Coronavirus Boosts Black Friday Mobile Shopping and Trounces In-Store Visits

By Estelle Laziuk, Flurry Analyst

Black Friday is a crucial event for retailers, kicking off the holiday shopping season. According to a recent Google report, however, the pandemic has reduced U.S. retail foot traffic by 20% since May. Additionally, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that growth in consumer spending has been slowing each month since July. These trends paint a grim outlook for battered retailers who were hoping for a strong Black Friday rebound. In this report, we examine how COVID-19 impacted both mobile and in-store shopping from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, including a focus on Black Friday.

Flurry Analytics, owned by Verizon Media, is used in over 1 million mobile applications, providing insights from 2 billion mobile devices per month. For this analysis, Flurry measured mobile shopping activity using sessions. To estimate the change in visits to U.S. retail stores, we averaged the number of active mobile devices in 5 of the country’s largest downtown shopping districts: New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston and San Francisco. Let’s look at how the Black Friday shopping period fared this year compared to last year.

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In the chart above, we show the percent change in shopping activity during the period between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday from 2019 to 2020. We display the change in shopping visits to retail stores on the left in red, and the change in mobile shopping on the right in blue. Over the five-day shopping period, in-store shopping tumbled by an average of 41% and mobile shopping grew by an average of 19%. Because shopping has been altered so dramatically in 2020, let’s take a closer look at some of the drivers of this year’s outcome.

Retailers Push Consumers to Shop Digitally

This year, in order to accommodate restrictions due to the pandemic, retailers opted for more online deals rather than driving foot traffic into stores. The majority of retailers encouraged consumers to shop online by reducing in-store-only offers and increasing online deals. Adapting this way, we would have anticipated Cyber Monday, which is already the busiest online shopping day of the year, to grow even more during 2020 relative to other days over the long weekend. However, while Cyber Monday mobile shopping did indeed grow this year, other days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday grew more. In 2020, the days that saw the greatest increase for mobile shopping were Black Friday and the Sunday before Cyber Monday, with 24% and 23% respective growth over last year.

We think this happened, in part, because retailers expanded online discount periods during 2020 due to COVID-19. In an effort to stimulate slumping sales, discounts were offered across all five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, rather than just on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The result of this was a pop in per-day mobile shopping growth rates across each of the five days of this shopping period versus prior years. In a prior Flurry report, our analysis showed greater spikes in mobile shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, not across the entire long weekend as we’re seeing this year. The difference in per-day growth rates this year are all within 10 percentage points of each other, which is unusual. Let’s next look at online sales, which include sales from mobile devices.

Record Breaking Online & Mobile Sales

This year’s Cyber Monday broke sales records. Digital revenue, which combines both online and mobile sales, reached $10.8 billion, according to a report by Adobe. That’s a 20% jump over the $9 billion spent digitally on Black Friday last year. While mobile shopping itself didn’t deliver a record growth rate on Cyber Monday, our data reveals that mobile shopping session growth outpaced that of online traffic, with mobile growing by 17% and online by 13% compared to last year. This suggests that among online shopping channels, on-the-go mobile shopping experienced a particularly high growth this year on Cyber Monday. Let’s next look at how Black Friday shopping shifted this year in retail stores.

The Collapse of In-Store Shopping

COVID-19 brought a considerably different Black Friday in-store shopping experience to consumers, from mask requirements to the limited number of shoppers allowed inside stores. With maximum customer capacity restrictions, this year’s wait times in stores were lengthier. Combined with an increased risk of exposure to the virus, these restrictions discouraged retail store trips, which plummeted by 41% during Black Friday week compared to last year. On Black Friday, the day that typically drives the most consumers to shop for limited in-stores deals, in-store visits declined by 40% compared to last year, as many in-store deals shifted online. 

Coronavirus pushed this year’s Black Friday shopping online, including on mobile, where shopping grew by 19%. While the pandemic boosted online shopping this year, it also busted in-store visits by 41%. With Coronavirus cases still on the rise, we anticipate a continued concentration in digital shopping, with continued growth specifically on mobile. We’ll continue to update you on mobile shopping and other mobile app and device trends. For the latest reports, subscribe to the Flurry Analytics blog and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn