Black Friday Lesson: Mobile, Not Social, Drives Sales

The digital results for Thanksgiving and Black Friday last week are in, and from a sales perspective were quite impressive: Online sales on Thanksgiving grew by 17.4% from 2011, and the next day, Black Friday, they increased 20.7% from last year, according to IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark study.

That’s good news for retailers going into the holiday season. But what’s interesting to me about the online IBM findings are the roles social media and mobile played in the results.

We’ll start with the latter: On Black Friday, 24% of consumers used a mobile device to visit a retailer’s site, up from 14.3% from 2011. Sales from mobile devices exceeded 16%, up from 9.8% last year. Overall, online sales and traffic increased by 65% and 68% over 2011 respectively, found IBM. That’s a major spike in the use of mobile, underscoring the increasing importance of considering the mobile platform in PR outreach.

As for social media, just the opposite occurred. Shoppers referred from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube generated .34% (that’s point-three-four) of all online sales on Black Friday, a decrease of more than 35% from 2011. Twitter itself generated 0.0% of Black Friday sales, said IBM. This huge decrease flies in the face of the optimistic view that social media efforts can directly drive sales.

So as we get closer to the new year, it might be wise to focus more on mobile for more tangible sales results, while treating social media as it’s been proven to be so far—a hugely effective awareness and engagement tool—but not so much a driver of sales.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01