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Photo Credit: Mike McCune via Flickr.
Photo Credit: Mike McCune via Flickr.

Americans put down their forks and picked up their mobile devices this year, fueling new online spending records for both Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.

The five days, spanning from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, are often the busiest shopping days of the year as Americans hit stores — both virtual and physical — to shop for Christmas presents and take advantage of huge discounts. Historically, the period ends with Cyber Monday, the largest online shopping day of the year, but this year spending spiked early, fueled by heavy traffic coming from both mobile phones and tablets as people preferred to shop at home.

IBM, which publishes a benchmark report over the holidays, said Thanksgiving Day online sales were up 14.3 percent and Black Friday sales were up 9.5 percent compared to the year ago period — and for the first time — traffic from mobile devices outpaced traffic coming from traditional PCs on Thanksgiving Day, accounting for 52.1 percent of all online visits.

“Mobile has become the new Thanksgiving tradition as consumers find the best deals with their fingers as well as their feet,” said Jay Henderson, an IBM director.

On Black Friday, Target and Walmart record online sales, and Best Buy’s website crashed under the strain of holiday traffic due to a surge in traffic from mobile devices. Amazon has been pushing for sales to happen earlier this year, kicking off Black Friday promotions a full 28 days ahead of schedule.

Despite the uptick from mobile devices, desktop computers are also making significant contributions. ComScore, which tracks holiday spending from computers, said sales exceeded $1 billion on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and that sales for the holiday season to date totaled $22.7 billion, representing a 15 percent increase compared to the corresponding 28-day period last year.

comscore holiday spending 2014

Specifically, Thanksgiving Day spending hit $1 billion and Black Friday totaled $1.5 billion, an increase of 32 percent and 26 percent, respectively.

“The strength we saw in the early online buying rush likely reflects a few things, including overall health in consumer spending, responsiveness to the strong deals being offered online, and perhaps some shoppers opting to stay home on Thanksgiving rather than head out to the stores that opened their doors early,” said Gian Fulgoni, comScore chairman emeritus. “Regardless of the particular drivers, it’s clear that the online holiday rush is getting off to a very good start and is reason for optimism as we get into the heart of the buying season.”

Neither comScore or IBM tracks the performance of individual sites, but ChannelAdvisor chimed in with that data by analyzing data from retailers that use third-party marketplaces, such as Amazon, eBay and Google Shopping.

Overall, it said spending is up 20 percent year over year, with Amazon growing 24.2 percent and eBay clocking in at 26.9 percent on Black Friday. Interestingly, it found that 65 percent of orders were placed on computers, and 35 percent were placed on mobile devices. In particular, tablets converted sales at a higher rate at 19 percent, while sales on smartphones came in at 16 percent.

ChannelAdvisor also published data for Saturday, noting that Amazon was dominating the charts with 45.9 percent year over year growth for that day alone.

Tomorrow, we will find out if mobile-happy consumers have shifted their habits to shop earlier in the week when they have downtime over the holidays, or whether Cyber Monday will continue to be the biggest shopping day online. Data suggests that strong Thanksgiving Day sales did steal away traffic typically experienced on Black Friday. IBM said Thanksgiving Day sales increased 14.3 percent over 2013, but Black Friday were up only 9.5 percent year-over-year.

comscore 2014 holiday forecast

Overall, comScore is forecasting strong consumer spending this holiday, forecasting sales to hit $61 billion this year across all devices, an increase of 16 percent. Competing research from Forrester Research is calling for an even more banner year with U.S. online sales hitting $89 billion in November and December, up 13 percent over 2013.

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