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Assessments regarding the success of Black Friday for retailers have been mixed. Some say that Thanksgiving weekend was a bust: Foot traffic was down, and overall sales were lower than in previous years. Others attribute lower numbers over the weekend to broader-sweeping trends. Retailers began their promotions earlier than ever this year, diluting the impact of Black Friday sales but resulting in longer and potentially more lucrative holiday shopping periods overall.
Despite the downward sales trend compared with the same time last year, reports on Black Friday reveal definitive marketing and demographic data that retailers should heed.
For all of social media’s hype, it did not drive very many Black Friday sales. Custora reported that social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, led to only 1.7% of US ecommerce sales. The main sales driver for marketers was email marketing, which beat out online search—both free and paid—to become the primary driver of US online sales this Black Friday, accounting for 27.3%.
Because of the way the internet has affected shopping, brick-and-mortar shopping has taken on more of a social character than ever—it’s almost a novelty activity for millennials to go to stores with friends. As the National Retail Federation (NRF) reported, millennials viewed Thanksgiving weekend as a social experience, one involving waiting with a group of friends on imperceptibly long lines and the excitement of getting just the right item for themselves or loved ones. As a result, they shopped the most of any age group—74.3% of 18- to 34-year-olds shopped in-store or online over the weekend, compared with 53.8% of shoppers age 35 to 54 and 39.2% of those 55 and older.
Millennials also spent more than the average shopper last weekend—$409.45 on average, compared with the average shopper’s $380.95. And almost half of their total spending happened online. While they may have been flocking to storefronts with their friends, their dollars flooded retailers’ ecommerce sites; 46.4% of what they spent happened online, tallying up to $189.84 per millennial shopper, on average.
Overall, consumers found out about Thanksgiving weekend deals courtesy of several different channels, both traditional and new. They still relied on print media to keep them informed. NRF announced that 47.1% of shoppers looked for information on the weekend’s best deals in advertising circulars. Shoppers also relied on retailers’ emails to keep track of deals (35%). More than one-quarter searched online (27.4%), and just over 20% of shoppers said they paid attention to television advertising.
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