As the biggest shopping week of the holiday season draws to an end, the numbers are in. Exceeding analyst forecasts across the board, e-commerce sales soared, increasing 15%-16% due to sharp spikes on both Black Friday – traditionally a brick-and-mortar event – and Cyber Monday. In fact, Cyber Monday 2015 set a record as the biggest online sales day EVER, bringing in $3.07 billion!

Thanksgiving Weekend Shopping Peaks 2015Curious to see how search query volume stacked up this year, SLI analyzed more than 340 million queries across 500+ North American online stores. We are thankful to report that people were still mostly focused on family and food this Thanksgiving, as this Turkey Day (and the following Saturday) brought in the least amount of online activity during the 2015 Thanksgiving-to-Cyber Monday holiday timeframe. Family time FTW!

Of course all bets are off once folks wake up on Black Friday. Aligned with the day’s online sales surge, SLI data showed that Black Friday is spilling into the e-commerce world in a big way! While Cyber Monday still experienced the most online activity – nearly double that of Thanksgiving – SLI found Cyber Monday only brought in 11% more activity than new online heavy-hitter Black Friday.

According to the NRF, nearly 102 million people say they shopped in stores on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, BUT more than 103 million say they shopped online during this two-day stretch. Internet Retailer reported that “e-commerce accounted for $822 million spent in the first 11 hours of Black Friday, and discounts were mounting as online retailers jockeyed for position.” Ultimately, shoppers spent a whopping $2.72 billion online during Black Friday (14% more than in 2014).

In addition, much like our 2014 holiday study, night owls are consistently e-retailers’ most active shoppers. The peak online shopping hour was Cyber Monday at 10:00 p.m. EST. On Thanksgiving Day, the peak shopping hour was also 10:00 p.m. EST. Year-over-year, the exception has been Black Friday with a peak shopping hour of 12:00 Noon EST.

For e-commerce retailers, being ready for these shifting trends in peak days and hours is crucial to ensure they can reach their buyers and avoid site stress. This year Neiman Marcus, Target, and PayPal suffered extended outages that negatively impacted both sales and customer loyalty. Based on this year’s performance, we expect Black Friday to be neck-and-neck with Cyber Monday in 2016. Make sure your site is ready for this surge, and don’t forget to time-critical promotions for all those late-night shoppers out there.

For a 30-minute course on how better site search can keep your shoppers happy (and spending) through the rest of the holiday season and beyond, see our latest video presentation, Best Practices for E-commerce Site Search.