On Thanksgiving week in the U.S., millions of Americans participated in the most anticipated sale of the year: Thanksgiving Day. And this year more people than ever shopped online rather than in stores. Even Thanksgiving Day itself is becoming the fastest-growing online shopping day.
How has online shopping affected shopping behaviors (in terms of when and how they shop), and how have retailers adapted to this through the use of social media?
Thanksgiving is gaining
Firstly, sales start earlier each year, and as a result brands are cashing in and taking advantage of people shopping on Thanksgiving Day, as well as Black Friday. We took a deep dive into social activity to compare the two. Black Friday social mentions in November 2018 reached 2.3M, rising 170% from November 2017, and 595% from November 2012. This is in line with the increase in US online sales which have risen steadily since 2012. Black Friday may still be the ‘King of Shopping Holidays’, but shopping online on Thanksgiving is gaining momentum, as this chart shows:
Closed For The Holiday
Some retailers are, however, going against the grain. We looked at those who chose to close their stores on Black Friday. There were three main reasons for doing this: to give their employees back their holiday; as a response to growing online sales and the decline of brick & mortar sales; or to make a positive statement about the importance of spending time with family; or in the case of outdoor clothing brand, REI, to encourage people to spend time outdoors over the holiday.
Let’s look at some more numbers. American shoppers spent a massive $822 million online between midnight and 11 am ET on Thanksgiving. It makes sense – if you can get the same offer earlier online, why wait until Black Friday to go in store?
We compared social conversations about shopping on Black Friday and Thanksgiving and discovered that more shoppers than ever are opting to shop online on Thanksgiving (usually from their phones) rather than in-store on Black Friday. Look at the comparison year on year:
Online Black Friday sales were about 24% above last year’s levels, reaching a record $6.2 billion, but notice that Thanksgiving online sales surged as well.
What Are They Saying
Next, we looked at how brands are using social media through all of this. Some brands tweeted out that their stores would be closed on Thanksgiving, but with a call to action that sales were immediately available online. In contrast, some brands such as REI stated that not only their stores would be closed, but sales wouldn’t be available until the morning of Black Friday.
Here, you can see examples of retailers closed on Thanksgiving, but offering immediate sales online. The trend is evident with both nationwide big-box retailers, as well as local or regional ones:
And here are some examples of retailers either not participating in Black Friday, or delaying offers until the morning of Black Friday:
Looking at social and web mentions, positive sentiment in 2018 toward Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving surged to 36%, the highest positive sentiment towards shopping on Thanksgiving since 2012.
Whatever the external factors (record-low temperatures outside, earlier online sales) were toward the unusual success of holiday shopping on Thanksgiving in 2018, one outcome is clear – shoppers have become far less interested in shopping in-store on Black Friday, and more interested in finding the best deals online, when it is most convenient – regardless of what shopping holiday it is.
Written and researched by Lauren Bordelon and Ed Santiago