Shoppers Research Deals via Mobile and Online Ahead of 2011 Black Friday Sales

Black Friday online shopping spend in the U.S. market jumped 26 percent this year over last, to $816 million, says comScore. Retailers fared better on Thanksgiving this year, as well, with $479 million spent online, up 18 percent over the holiday in 2010.

Whether the sales increase holds through the season remains to be seen, but as with last year, shoppers are hitting online stores at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving night ahead of Black Friday sales on the high street.

Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Target, and Apple topped the list of most visited online retailer sites for Black Friday. To date, 2011 holiday season spending totals over $12.7 billion, marking a 15 percent increase over this period last year.

IBM found more shoppers taking to their mobiles to find the best deals, with Black Friday mobile traffic at 14.3 percent, a huge increase over the 5.6 percent of shoppers who used mobile devices to research products before buying on Black Friday in 2010. Actual sales on mobile devices, at just 3.2 percent last year, rose to 9.8 percent.

Econsultancy reported a 160 percent YoY increase in Thanksgiving Day mobile traffic, as shared by mobile platform company Usablenet. They actually showed heavier traffic on Thanksgiving Day than Black Friday, demonstrating that consumers are searching earlier for deals before hitting the stores on the biggest shopping day of the year.

Aaron Goldman of Kenshoo told Search Engine Watch they’re seeing the same trending in their data.

“Indeed, it looks like shopping started earlier with a 25 percent bump in sales revenue from paid search year-over-year across our US retail index during the week leading up to Black Friday,” Goldman said.

In their analysis of over 12 billion search advertising impressions, Kenshoo saw a 40 percent YoY increase in Thanksgiving Day retail revenue driven by paid search ads.

Performics reports a 120 percent increase in Black Friday paid search spend, with clicks up 65 percent over 2010. Apparently recognizing the potential of Thanksgiving Day as a big shopping/research day this year, retailers spent more than ever on paid search - 128 percent more than last year. Thanksgiving Day clicks rose 87 percent YoY.

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Experian’s Price Grabber shed some light on the types of products consumers sought on Black Friday, finding plasma & LCD TVs and cameras the most often visited categories in technology-related products; consoles & accessories and educational toys topped the list in non-tech categories. Consumers visiting the mobile website and using apps were most often looking for plasma & LCD TVs, cameras, and tablets/e-readers.

Price Grabber reported a massive surge in online traffic on Thanksgiving Day between 6 and 11 p.m. PST as shoppers geared up for Black Friday shopping.

While paid search spend stats impress, social traffic faltered; a paltry 0.53 percent of online shopping traffic was referred from social networks, though social chatter about Black Friday was up 110 percent over the same day a year prior, according to IBM.

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Hitwise Intelligence analyst Heather Dougherty looked at traffic to the top 500 retail websites in the week leading up to Black Friday. She concluded that “While Black Friday has been the top day for online retail traffic over the past two years, warm weather and early store openings encouraged shoppers to go online sooner this season.”

Last year, Cyber Monday set records with more than $1 billion in online spending; retailers will know shortly if that upward trend continued this holiday season, or if the exponential YoY growth of Black Friday in comparison to Cyber Monday will become the new norm.