By now many of you have probably seen the reports of somewhat disappointing Black Friday turnout from the National Retail Federation.
But the 2014 holiday season payment trends suggest there are deeper factors at play that merchants and other payment companies should be aware of. These trends have ramifications for transaction volume and security risk as the one-off spikes tied to special days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday give way to higher and steadier payment levels during the holiday season.
An analysis of transaction volumes of businesses participating in ID Analytics' ID Network over the Thanksgiving shopping weekend suggests total volume was up compared to the same period last year; and many of us were making our purchases using newly established credit lines, particularly using new store branded cards.
As such, we suspect that the traditional, time-focused Black Friday retail experience may be coming to an end. According to IBMs U.S. Retail Black Friday Report, Overall Black Friday online sales were up 9.5% year-over-year with mobile devices accounting for one-in-four of all online purchases.
Additionally, many retailers pre-loaded the holiday shopping experience. An increase in online sales on Thanksgiving Day may have cannibalized Black Friday business, and major retailers including Target, Walmart and Macys began offering discounted pricing as early as Halloween, encouraging many consumers to purchase ahead of Black Friday sales. Some shoppers expressed that Black Friday is not as appealing as it once was.
The National Retail Foundations (NRF) report cited declines in both volume of shoppers and spending. Despite this, the NRF is still predicting a 4.1% increase in sales for the holiday shopping seasonthe greatest increase since 2011. Its important to note that the NRFs Black Friday numbers are based on estimates from preliminary surveys of 4,631 shoppers rather than actual sales data.
Benchmarking data from the ID Network shows a significant increase in Black Friday credit applications over last year, which could indicate an upward trend in payments during the holiday shopping season, despite lower-than-expected sales on Black Friday.
The strong increase in online and mobile purchases could also mean a spike in account takeover and card-not-present fraud, so retailers should be prepared to effectively evaluate transaction and application data to prevent significant losses during the holiday shopping surge.
Ken Meiser is the Vice President of Identity Solutions at ID Analytics.