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Online, Mobile Surge Drives Modest Black Friday

While known for its unpredictable and unprecedented savings opportunities, Black Friday 2013 progressed largely according to expectations: Online and mobile commerce were the biggest drivers of sales increases, with IBM real-time reporting finding that online sales rose 19 percent for the holiday.

This growth was buoyed by strong consumer mobile use: Mobile traffic increased to account for 39.7 percent of all online traffic on Black Friday. Further, mobile sales contributed to nearly 22 percent of total online sales, up 43 percent from 2012.

The results aren’t surprising to those who have been following the movements of top U.S. retailers in the weeks and months leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday. Many major outlets – Groupon, Amazon – have moved to aggressively incentivize online shopping with special deals and discounts.

In total, U.S. retailers saw just a 2.3 percent sales gain over the Thanksgiving and Black Friday holidays, another development that falls in line with recent expectations. Since October, many experts have been projecting only “modest growth” in holiday sales this year.

For more on how shoppers spent on Black Friday, we break down recent reports to give you a rundown of the trends that had the biggest influence on consumer behavior and spending.

In-Store Sales

Compared to surging online sales, in-store Black Friday news wasn’t positive. Walmart once again took a publicity hit due to several high-profile in-store outbursts in which fights broke out and ambulances were called to its locations.

Despite this, the National Retail Federation (NRF) reported “record-breaking” numbers of early Black Friday shoppers, with the organization forecasting that 15,000 shoppers waited for midnight and early-morning deals, up from the 11,000 shoppers observed last year.

Overall, however, foot traffic at major retailers declined from 2012. ShopperTrak found that foot traffic dropped 11.4 percent on Black Friday, though totals for Thanksgiving and Black Friday combined rose 2.8 percent to 1.07 billion store visits, Bloomberg said on November 30.

Online Sales

Web sales were up 20 percent year-over-year, but most importantly for etailers, certain retail categories saw growth of more than 50 percent, Internet Retailer noted on November 30.

Department store retailers saw a 61.4 percent rise in online sales, while apparel outlets recorded an 50.4 percent uptick. Health and beauty outlets saw the third largest increase of 28 percent year-over-year.

The media outlet noted that merchants selling through online marketplaces – such as Amazon, eBay and Rakuten – saw impressive sales growth, with sales up 40 percent on Thanksgiving and 35 percent on Black Friday.

Apple’s Big Boost

Polling from InfoScout revealed that Apple was one of the biggest winners of Black Friday spending. The firm polled Black Friday shoppers at Target to find that Apple had the top three most purchased products – the Apple iPad Air 16GB, the Apple iPad Mini 16GB and the Apple iPad Air 32GB, VentureBeat reported on November 29.

IBM also handed Apple the victory when it came to driving online traffic to other online outlets. iOS was “much more valuable than Android” on Black Friday, according to VentureBeat, which found that iOS drove more than double the number of smartphone and tablet visits that Android did.

iOS had a higher average order volume of $131.52, compared to Android’s $113.13.

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