A Week of Black Fridays

Online holiday sales predictions came out strong this week, with one caveat for multi-channel retailers: The deal days just won’t stop coming. Say hello to a week of Black Fridays.

On Monday, Adobe released its sales predictions, based on analysis of more than 150 billion online visits over the past six years to 500 of Adobe’s retail customers.

Adobe’s Digital Index 2012 Online Shopping Forecast for the United States and Europe predicted Cyber Monday 2012 online revenue for the retail sector to reach $2 billion, growing by 18 percent year-over-year. It expects mobile purchasing to represent 21 percent of total online sales this holiday, an increase of 110 percent over last year.

Google also released new holiday shopping research today from surveys about people’s Black Friday shopping plans. Google found holiday shopping in full swing, with 14 percent of toy shoppers having already opened their purses. Searches for “holiday gift” on Google have already spiked 194 percent since November 1, and searches for “Black Friday” are up 566 percent.

Adobe expects online retail sales to reach a record $2 billion on Cyber Monday, November 26, traditionally the biggest online shopping day of the year in the U.S. That represents growth of 18 percent, year-over-year. It expects Black Friday to be the second-largest online sales day of 2012, with a sales increase of 12 percent, year-over-year. Oddly, despite the Cyber Monday moniker, which was coined to explain the increase in online shopping as workers returned to their desktop computers and continued shopping, Adobe predicts that brick-and-click retailers will see the largest sales spike on that day.

Google found that 80 percent of shoppers will use phones or tablets to research purchases before buying either online or in-store. Apparel, a category in which fit and feel are important, the survey found that only 36 percent of gifters in this category will shop online.

The increase in mobile device use includes more showrooming, the consumer practice of going to a physical store to check out merchandise, then using a mobile device to find a better product online – and buying it there. Major retailers including Best Buy and Target have instituted price-matching guarantees to combat showrooming, but not everyone is worried.

An October survey of retail CFOs by BDO USA found that 88 percent did not view showrooming as a threat. To keep shoppers buying in stores, 25 percent said they had improved their customer service, while another 25 percent had expanded in-store pickups and returns for online purchases. Seventeen percent said they would match prices of online retailers.

That said, Applied Predictive Technologies (APT) warned retailers not to discount so heavily that they lose margins. APT provides data and analytics to multichannel retailers including Walmart, Lowe’s, Abercrombie & Fitch and Victoria’s Secret.

Jonathan Marek, senior vice president, APT, also warned against Black Friday Creep: For years, physical retailers began opening earlier and earlier in the wee hours of Friday morning. Now, they’ve now started opening Thanksgiving afternoon. Online retailers responded by rolling out deals even earlier. Notably, Amazon kicked off a weeklong Black Friday on Monday, while Digitas has identified Mobile Thursday, the day formerly known as Thanksgiving, as a prime shopping day for that channel.

According to Digitas, its client eBay will heavily promote its mobile deals beginning at exactly 5:23 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Its study of 2059 people 18 and older found that 28 percent of smartphone- or tablet-owning adults plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day for the holidays with their mobile devices, double that of 2011. (The survey also found that 22 percent of students would decline a Thanksgiving meal invitation if they knew they would not be able to use their mobile devices while there). 

“A broader spectrum of retailers feels pressure to take part in Black Friday, but not every brand is coming out a winner,” Marek said. “Online or offline, it’s all about what else they’re buying. Some companies have a really good sense of what else they can promote at a deep discount to bring in incremental sales. For example, Amazon has an incredible database to work from. The more you have to sell, the better job you can do in figuring out how to sell it.”

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