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Thanksgiving holiday spending set records once again with stores (controversially) opening even earlier this year, allowing people to give thanks at the dinner table for what they have, then immediately hit the malls and their digital devices for deals on the things they want. Social media conversation around Black Friday and Cyber Monday increased alongside traditional retail and online sales as people chatted about the best bargains and traded discount codes.

For this report we leveraged a combination of desk research and our own primary research via the Crimson Hexagon ForSight platform to analyze the conversation around the terms “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday”. Here’s what we found:

Gotta Get Down On Black Friday
E-commerce spending on Black Friday hit $1 billion for the first time, up 26% from 2011, no small feat for a day that has historically been dedicated to enduring the long lines and limited inventory of real-world retail. Online conversation regarding shopping on Black Friday increased 71% over last year to more than 2.8 million mentions of the term “Black Friday”, with 93% of those mentions occurring on Twitter.

Source: Crimson Hexagon (March 2010-Present)

According to ComScore, the digital content and subscriptions category in particular enjoyed the largest year-over-year sales growth online as consumers continue to adopt smartphones, tablets, e-readers and other devices at blinding rates. Toys, CPGs, video games and electronics also posted strong gains in online sales on Black Friday. Ironically, ComScore does not yet track sales made from mobile devices despite a significant increase in usage rates.

In addition to the usual references to “sales”, “shopping”, and “deals”, WalMart was the only retailer to appear in Crimson Hexagon’s topic visualizer, occupying roughly 7% of the conversation, and not all of it positive. While the big box behemoth was sure to draw a lot of talk around its promotions, WalMart also took heat for kicking off the shopping bonanza at 8pm on Thanksgiving night (other major retailers followed suit, but WalMart received the most mentions about it). Although the move was controversial to those concerned with respecting the traditional intention of the Thanksgiving holiday, the sales figures indicate that many shoppers didn’t mind.

Major topics of conversation on Black Friday 2012

A Case Of The Cyber Mondays
Cyber Monday also saw significant growth in e-commerce, with online sales topping $1.46 billion, the single largest sales day in web retail history. While sales grew 17% from last year, online conversation about Cyber Monday increased 36%, with an emphasis on coupon codes and free shipping offers.

Source: Crimson Hexagon (March 2010-Present)

As with Black Friday, microblogging was the communication method of choice for Cyber Monday mentions. 88% of the conversation happened on Twitter, while blogs that track deals accounted for a substantial portion of additional traffic.

Make Way For Cyber Monday Week?
The term “Black Friday” often appeared alongside Cyber Monday in consumer conversations, suggesting that web-based holiday bargain hunting has expanded from a post-holiday event to encompass the whole Thanksgiving weekend. Indeed, Amazon has gone so far as to promote a “Cyber Monday Deals Week”, despite the obvious linguistic incongruity.

Major topics of conversation on Cyber Monday 2012

It is likely that this trend will continue based on the revenue numbers we’ve seen to date. As long as shoppers are willing to endure long lines at traditional retailers and don’t mind navigating a maze of short-term deals, coupon codes, and price comparisons for the satisfaction of saving a few bucks, retailers will be happy to oblige.

Social Shopping Is Here
Despite fears of a looming fiscal cliff and continued news about a potential worldwide recession, consumers have displayed a zeal for shopping and aren’t afraid to talk about it on social media. While retailers continue to face challenges deploying dedicated “social shopping experiences,” that hasn’t stopped us from buying stuff and posting about it on our favorite social media sites. If current trends hold, web-based Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales and associated conversation will be even bigger in 2013, though it remains to be seen what the next evolution of this shopping frenzy will be. Cyber December, anyone?

Michael Kwolek

Michael Kwolek

Michael crafts brand insights and strategy, with particular expertise in natural products and B2B tech. He holds an MBA from CU-Boulder and is passionate about music production, pottery, food, and cinema.