The growth of Black Friday – and how to capitalize this year

Posted by Rebecca Appleton on 9 Nov, 2016
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Forget what you’re going to serve with the turkey – for online retailers the most crucial Thanksgiving decision to be made this year is how to capitalize on the huge growth of Black Friday and its cousin, Cyber Monday.

While the shopping frenzy is nothing new, the volume of transactions made on Black Friday is.  2015 set records across the board for consumer spend and history suggests the retail holiday of the year is not about to disappoint in 2016. Expect billions of dollars to be up for grabs on Black Friday and a definite trend away from bricks-and-mortar purchases to online buys.

The numbers so far

A look back at the numbers for the last two Black Fridays suggest that there is an upward trend, with greater numbers of sales being transacted and a growth in average order value.


  • Between November 1 and November 28 2014, US shoppers spent $32 billion online
  • $2.4 billion was spent in total on Black Friday, compared with $1.33 billion on Thanksgiving Day
  • The average order value on Black Friday was $142
  • For the first time ever, retailers began to feel the impact of the mobile revolution
  • Purchases made from mobile devices accounted for 27.9 percent of total online sales, an increase of 28.2 percent year-on-year
  • Facebook was the most profitable social media network for retailers, with an average order value of $114.45

Source: Adobe Retail Index


  • $2.72 billion was spent online on Black Friday 2015 and $1.73 billion on Thanksgiving Day. This contrasts with the $2.4 billion spent on Black Friday in 2014
  • Mobile devices powered 53 percent of shopping visits on Black Friday, generating $583 million in revenue for retailers
  • Special offers online for limited time and limited product discounts accounted for 40% of all online sales. Source: Adobe Retail Index
  • Email promotions drove 25 percent more sales in 2015 than 2014
  • 75.3 million (73.1%) shoppers bought online on Black Friday according to the National Retail Federation.
  • Electronic items were the most likely to sell out

2016 predictions

The digital headlines in November might have been dominated by the elections but, there’s also been a slew of research conducted and predictions made regarding Black Friday and expected ecommerce performance.
However, while the major retailers and forecasters agree that billions of dollars will be spent online on Black Friday, predictions suggest that the rate of growth will be slower this year than in previous years. As a retailer, what can you read into this? One possible explanation is that consumers are getting savvier about their online shopping. Many of the bigger chains such as Amazon started their cyber discounts early this year, giving consumers a larger window in which to spread out their purchases.

According to Adobe’s Holiday Retail Predictions report

“The total number of “billion-dollar” online shopping days is expected to increase from 31 consecutive days last year to 53 in-a-row this holiday season. What’s more, total online sales are forecast to grow 11 percent to $91.6 billion this year.”

With plenty of cash up for grabs, maximizing ecommerce conversions should take priority over the next couple of weeks – not just in terms of bagging a bigger share of the Black Friday pie, but also in converting shoppers later on in November.

If you haven’t yet launched your special offers or still have a few up your sleeve to   encourage a Black Friday and beyond spree, try these quick tips to get your virtual tills ringing…

Start early

Dell, Amazon, Costco and Staples all tempted shoppers with very early Black Friday deals – some as early as November 1. Don’t be afraid to feed in tempting offers and discounts to provoke pre-Black Friday interest with a sliding calendar of deals. Vary your offers for maximum impact. This is especially important if there is any concern that a spike in traffic or order volumes within a single day (i.e. Black Friday or Cyber Monday) is likely to create technical or logistical problems with fulfillment or shipping.

Think omnichannel not just mobile first

Being mindful of mobile conversion is crucial this year and perhaps not in the way you may think. As digital marketers we’ve had it drummed into us that mobile first is the mindset to adopt. Google has gone as far as to announce  a mobile first search index and non-mobile friendly sites should expect to flounder in the search results. Interestingly, mobile first might not be the way to go on Black Friday.

The Adobe Holiday Retail Predictions forecast mobile will overtake desktop as a source of traffic for the 2016 holiday season. However, while more than 50% of traffic will be directed from an online device, the report also forecasts that mobile will drive just 34% of holiday revenue. The average transaction value for mobile is also expected to be $35 less than that of a desktop cart.

The message here is to remember the importance of an omnichannel user experience. While shoppers are bargain hunting from mobiles, they aren’t necessarily completing the transaction from their smartphone – meaning you’ll need to be mindful of offering a cohesive experience across all devices to capitalize on the initial mobile interest.

Reward loyalty

Don’t be afraid to reward your loyal customers this Black Friday. Consider exclusive discounts, special limited time product offers, early access and perks like free shipping or gift wrap. Often the Black Friday focus is on winning over new business making it easy to forget those who have shopped with you through the year. Create separate offers to reward brand loyalty – this means you have another way to reach customers over and above competing for advertising space and brand voice on congested platforms such as paid search and social media.

Use email

Email is historically one of the strongest drivers of ecommerce sales through the holiday season so make sure you factor this into your plan. From sending an email the day before with a sneak peak of your best Black Friday deals to counting down to the holiday with daily offers, you can tailor your offers to suit your opt-in list and your particular niche. If you’re stuck for inspiration, check out the seasonal offers from the likes of Amazon and Macys.

Consider a contingency plan

With the holiday shopping season stretching through November (with a late December rally possible) create a contingency plan to woo those shoppers who’ll also be bargain hunting through the end of the month.


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