Three Lessons from the 2016 Global Retail Shopping Season

The past couple of weeks were filled with the delivery of regionally customized presentations on the future of retail in Spain, UK, Portugal, and Switzerland.  As we are in the middle of the paramount shopping season, special focus was on three important retail holidays.

Black Becomes Cyber While Overtaken By Singles

Black Friday

Over both Thanksgiving and Black Friday, 2016 brick-and-mortar net instore sales dropped 5% and the number of transactions fell 7.9%. Shopper visits to physical stores declined 1% during the same two day period.  UK 2016 Black Friday shopper traffic fell a significant 8% which follows a drop of 4.05% in 2015.

While instore sales declined, USA Black Friday online sales set a new record with $3.34 billion in retail spending, a 21.6% increase year-over-year. Mobile accounted for 33% of online sales ($1.2 billion), first day in USA retail history surpassing $1 billion. 

Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday 2016 was the biggest single day online shopping day in USA history. Total retail sales reached $3.45 billion, up 12.1%. Mobile accounted for 47% of visits to retail websites and 31% of sales.

Singles Day 

Singles Day in China started as an ‘anti-Valentine’ celebration for single people in the 1990s and it has evolved in the world’s biggest online shopping day. The virtual event is celebrated in China on November 11.

This year Alibaba smashed its own record with $17.8 billion in online sales over the 24 hour holiday period, up from $14.3 billion the previous year. In the first five minutes, Alibaba reached $1 billion in retail sales. Eighty-seven percent of all purchases were made via mobile. 

By single company comparison, last year Amazon accounted for 35% of Black Friday online sales and sold $2.68 billion in products on Cyber Monday. 

The 2016 Retail Holiday Shopping Lessons

Black Friday -vs- Cyber Monday

“Ever since the start of the modern Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924, the Friday after Thanksgiving has been known as the unofficial start to a bustling holiday shopping season.” This year’s record online performance foreshadows disruptive changes ahead in what was typically an intensive physical store retail event. Since 2012, social media conversations on Black Friday have declined 72%. “Cyber Monday is the new black…Friday.”

Mobile is King

Thirty-seven percent of all e-commerce sales during November 24-27 totaling $3.46 billion in USA materialized on smartphones. Mobile accounted for 33% of USA online sales ($1.2 billion). Both Walmart and Target reported that 60% of their e-commerce orders came from mobile devices. 

Mobile being king is a global phenomenon. “According to data from ChannelAdvisor, between Thanksgiving and Cyber Sunday in the UK, 73% of shopping searches took place on mobile devices (22% on tablets; 51% on mobile) –an increase of 15% from 2015 – with 64% of purchases then taking place on mobile devices (22.7% on tablets, 41.7% on mobile). This compares to 48% in 2015.”

The East Bypassed the Shopping West

The Success of Alibaba’s Single Day in China signals a retail transition on multiple levels. On China’s Single Day, Alibaba’s retail sales were over 5X USA’s Cyber Monday. China consumers shopped on Alibaba nearly 2X via mobile devices during their respective online shopping holidays. 

As a technologist, of interest was also Alibaba’s experiment in virtual shopping with Macy’s. Starting in October, Chinese consumers were able to buy VR cardboard headsets on Taobao and in November virtually shopped in Macy’s flagship New York City store. 

Physical retail stores are not going away, but they need to become immersive customer experience centers with associates as brand ambassadors engaging a smarter consumer. Online and especially its mobile variations will continue to increase in importance in the onmichannel shopping mix. Look to the East to adopt new technologies faster as they bypass traditional adoption cycles and move faster to next generation solutions.

The gateway to the smart store is the smartphone. Black Friday is Becoming Cyber Monday while substantially being overtaken by Singles Day.  

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