people rush a store early in the morning on Black Friday
PHOTO: Powhusku // CC BY SA 2.0

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are done (though you wouldn't know it from your overcrowded inbox). The four-day period of online and in-store shopping deals, foolishly long lines and cranky consumers operating on zero sleep technically concluded at midnight Monday when the clocks turned over to another plain-old Tuesday.

Given, the shopping season is far from over. And while marketing teams are focusing on closing out 2019 strong, there is plenty to learn from data and trends around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

Cyber Monday Sales Hit Record $9.4 Billion

The first takeaway for marketers is the big picture on spending: US shoppers are still turning to Cyber Monday as the major online spending day. Adobe reported a record $9.4 billion in Cyber Monday online sales as of Tuesday morning. The largest online shopping day in the US grew 19.7% year over year, beating last year’s record of $7.9 billion. 

Adobe identified retail insights from trillions of data points from Adobe Analytics and Adobe Commerce Cloud, two of its Adobe Experience Cloud software systems. Its analysis is based on one trillion visits to US retail sites, 55 million SKUs and features 80 of the largest 100 US web retailers.

It wasn't the only record reported. Salesforce data confirmed record online shopping numbers with a record $31 billion in US digital commerce revenue coming in starting on Black Friday and through Cyber Monday. This was up 15% from 2018. Salesforce released its online shopping data Tuesday morning, combining data and holiday insights on the activity of more than half a billion global shoppers across more than 30 countries derived from Salesforce Commerce Cloud, billions of consumer engagements and millions of public social media conversations in Salesforce Marketing Cloud, and customer service data found in Service Cloud.

Related Article: Is Black Friday Over Yet? A Marketer's Guide to the Data 

Nearly One-Third of Sales Happen During Retail's ‘Golden Hours’

While some of us were sleeping, it seems others were hunting for bargains. 

Adobe found consumers spent on average $12 million per minute between 11 p.m. and midnight ET on Monday. It identified a broader time slot as the "golden hours of retail," with 31% ($2.9 billion) of all Cyber Monday revenue driven between 10 p.m. ET Monday and 2 a.m. ET Tuesday (apparently Cyber Monday doesn't mind claiming some of Tuesday's hours). 

Marketers, take heed: if there’s ever a good time to send out a marketing campaign or push notification on Cyber Monday, that may be the sweet spot. 

Desktop Wins for Conversions, Purchases

Marketers thinking about serving up experiences per device should also take note: Desktop is winning. Consumers on Cyber Monday saw a conversion rate of 7.6% on desktop, beating out tablets (5.5%) and smartphones (3.2%), according to Adobe data. Desktop (6.9%) also beat tablets (4.8%) and smartphones (2.9%) for conversions on Black Friday. 

Desktop also won in purchases for the period of 30 days or so leading up to Black Friday. For the period of Nov. 1 through Dec. 2, desktop accounted for 59% of purchases, topping smartphones (36%) and tablets (5%). Consumers bought $48.4 billion of goods on desktop in that month-long period, compared to $29 billion for smartphone and $4.1 billion on tablet, according to Adobe.

Cyber Monday alone, however, was a good day for mobile purchases. Adobe noted that mobile transactions jumped significantly, with $3.1 billion of Cyber Monday online sales coming from smartphones, representing the highest year-over-year dollar growth for this device. 

“On Cyber Monday alone, 32.4% of all orders were executed on smartphone devices,” Jason Woosley, VP of commerce for Adobe, told CMSWire. That's a 23.7% increase year over year, "demonstrating that retailers’ investments in the shopping experience are paying off. Brands should continue to optimize for mobile as online mobile shopping has already accounted for a large part of this year’s holiday growth."

Related Article: Smartphone, Tablet, Desktop: Approach Each as Its Own Marketing Channel 

Mobile Drives Highest Traffic

Mobile also won the traffic battle. Salesforce reported 73% of global digital traffic during this time period came from mobile devices (up from 66% in 2018). Further, Adobe's numbers found heavy traffic for smartphones consistently over the last 30 days or so. Smartphones accounted for the highest traffic from Nov. 1 through Dec. 2 at 58%, surpassing desktop (37%) and tablets (5%).

Buy Online, Pickup in Store Soars

Picking up online purchases in a physical store increased over 40% from last year. Adobe also found consumers were 20% more likely to convert with retailers who offered this service, referred to as BOPIS, than those that didn't. Cyber Monday conversion at BOPIS retailers outperformed non-BOPIS retailers by 45%; Black Friday BOPIS retailer conversion outperformed non-BOPIS by 64%.

"As we get closer to the holiday shipping cut-off, ‘buy online and pick up in store’ will become more critical for retailers, as will ‘reserve in store,'" Charles Nicholls, SVP and global head of upscale commerce for SAP Customer Experience, told CMSWire. "As such, it will be critical that marketers prioritize their efforts to communicate these journeys. Delivering convenience and providing as much value as possible to shoppers will ultimately help businesses win holiday commerce.”

Paid Search, Direct Web Visits Are Winners 

Debating where to focus your online marketing efforts? Focus on paid search and having a standout website. On Cyber Monday, almost a quarter of consumers reached ecommerce websites by going through a paid search ad and one fifth typed in the web address directly, according to Adobe. Social networks represented a growing source of visits to ecommerce websites, at 6.7% (signaling over 15% year-over-year growth), but it still represents a fraction of sales conversions at 2.1%. 

Related Article: Have We All Had Enough With Black Friday? 

Marketers Sending More Emails, Texts

Think marketers were active with emails and texts to consumers? You thought right. The number of marketing emails sent on Black Friday was up 17% from Thanksgiving Day, and the number of text messages also grew on Black Friday, up 22% from Thanksgiving, according to Salesforce.

Marketing Cloud email sends grew 20% on Black Friday and 13% on Thanksgiving as marketers engaged early and consistently. SMS was again the breakout star as SMS sends grew 133% between Thanksgiving and Black Friday over the same period in 2018.

AI Product Recommendations Boost Sales

Artificial intelligence-powered search and product recommendations worked well, according to Salesforce. Up to 9% of digital orders were a result of AI-powered product recommendations. Shoppers that purchased products from AI-powered recommendations bought 12% more units per transaction across Thanksgiving and Black Friday compared to peers who did not purchase from AI-powered recommendations, Salesforce officials found.

Related Article: 3 Misconceptions About AI in Marketing

The Shopping Season Is Starting Earlier (and Ending Later) 

Marketers put a lot of effort into the week before the Black Friday to Cyber Monday chaos. Digital traffic between Nov. 19 and Nov. 25 was up 13% from 2018, Salesforce officials found. Shoppers also filled their online baskets in advance of sales, but in many cases held out for bigger deals in the week ahead.

Big Takeaway for Marketers: Increase Methods of Communication

What’s one big takeaway from all these headache inducing numbers? Communication — and thoughtful, relevant communication — will help brands win. And never stray far from the email road: it's what consumers want, according to Adobe's Woosley. He told CMSWire that with a condensed holiday shopping season (six days fewer), marketers need to plan on increasing forms of communication. 

“Marketers should increase holiday-specific marketing emails, online ads, text messages and social posts,” he said. “Fifty percent of consumers state that ads during the holiday shopping season impact their purchasing decisions while email continues to be the most preferred way to get an offer while holiday shopping.”