Were Stores or Mobile Sales More Successful on This Year's Black Friday?

Without sales like those on Black Friday, ecommerce businesses might have had a tougher time recovering from the post-election blues.

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By Thomas Smale

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The highest retail quarter of the year is upon us and, naturally, businesses everywhere are enticing consumers with alluring offers.

Related: Who Are the Winners and Losers of Black Friday? (Infographic)

If you're subscribed to any number of newsletters, there's a good chance you saw Black Friday promotions coming from your favorite brands -- and those promotions are increasing each year, coming from unlikely or at least less likely places.

So, if we now look back a month to take stock of this year, 2016's, results: How does Black Friday affect businesses, and how has it changed, with the rise of online stores and mobile shopping? Is it helping or hurting businesses? What were some of the most successful Black Friday deals?

Black Friday results and how they're affecting businesses

According to the National Retail Federation, the annual Thanksgiving weekend results survey indicated that more than 154 million consumers would shop, up from 151 million shoppers in 2015. Breaking the numbers down, 44 percent shopped online, while 40 percent shopped in-store. The most popular day for online shopping was Friday.

TechCrunch, meanwhile, noted that Friday was a record-breaking day, with $3.34 billion spent online, $5.27 billion if you include numbers from Thanksgiving Day. Mobile sales alone drove $1.2 billion.

VentureBeat, further, reported on Google's data, which showed a 65 percent jump in in-store visits, compared to the average November weekend day. Electronic outlets generated triple the foot traffic on Black Friday, and double on Thanksgiving Day. Walmart reported that 60 percent of online orders came from mobile devices. While record numbers were achieved, the ecommerce industry appeared to be still recovering from the downturn after the election, according to the principal analyst and director of Adobe Digital Insights.

These stats and reports offer at least a surface-level look into Black Friday's results. Given that 72 percent of adults under 35 believe they can get great deals on Black Friday that aren't available at any other time of the year, it's not hard to see why records have been broken. Online and mobile sales are up in a big way, in large part due to millennials.

Not surprisingly, in-store shopping has been trending downwards, but not to the extent that you might think. The Balance shows that in 2011, there were 126 million weekend in-store shoppers. This figure jumped to 147 million in 2012, then dipped to 140.3 million in 2013 and began sloping downward in 2014 to 133.7 million, and then 102 million in 2015.

Black Friday is just one event during the entire holiday shopping season. If you really want to know how businesses are being affected, you must consider the entire shopping season, as it makes up for 30 percent of annual retail sales.

Related: This Company Sold $180,000 Worth of Actual B.S. on Black Friday

During the same time frame -- from 2011 to 2016 -- total year-over-year holiday sales did not increase in a significant way. In 2011, a total of $553.8 billion was spent during the holiday shopping season. In 2012, the sales totalled $568.7 billion. Following that, the numbers were: $584.1 billion in 2013, $608 billion in 2014, $626.1 billion in 2015 and an estimated $655.8 billion in 2016. The 2016 numbers however, are likely to be a little less than forecasted, as the Retail Federation is typically over-optimistic.

The Balance also noted that sales at some department stores fell and that Macy's sales decreased by as much as 4.7 percent. Macy's blamed the unusually warm weather, since the company sold less cold-weather clothing like coats and hats than usual. There was also significant competition from lower-priced online and discount stores, which Macy's may not have accounted for. Evidently, consumers are becoming less reliant on credit card debt for their purchases. This may be another contributing factor for the decrease in sales at some stores, as 41.9 percent of consumers this year used debit cards, 24 percent bought with cash and 2.3 percent paid via check. Only 31.8 used credit cards.

There are only so many conclusions that can be drawn from the stats and reports presented here. Holiday sales are steady, but aren't increasing in a major way. People will always be looking for the right gifts for their loved ones. Black Friday is helping ecommerce recover a loss in sales, but those companies still have a ways to go. Ultimately, it's clear that online and mobile sales are trending upwards, and that this upward direction is the new default, at least until technology changes buying behavior again.

Some of the most successful Black Friday deals

This year, Quartz found that some of the best-selling toys were:

  • Lego Creator sets
  • Razor electric scooters
  • Nerf guns
  • DJI Phantom drones
  • Barbie Dreamhouses

If you're a parent and haven't yet decided what to buy your kids, this list should give you some ideas. Naturally, these items will only get harder to find as Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa draw near. As for electronics, the following products have been hot ticket items:

  • Apple iPad
  • Samsung 4k TV
  • LG TV
  • Apple MacBook Air
  • Microsoft Xbox

With iPad and tablet sales on the decline, it's surprising to see the iPad on this list at all. When consumers can get the product at a price they can stomach, they're more willing to fork over their hard-earned cash. Likewise, they may also find the MacBook Air on sale, arguably because the 13-inch MacBook Pro is its obvious replacement, and Apple may be looking to liquidate old inventory.

Samsung and LG are still leading the way in TVs, and it shouldn't come as a surprise that consumers would take this opportunity to upgrade their sets to the latest, greatest UHD technology.

What's more, consumers who have been putting off the purchase of the Xbox One console are naturally taking advantage of the latest deals to get their hands on one. There are plenty of deals for gamers to take advantage of; and some long-awaited titles, such as Final Fantasy XV, are becoming available.

BlackFriday.com listed the following stores as that day's top stores for 2016, which might also shed light on why the above products are among the most purchased:

  • Walmart
  • Target
  • Amazon
  • Kohl's
  • Sears
  • Samsung
  • American Eagle

Final thoughts

Is Black Friday a good thing for business? Certainly, it is putting some strain on brick-and-mortar retail stores because of the rapid increase in customers. Ecommerce businesses, for their part, must ensure that orders are fulfilled in a timely manner.

Overall, holiday sales drive a significant portion of retail revenue. Without sales like those on Black Friday, ecommerce businesses might have had a tougher time recovering from the post-election blues.

Related: Shoppers Skeptical of Black Friday Deals

What's more, with more customers buying online, it would be advisable for all businesses to develop more robust warehousing and logistics, plus a more robust online shopping experience, to accommodate millennial shoppers and those from the generations to come.

Thomas Smale

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Founder of FE International

Thomas Smale co-founded FE International in 2010. He has been interviewed on podcasts, blogs and also spoken at a number of industry events on online businesses, exit strategy and selling businesses.

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