Black Friday by the Numbers!

Fact: Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year. Millions of dollars are spent on ads to get people in the stores and make them aware of the doorbuster deals.

Using foursquare data publicly shared on Twitter we can get an idea of how well some major retailers did this Black Friday. Users that share their Foursquare check-ins on Twitter are a consistent group and as a result statistical patterns can be established. These same users are also giving away branded impressions at no charge.

The 6 Black Friday pushes that were evaluated using Foursquare check-in data were:

Target, Walmart, and Best Buy: These are the obvious 3, every year they expressly go after tech savvy shoppers with their discounted TV’s, video games, and cell phones.

Gap and Kmart: Very different stores with the same strategy: be open when everyone else is closed.

Macy’s and Kohl’s: Both spent a lot of money this year attempting to drum up excitement about their offerings via TV ads.

Sports Authority: Sports Authority actually ran a Foursquare promotion, making for an interesting case study. Every hour they were giving away $500 gift cards to their store via Foursquare. They didn’t broadcast it much other than leveraging their database and they didn’t provide many outrageous deals.

The Question: Which retailer had the biggest spike over their average on Black Friday? 

The baseline: Which brand got the most check-ins?

This data consists of public check-ins within the 5 days of black Friday. Walmart clearly dominates check-ins, with Target a close second. On the surface level it would appear that Target and Walmart are the big winners.

However environmental effects need to be considered:

– Consumer preference

– Technology proficiency of a consumer group for a given brand

– Average Age of the consumer group and corresponding technographic profile

– Income: can the group afford smart phones/smart phone plans?

– Number of distribution centers

In short we need some more significant data to work with….

The next level: Trending- Were there actually any spikes?

This graph is a little more telling. Clearly, there were spikes by all 6 brands on Black Friday. It is also clear that Walmart averages the most check-ins for this sample group. Finally and most importantly for the purposes this analysis, the samples are fairly consistent.  In almost all cases the standard deviation was less than 20% of the mean. Only Macy’s had a Standard Deviation large enough, above 80% of the mean for the 30 days leading up to Black Friday, to create measurement questions/require deeper analysis of outlying data.

This trending graph doesn’t fully explain which brands had the largest percent of success. How much did Walmart or Target actually improve above their daily average on this Black Friday? This graph doesn’t give us that information.

Actual analysis: The mean is an important number statistically, it’s like the foundation of a building. The mean often gives more information about a sample than we care to realize and needs to be expressly included in analysis. Walmart averaged 1305 check-ins shared on Twitter every day for the 30 days leading up to Black Friday, Target averaged 1035, Best Buy averaged 358, Macy’s (adjusted) 238, Gap averaged 86, K-Mart had 76, Sports Authority got 27, and Kohl’s had a very small 14 .

It is important to note that these samples don’t include Black Friday data, which would skew and destroy the sample. As will become apparent later, Black Friday as a set are super-outliers for all brands.

Which brand actually did the best?  

It is interesting that Kohl’s was one of the biggest winners. On Black Friday they  averaged 31 times their normal standard deviation. I would question the base sample size if no other brands were close to multiplying their standard deviations to that extent. However, Best Buy, who had one of the largest, and most consistent, regular samples sizes had a LARGER multiplication of standard deviation. Again these numbers were very normative when compared to the mean against each other. Kohl’s and Best Buy were within .01% of percentage standard deviation against the mean. Both Kohl’s and Best Buy were within 2% of Target’s and Walmart’s standard deviations compared against the mean. Only Macy’s required further analysis, after which the data falls right in line with Walmart and Target. Macy’s averaged around 15 times a normal standard deviation, when points greater than 2 standard deviations (outliers) were excluded from the sampling.

What does this all really mean? 

#1 Apparently this ad worked…

#2 Best Buy is the place to go if you are a tech savvy shopper

#3 Target, Walmart, and Macy’s averaged about 6 times their average check-in traffic on Black Friday. Most likely they had similar foot traffic spikes.

#4 Keeping a store open on Thanksgiving doesn’t generate a tremendous lift. Kmart and Gap both had strong returns, however, both stores were still on the bottom of total Black Friday checkins, and had some of the weakest returns.

#5 A Foursquare promotion doesn’t skew data just because it exists. Sports Authority needed better media support.

Mike Handy has been working in Social Media since Facebook was only for college students. He started his first blog in 1999 when most people were still figuring out this “Internet thing”.  These experiences paired with his background in advertising and data-centric approach provide him with a unique view of social media. When he isn’t working he is probably watching, playing, or doing something hockey related.


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