2020 has been a year of a lot of change, but even during ‘unprecedented times,’ there are some things we can count on—and consumers coming out in droves to shop the week of Thanksgiving is one of them.
According to Adobe Analytics data, Americans spent $5.1 billion online on Thanksgiving this year, besting last year’s record. That number is a 21.5% year-over-year increase from 2019 and slightly less than Adobe’s predictions, which hovered around $6 billion.
Though this year’s numbers set a new record, so did last year’s: In 2019, Americans spent $4.2 billion on Thanksgiving Day, according to Adobe Analytics.
Figures outside of sales also hit new milestones. Nearly half (46.5%) of 2020 Thanksgiving purchases were made on smartphones, another record. And curbside pickup continued to be a draw for consumers, with retailers offering the service seeing a 31% higher conversion rate from traffic to their websites.
This growth came in a year where there were plenty of reasons for consumers to shop online instead of in stores. Besides the obvious explanation—the pandemic—many major retailers that typically keep their doors open to particularly eager shoppers on Thanksgiving itself instead remained closed, such as Walmart and Target, pushing shoppers online.
Having more restrictions in place due to the pandemic appeared to play a role, too. States with tighter regulations around family gatherings saw 3.4 times as much year-over-year growth than those that didn’t.
Growth in the days leading up to the holiday was particularly impressive. 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.
That phenomenon is perhaps not entirely surprising, as retailers rolled out Cyber Week deals earlier than ever to spread out the demand in a year where concerns over shipping and fulfillment are reaching a fever pitch.
“There’s a bit of inertia in the tradition of spending around Thanksgiving and the day after and things like that,” said Vivek Pandya, senior digital insights manager at Adobe. “That’s something that retailers have to manage, distributing that demand into the earlier part of the month, but then still being able to be there for this sizable step change increase that will happen on on Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.”
The biggest days are still to come, according to Adobe Analytics. The company predicts that Black Friday will see between $8.9 billion and $10.6 billion in sales. Additionally, this year’s holiday shopping season will see $189 billion in overall spending—an increase of 33% year-over-year.