This year’s Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping events set new records for online sales in the US, but beyond the dollars spent, new analysis reveals how important free shipping and early promotions continue to be for today’s digitally savvy consumers.

According to comScore, the analytics and measurement firm, online spending soared over those three shopping days to more than $14bn, with Cyber Monday taking the top spot ($6bn), followed by Black Friday ($4.8bn) and Thanksgiving ($3.4bn).

And while Cyber Monday was the biggest spending day in terms of overall spend, it recorded the lowest year-on-year digital retail growth (+28%), including both desktop and mobile, compared with Thanksgiving (+38%) and Black Friday (+36%).

Ian Essling, comScore’s director of survey innovation, confirmed in a blog post detailing this year’s holiday spending trends, that Thanksgiving was the “most mobile” of the three key days, just as it had started to be last year.

“After a nice Thanksgiving dinner, it seems many consumers were content to settle in, hop on their mobile devices, and get a jump on the deals and promotions online,” he said.

But digging deeper into the data, Essling emphasised that free shipping is really no longer an optional extra for retailers because the comScore analysis found 81% of transactions during Thanksgiving week – and a full 90% of desktop dollars – were spent on purchases that included free shipping.

Coupled with separate findings from comScore’s Q3 State of Retail survey, which found 58% of consumers believe free shipping is the most important factor related to online retail, he said: “Especially during peak spending times such as these key holiday days, retailers seemingly have no choice but to offer free shipping options.”

The study also noted that consumers are looking for deals, making holiday purchases and spending at a faster rate earlier than in previous years, so highlighting the importance of early promotions.

For example, comScore conducted a survey during the week of 26th November and found that 18% of online buyers had made a purchase from Amazon’s “Black Friday Deals Week” when they had originally intended to go shopping at a later date.

“The fact that nearly one-in-five online buyers were purchasing something specifically from this sale, sooner than expected, really speaks to the power that these types of early promotions can have,” Essling said.

Sourced from ComScore; additional content by WARC staff