Evolving holiday shopping habits have created ‘Black November’

Data shows holiday shopping spans November

Retailers: Beware the ides of November.

Consumer spending data shows that shoppers are no longer waiting for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The weeks leading up to the big, traditional spending days are seeing increased online traction.

Brand Keys, a research consultancy, calls this earlier shopping pattern ‘Black November.’

According to a survey from Brand Keys of more than 11,000 US consumers, over 55% indicated they already shopped or intended to shop before Black Friday. Of those respondents, 25% said they shopped or will shop at an earlier time in November, a 3% increase from last year.

The survey found that 20% of participants did their shopping on Black Friday, a 5% drop year-over-year.

Naama Bloom, vice president of brand marketing at e-retailer zulily, said this earlier shopping trend is thanks in large part to the prevalence of mobile shopping. Bloom said 72% of zulily purchases are made on mobile.

“Customers are no longer limited to a sales day or group of days to do their shopping because, more than ever, shoppers can multitask while in line at a grocery store buying ingredients for their Thanksgiving meals. We saw ‘Black Friday’ shopping begin as early as the weekend before, start to gain traction on Wednesday, and leading into Thanksgiving day and beyond,” said Bloom.

Bloom added that consumers are spending more concertedly over a longer period of time. The weekend before Thanksgiving, zulily saw a double-digit increase in sales year-over-year (YoY), driven by organic posts on social channels.

According to Brand Keys, the tradition of Black Friday and the long weekend around it will keep the shopping day going strong. But tracking over the past 10 years shows that Black Friday shopping is actually down. Brand Keys believes that’s due to the Black November phenomenon.

Still, this Black Friday and Cyber Monday brought in big money and lots of traffic. Research from Taboola shows the top day of the month was Black Friday, when 15% of people on the open web were online.

According to data from Adobe, consumers spent a record $7.9bn online by the end of Cyber Monday, a 19.3% increase YoY. This year was also the first time more than half of visits came from mobile devices, with 2.2bn transactions coming from mobile.

Taylor Schreiner, Adobe digital insights director, pointed out that the mobile shopping experience is improving.

“Converting mobile traffic to sales has long been a thorn in the side of retailers, but investments in making the experience faster and easier have paid off. Cyber Monday shoppers relied heavily on their mobile devices, resulting in an unprecedented 55.6% year-over-year increase from smartphones alone," said Schreiner.

Schreiner added that 'buy online, pick up in-store' saw a record 65% increase, meaning retailers are satisfying consumer expectations for integrated cross-channel experiences.

Zulily's Bloom also noticed macro-level trends. She said millennial’s shopping tendencies are driving some of the Black November momentum.

“We’ve identified a segment of buyers [called] SOBOs (seizes opportunities, buys often) who are always on the lookout for unique gifts for the people in their lives. They aren’t waiting for gifting occasions to buy and they use gifting as a way to connect with their community,” said Bloom.

Bloom believes that, based on customer shopping behavior, holiday shopping will evolve beyond the anchors of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Thanksgiving time still sees a spending boon, but consumers are migrating to the flexibility of mobile shopping — which is a significant driver of consumers shopping earlier in November. Retailers are already beginning to enhance their mobile shopping experiences, and that will only serve them well as the Black November phenomenon entrenches itself as a spending staple.

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