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Thanksgiving online retail sales hit nearly $3 billion on the back of strong mobile growth

Shopping on mobile phones and tablets now accounts for 41 percent of all revenue.

A shopper inside a Best Buy store leans on his shopping cart and looks at his phone. Tasos Katopodis / Getty
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Online shoppers in the U.S. spent $2.9 billion on Thanksgiving, an 18 percent increase over the 2016 holiday total, as more retailers pushed Black Friday deals out early and consumers continued getting more comfortable making purchases on their phones.

Mobile phone users accounted for 46 percent of visits to e-commerce websites and apps on Thanksgiving and 29 percent of sales, according to estimates by Adobe Analytics, which tracks 80 percent of online transactions across the top 100 U.S. web retailers. Last Thanksgiving, 27 percent of online retail revenue was attributed to transactions made on mobile phones.

Commerce on smartphones continues to make headway as a share of overall online sales, even as conversion rates — the percentage of website visitors who make a purchase — remain much lower than those for shopping via tablets or regular computers.

Only 1.8 percent of smartphone visitors to shopping sites made a purchase on Thanksgiving — a 10 percent increase over last year — compared to about 4 percent of tablet and desktop visitors to shopping sites.

The low conversion rate probably has something to do with the fact that many people visit retail sites on their phones simply to look up store locations or hours of operation, with no intention of actually making a purchase.

At the same time, some mobile shopping sites still make entering payment card and shipping information a burdensome task on the small screens of phones.

As a result, the shopping apps that make it easy to complete purchases on mobile — think Amazon and a slew of digital-first startup brands — stand to gain share as mobile commerce grows.

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