Black Friday, By The Numbers

Although major retailers certainly saw more than their fair share of unexpected technical hiccups on Black Friday (Nov. 27), the online traffic side of the E-Commerce world saw very few surprises. Longtime industry leaders Amazon, Walmart and Target grabbed the top three slots in pages visited. All three also saw significantly more site visits this year than on Black Friday 2008, said Internet monitoring firm Hitwise. Coming in fourth through sixth on the list were—in order—Best Buy, Sears and JC Penney, but the year-over-year traffic changes at those sites was less impressive.

Making these figures all the more interesting is that they happened on the much ballyhooed Black Friday and not the National Retail Federation-created Cyber Monday, which is supposed to be the grand day of E-Commerce. Not that it ever was the highest E-Commerce day, but it has typically made a bit of online noise. This year, though, beyond a handful of small tech glitches, Cyber Monday was hardly noticeable. I think About Retail put it best when it opened its story with this lovely poem: Twas the night before Cyber Monday and all through the 'net, hardly a new special was posted - did the e-tailers forget.

Back in the world of stats, Amazon.com received 13.55 percent of all U.S. visits among the top 500 sites, Hitwise reported. The figure represents a 22 percent increase over 2008, a year-over-year change that happens to be the same as that enjoyed by Target (which received 5.65 percent of total Black Friday traffic this year). Walmart.com drew 11.18 percent of the day's traffic, a 13 percent increase over 2008, Hitwise said.

Even though Hitwise reported that total visits to the top 500 sites declined by 9 percent compared with last year, ComScore's finding that $595 million was spent online during Black Friday represents an 11 percent increase compared with 2008’s Black Friday. ComScore also issued statistics relating to unique visits to top retail sites on Black Friday. It said Amazon led the pack of five E-Commerce sites that fielded more than 4 million unique U.S. visitors "with each of these properties experiencing gains" compared with last year.

Amazon "was the most visited retail property on Black Friday, growing 28 percent from the corresponding shopping day a year ago, followed closely by Walmart, which grew 22 percent," reported ComScore. "Apple.com Worldwide Sites (up 39 percent), Target Corporation (up 2 percent) and Best Buy Sites (up 24 percent) rounded out the top five."

In a statement discussing the findings, ComScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni pointed out that the day after Thanksgiving, known as "a shopping bonanza in brick-and-mortar retail stores, is increasingly becoming one of the landmark days in the online holiday shopping world." He pointed out that the money spent this year via E-Commerce sites on Black Friday "represents the second heaviest online spending day of the season" so far. Fulgoni said the increased spending might "reflect the heavy discounting and creative promotions being put forth by retailers that now encompass the use of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter."Akamai, tracking total Internet activity on Black Friday, said traffic peaked at about 6.7 million visitors per minute at around noon New York time. Of that traffic, about 4 million visitors per minute were coming from North America. On Black Friday 2008, global retail traffic peaked at about 6 million visitors per minute, of which about 3 million visitors per minute came from North America, according to Akamai.

Web performance company Gomez said sites run by Nike and J. Crew, which experienced a rough 2008 holiday season in terms of downtime, had the fastest homepage load times during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday 2009 period, "while Toys"R"Us and Victoria’s Secret ranked below average." The J. Crew site "also did the best in terms of delivering a consistently strong experience for all customers--whether across the world or across the street," Gomez said, adding that "availability across the retailers was strong overall, with the exception of Kohl’s." Kohls.com's main problems happened early on Black Friday, but it continued to struggle with slight glitches on Cyber Monday.

"Office Depot and Office Max led the pack in terms of how long it takes to complete an end-to-end sales transaction," Gomez found. Interestingly, it pointed out that "Amazon.com, widely regarded as a best-in-class performer, was below average."

Gomez also issued some M-Commerce findings related to the big shopping weekend, stating that Best Buy "delivered the strongest mobile Web experience in terms of both response time (speed of page downloads) and availability," and it pointed out that "the wide discrepancy in mobile Web site response times suggests that retailers still have work to do when it comes to optimizing mobile Web performance."

A Black Friday survey conducted by GIGresearch for the NRF found that 195 million shoppers visited stores and Web sites between November 26 and November 28, up from 172 million last year. "However, the average spending over the weekend dropped to $343.31 per person from $372.57 a year ago," the NRF said, adding that 28.5 percent of those surveyed said they shopped online.

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