Making sense of the madness in numbers.

We’ve all heard the news: that Black Friday sales are down. That they’ve actually been going down since 2012.

Don’t panic.
Keep calm, and freak out.

Although the Black Friday climate has changed, overall, holiday shopping season spending is still on the rise.

Retailers do need a new approach to succeed over the shopping season. Here’s what we think y’all should do.

Enter the Semantics3 Black Friday Index

In honor of Black Friday, our crack team of engineers deployed our massive crawling infrastructure to monitor Black Friday discounts in real time.

You can check this data anytime over at the Semantics3 Black Friday Index.

And now that Black Friday is done and dusted, we decided to do some research of our down, dig into our expansive data , and provide you lucky retailers with our insights:

More people than ever are shopping online, particularly on their mobile phones

Could this mean smaller crowds…?


Not quite yet. But it’s starting to happen, as consumers are increasingly shopping online.

According to data released by Adobe, online spending reached a record $2.72 billion on Black Friday, a 26% increase over last year, versus $10.4 billion spent in-store, a 10% drop from 2014.

Let’s also not skip over the fact that Cyber Monday topped $3 billion in online sales for the first time ever.

Additionally, shoppers have become increasingly mobile. According to Forrester Research Inc., roughly one-third of online sales occur through a mobile device, and Black Friday was no different.

Looking further into this, comScore has noted that 59% of online shopping time happens on a mobile device, meaning that even if the transaction wasn’t completed on a smartphone or tablet, one of those devices was typically involved in the decision-making process at some point before the purchase. As a result, mobile sales for top U.S. retailers has grown 36% in 2015.

We think that this trend was driven largely by the increasing size of smartphones and mobile devices with flagship phones taking a larger share of smartphone sales

Retailers only start discounting items online after Black Friday (“Hey, look! It’s data from the Semantics3 Black Friday Index!”)

Too late!
Deals, specifically in-store, may have started earlier, but the number of online deals really pile on during and after Cyber Monday.

We think that this points to an interesting insight:

E-commerce retailers might be reluctant to compete directly with brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday itself, when most people head out to buy in-person.
Working off that turkey dinner

Additionally, while retailers discounted more products over the Thanksgiving Weekend, the average % discount of all items actually decreased.

Source: Semantics3 BlackFriday Index

The decrease in average % discount wasn’t a result of worse deals, though. Instead, there were more deals being offered on higher priced items, as the average $ discount increased throughout the week as new discounted items were added.

Source: Semantics3 BlackFriday Index

Not all products are discounted alike

When most people think of Black Friday and Cyber Weekend shopping, they tend to think of deals on electronics.

Surprisingly, the best big purchase to save online on was on jewelry and watches, averaging discounts of nearly 50% from Thanksgiving through the week after.

Bring on the bling
Source: Semantics3 BlackFriday Index

Electronics, however, continued to be highly discounted and was the only category in which retailers continually pushed up the average % discounts.

Furniture and clothing had unique storylines of their own too.

Furniture was a huge deal on Black Friday.

Get those chairs!

The price of furniture was steeply discounted on Thanksgiving, averaging almost 45% below list price.

However, discounts leveled off to about 42% through the shopping weekend and sank further to 40% thereafter.

For clothing, we noticed that retailers aggressively discounted offerings from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, before raising prices back up again after.

We hypothesized that this could be because people are less likely to buy clothes in-store during BlackFriday due to the mad rush of people and likely limited time to pick up on good deals

Since an increasing number of shoppers are buying clothes online, it also made sense for retailers to aggressively discount online fashion to capture online shoppers looking for a good deal on shoes and not wanting to fight their way into a Macy’s.

E-commerce retailers employ different strategies for different categories of products, and it appears that the timing of discounts plays a key role.

So what should your Black Friday Game Plan be?

Everyone is out there competing hard for consumers’ increasing holiday spend, so here’s what you can do as a retailer to make sure you get your piece of the pie and entice customers:

  1. Online retailers get aggressive with discounting items after Black Friday. Monitor and match pricing as fast a possible.
  2. Keep an eye on when competitors discount, there’s a chance you can buck the trend and catch shoppers’ attention.
  3. Build your platform to go where the money goes: mobile. Build rich, engaging interfaces, with good deals, and free shipping.
  4. Create unique shopping experiences, with curated/contextual shopping.(see our past blog post: Retailers just don’t know how to sell to Millennials)

We’re only barely getting into the meat of this. Stay tuned for our next post on the strategies retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and BestBuy used for the e-commerce shopping season.

However, if you can’t wait, reach out to us and find out how Semantics3 will make sure you win wallet share not just on Black Friday, but also throughout your year by offering rich product feeds, price comparison and clean, updated data.Lovingly made in San Francisco, Singapore and Bengaluru by Calvin Chang, Sri Kidambi and the Semantics3 Team