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Black Friday online spending falls amid early promotions and deals

Online spending on Black Friday totaled $8.9 billion, down slightly from last year.

E-commerce sales got off to a tepid start over Thanksgiving weekend following an unusually early start to the holiday shopping — and deals and discounts — season.

Total U.S. online spending on Black Friday, Nov. 26, reached $8.9 billion, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index. The total was at the low end of Adobe’s predicted range and a slight decrease from $9 billion in online Black Friday spending tracked by Adobe in 2020.

[Read more: Three ways early Black Friday is shaking up retail]

While online spending on Black Friday was down from last year, in-store traffic showed a big rebound. It rose 47.5% year-over-year

Adobe analysis also indicates that online spending on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, remained flat year-over-year at $5.1 billion. It was up 21% from $4.2 billion on Thanksgiving Day 2019.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, consumers spent $4.5 billion online on Saturday, Nov. 27, down 4.3% year-over-year. They spent  $4.7 billion online on Sunday, Nov. 28, down 0.5% year-over-year. This marks the first time where Adobe has reported both Thanksgiving and Black Friday as not seeing an increase in online spending year-over-year.

Adobe still expects Cyber Monday, Nov. 29, to be the biggest online shopping day of 2021, with between $10.2 billion and $11.3 billion in online spend.

• One segment of Black Friday digital sales which did show growth is mobile sales. According to Adobe, smartphones accounted for 44% of all online sales on Black Friday, which is up 11% year-over-year. Smartphone visits accounted for a 62% share (up 2% year-over-year) compared to desktop’s 38% share of Black Friday digital sales.

Over the weekend, curbside pickup grew 33% over pre-pandemic levels and was used in 18% of online orders (for retailers who offer the service). Last year at this point, it was used in 25% of all online orders.


Salesforce analysis shows generally similar results. According to Salesforce, U.S. online sales rose 1% year-over-year to $6.9 billion on Thanksgiving Day. Interestingly, Salesforce reported more robust 5% year-over-year growth to a total of $13.4 billion spent by online consumers during Black Friday. Salesforce has similar projections for Cyber Monday spending, predicting U.S. consumers will spend $11 billion on Cyber Monday, flat compared to 2020.

Data from global retail bank, payments and shopping service Klarna indicates that consumers have been significantly increasing their usage of “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) flexible installment payments.

Klarna reports a 141% increase in purchases with BNPL service on Black Friday 2021 compared to the same day the previous year. And as of 7 a.m. ET on Cyber Monday, Nov. 29, Klarna sales volumes in the U.S. had increased by 125% compared to Cyber Monday 2020, kicking off with the first hour peaking at 391% compared to an average shopping day with Klarna.

The rise in the usage of BNPL payments may be at least partially due to increasing prices of holiday items. According to Salesforce, the average selling price increased 22% in the U.S. and 7% globally from Nov. 25-27 compared to the first three days of Cyber Week 2020.

“After a strong start to the holiday season, momentum continued with moderate growth throughout Cyber Week,” said Rob Garf, VP and GM of retail at Salesforce. “With the smoothing out of demand throughout the entire season, peak days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday have less of an impact than previous years. We saw moderate growth on Black Friday with consumers really responding to personalized offers. Redemption of personalized offers outpaced generic offers by two times on Black Friday. We expect retailers will continue to lean into digital marketing — that leverages data and intelligence — to encourage shoppers to get the best discount while inventory is [hopefully] still available on Cyber Monday.”

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