This year REI announced to the world that it would keep its 143 retail locations closed on Black Friday (and Thanksgiving day). Similarly, a growing number of stores, including Marshalls, Crate and Barrel, and many more are committing to remain closed on Thanksgiving day at a minimum.
And while REI, for one, has oriented its #OptOutside campaign as an invitation to reconnect with family and friends by getting out of doors together, there is also another underlying reality: the fact is, the vast majority of shoppers who want to shop on Thanksgiving or even Black Friday can do so online. As REI.com puts it, “The outdoors, and the website, are always open” (emphasis mine).
Black Friday is the new Cyber Monday. Or rather, welcome to Cyber Friday.
Past data have already shown Thanksgiving to be the 3rd biggest US ecommerce shopping day. Even if retailers’ brick-and-mortar stores are closed, all data points suggest they are still going to be doing plenty of business over the holiday weekend. In 2014, leading online retailers saw 243 million combined desktop and mobile visits to leading websites during Thanksgiving Day, second only to Black Friday and Cyber Monday ecommerce visits.
Online retail has been big for years, but the fact that so many stores are willing to completely forego in-store Black Friday and Thanksgiving revenues seems to signal an even bigger tectonic shift in retail strategy.
What does it all mean for ecommerce providers and retailers? A few things:
- More traffic, more users and more transactions online. Traffic this year is projected to be greater than ever, as consumers increasingly default to online vs. brick and mortar stores, and overall spending remains strong. (If you want to check live US retail data, take a look here.)
- Early traffic surges. As data on Thanksgiving day show, traffic surges may occur early, even before Black Friday.
- Mobile traffic. Don’t overlook your mobile app. In 2014, one in three online purchases came from a mobile device during Black Friday, and at one point mobile traffic surpassed desktop traffic on Thanksgiving day. On average, 25% of online sales are executed on a mobile platform.
As more consumers will shop online this holiday season, the pressure on retailers to perform well in online channels is greater than ever. There will be more than $100 billion in online sales this holiday season in the US alone. That's over 100 billion good reasons to ensure the speed and responsiveness of ecommerce-related applications and identify potential problems ahead of time. By testing, measuring and optimizing for speed proactively, retailers can rest assured that their shoppers' digital experience will be a good one. That's smart business, because when it comes to online shopping, seconds (even fractions of seconds) count.
And regardless of the availability of brick-and-mortar shopping as an option, the overall trend is consistently clear: retailers’ ultimate success or failure increasingly hinges on delivering a seamless and blazingly fast web and mobile experience.