Data: the humble hero of Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Customer conversations saw big, double-digit increases this year over 2010’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping mini-season. The data we collected on and between these two days, together with numbers like the 33% year-over-year Cyber Monday spending upswing reported by ComScore, lead to an undeniably positive conclusion: brands and consumers both got what they want they wanted, at least in the short-term.

But the other story here is data’s role in crystalizing our view of this year’s Cyber Monday and Black Friday success.  From what I’ve seen, there was significantly more data pulled, analyzed and shared with the world this year than last year, more data types, more providers, and more coverage and reporting. And instead of overwhelming us like a flood, American firms and institutions were better prepared to distil it into clear, usable insights.

On Black Friday, consumers were served nearly 730 million impressions of user-generated content on our clients’ sites, a 39% increase over 2010 numbers. Cyber Monday served up nearly 789 million impressions of UGC, a 42% jump from Cyber Monday 2010. Total visits to the top 500 retail websites was up 2% year-over-year on Black Friday, and 24% on Cyber Monday, according to Experian Hitwise.

Our data shows that the percentage of mobile visitors on client websites doubled from more than 5% on Black Friday 2010 to nearly 12% in 2011, and from around 4% last Cyber Monday to around 9% this year. Interestingly, this year was the first time we saw the iPad (40% of mobile visits) beat out the iPhone (30%) and Android phones (25%). Transaction revenue coming from mobile devices tripled this year (around 2% in 2010 to around 6% in 2011), evidence that shoppers are using mobile for more than just browsing or bookmarking to buy later. Mobile is now being used by shoppers in every step of the buying cycle.

Looking at Google’s roundup of search data from “the extravaganza,” we see searches for “black Friday deals” up 30%, and “cyber Monday sales” up 15%. Google also spotted an interesting form of ROBO shopping (Research Online Buy Offline), in which “shoppers were using the web to plan out their trips to the store.” These searches “were conducted more than twice as often this year as in 2010.” Meanwhile, Bing reported the search term spikes they were monitoring, which ranged from the anticipated (“electronics under $50″) to the unfortunately topical (“pepper sprayed shoppers”).

A few studies like this one from Porter Novelli point to a doubling of social mentions of Cyber Monday and Black Friday compared to 2010. This is impressive, for sure. But it doesn’t take into account mentions of specific products that don’t contain Cyber Monday or Black Friday references. As we’ve discussed here before, most types of social data aren’t structured in ways that make products identifiable. What’s more, if a consumer tweets something like, “I love this TV,” followed by a link to a product, it’s unlikely that it will be picked up or indexed by most listening technologies. Charting the rise in product mentions would be another nice way to quantify the interplay between social, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and it would likely align well with all the other evidence we’ve seen of the shopping events’ success.

Every year brings more data, more measurement, of the huge impact these events are having on consumers and brands alike. It’s great to see research from so many companies and organizations contributing, and we’re thrilled to be a part of it.

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