It may have been a Thanksgiving week without many typical traditions for many Americans—travel and major gatherings, for starters. But there are some rituals that even a pandemic couldn’t cancel, and shopping on Black Friday was one of them.
According to data provider Adobe Analytics, Americans spent a record-setting $9 billion online on Black Friday this year. That’s a 21.6% increase over 2019 when consumers spent $7.4 billion. The final numbers fell within Adobe’s predictions, which put estimated spend on Black Friday between $8.9 billion and $9.6 billion as of midday on Friday. Some estimates pegged Black Friday’s spend at $10 billion, which it fell slightly short of.
People also shopped more on mobile, with 40% of purchases—$3.6 billion—made on smartphones, a 23% increase year-over-year.
Those numbers make Black Friday 2020 the second-largest online shopping day in U.S. history, second only to Cyber Monday in 2019.
Americans spent 116.6 million hours shopping online on Black Friday, according to Salesforce. And Adobe Analytics data found that consumers spent $6.3 million per minute online on Black Friday for a $27.50 per-person average.
Despite the uptick in activity and time spent, deals for consumers didn’t substantially change. This year, the average discount on Black Friday was 26%, the same as in 2019, according to Salesforce. The categories that saw the highest level of spending include toys and electronics.
The Black Friday sales boom was felt across the retail landscape, no matter the size. “Certain consumers are definitely [and] deliberately looking to try to help small and local retailers,” said Vivek Pandya, senior digital insights manager at Adobe. “But both sides of retail have seen pretty substantial boosts in this period.”
This was bound to be a great year for ecommerce Cyber Week sales. Since the pandemic forced people indoors and closed nonessential retailers in March, the adoption of online shopping has been accelerated. For example, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the third quarter of 2020, ecommerce increased 36.7% year-over-year, while total retail sales rose only 7%.
This record-breaking Black Friday comes on the heels of a Cyber Week that’s seen similar-sized increases. According to Salesforce data, online sales in the U.S. grew 72% on Tuesday of this week, while Wednesday sales grew 48%. Thanksgiving Day’s year-over-year growth, at 21.5%, represents a slower increase than had occurred earlier in the week.
The entire month of November has been a significant growth month for online shopping. Consumers spent over $2 billion on 24 out of the first 27 days of the month, with seven days reaching above $3 billion. Putting the numbers in context, last year, there had only been three $3 billion days at that point.
The biggest sales day is likely yet to come, however. Adobe predicts that Cyber Monday will become the largest online sales day in U.S. history, with an estimated spend between $10.8 billion (which would be 15% year-over-year growth) and $12.7 billion (an increase of 35% year-over-year).
How consumers and retailers are preparing for the holidays
The pandemic’s influence on this year’s Black Friday results is multifaceted. As case numbers continue to climb in the U.S., more Americans moved their holiday shopping online.
“With the cases surging, people are trying to stockpile goods that they’ll need as they batten down the hatches for this particular season,” said Pandya. “[That] really elevated [the] level of spending.”
Due to the increase in online orders, retailers are preparing for a more difficult season related to order fulfillment and shipping, an issue Pandya said may have worked in Black Friday’s favor. Because consumers are aware of the challenges retailers face this holiday, it’s likely made them more inclined to make a purchase at the start of the season.