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Why Early Holiday Shopping on Mobile Might Hurt Black Friday Sales

Facebook data serves up red flags for bricks and mortar

Can mobile kill Black Friday? Illustration: Glue Kit

Mobile shopping could already be cutting into bricks-and-mortar retailers' holiday sales, according to Facebook. The Menlo, Park, Calif.-based company's analysis is based on a combination of data points that it's releasing today—some of which center on consumers' intentions going into Black Friday and others that examine how they shopped last holidays season. 

For instance, Facebook said 25 percent of purchases last year came from smartphones, while mobile content was shared 2.7 times more than desktop last December. And, 73 percent of videos, posts and photos were uploaded from a smartphone during that period of time.

Consider those numbers in concert with this stat: 37 percent of consumers worldwide said that they'll wrap up most of their gift-buying this year before Black Friday, per the social network's study. Additionally, in the U.S. and United Kingdom, 50 percent of people will finish their shopping before the holiday season kicks off.

Moreover, 40 percent of folks polled say that they plan to spend more on presents this year than last year, and 53 percent will shop across mobile, desktop and bricks-and-mortar stores.

"Last year, mobile commerce hit a tipping point," said Ann Mack, head of content and activation for global consumer insights at Facebook. "Even if people aren't purchasing on those devices, mobile is the constant companion throughout the holiday season."

With Facebook-level targeting and new ad formats, Instagram in particular will be a big focus for retailers this year.

According to Facebook, 74 percent of millennials engage with Instagram posts, which entails buying a product, visiting a website, searching for an item of telling a friend about the brand. That stat could bode well for the bevy of retailers who have upped their budgets since Instagram launched its ad business in June.

"Both Instagram and Facebook are becoming the new holiday scrapbook," Mack contended. "Given that people are communicating throughout the holidays in a very visual way, marketers can stand out by increasing their arsenal of visual tools to spark discovery and engagement."

The research pulled Facebook data from 34 countries across 21 markets.

Here are a few other interesting tidbits in the report:

  • Facebook users share 28 percent more photos and videos during the holiday season compared to the rest of the year.
  • 44 percent of people want some type of "experiential" gift like an activity, service or meal, but only 34 percent plan to give those types of experiences as gifts.
  • Similarly, 41 percent want a travel-related present, and 15 percent said they would give it as a gift.
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