recent years - were Walmart, Target and Best Buy. (Interestingly, Walmart and Amazon once again swapped positions on Thanksgiving itself, with Wal-Mart receiving the most visits on that day for the 6th year in a row, according to Experian Hitwise.)
Sites specifically dedicated to Black Friday deals performed well, too, according to comScore. Black-Friday.net was the most popular, with 3.1 million views on November 26, a 42 percent leap from last year. BlackFriday.info came in second with 2.7 million visitors, while Black-Friday2010.com showed the greatest growth, up 478 percent to 1.5 million visitors. The total number of visitors to coupon sites on Black Friday grew 4 percent over 2009, (3.6 million visitors), while the total number of visits to the category increased 16 percent (7.4 million).
But the popularity of Black Friday sites doesn't necessarily mean consumers are more focused on bargains than they were in recent years. Indeed, shoppers viewed 18 percent fewer products before making a purchase than they did in 2009, according to Coremetrics, suggesting shoppers were less concerned with finding the best price. The price of the average order also went up according to Coremetrics, from $170 in 2009 to $190 in 2010, an increase of 12.1 percent. Sales of luxury items went up as well, including a 17.6 percent increase in sales among jewelry retailers, per Coremetrics.
Black Friday Web sales in the U.S. have increased every year since 2005 regardless of the economy, according to comScore, a fact that can probably be attributed to increasing consumer comfort with shopping online rather than spending power. But that growth slowed considerably in 2008 (less than 1 percent) before making a comeback in 2009 (11 percent).
This year, social networks and mobile apps played a larger but still marginal role in Black Friday sales. About 1 percent of shoppers arrived at a brand's site from its Facebook page (a barely perceptible increase over 2009), and about 6 percent logged onto a retailer's site using a mobile device, an increase of 26.7 percent over Black Friday 2009, according to Coremetrics.
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Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.
March 19, 2014