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Hol­i­day shop­pers will find that the fight for their dol­lars will be even more fierce this sea­son because of a pecu­liar­ity of the cal­en­dar. While online sales are still expected to grow, this year’s super short sea­son will cost retail­ers in poten­tial sales. Mobile and social are set to change the pur­chas­ing process. Retail­ers will look to make up ground by incen­tiviz­ing early shop­ping on Thanks­giv­ing Day and cap­i­tal­ize on mobile strate­gies to take a greater share of spend.

Adobe Dig­i­tal Index analy­sis of nearly half a tril­lion vis­its to retail web­sites, rep­re­sent­ing pos­si­bly the largest and most accu­rate sales pre­dic­tion model, is out with its annual fore­cast. This year, double-digit growth is expected early on Cyber Mon­day (up 15%) and Black Fri­day (up 17%) while Thanks­giv­ing will be the fastest grow­ing online shop­ping day (up 21%) in 2013. Cyber Mon­day, in par­tic­u­lar, will break records as the high­est sin­gle online shop­ping day ever with sales above $2.27 billion.

Short­est online shop­ping sea­son since 2002

This year will be the short­est online shop­ping sea­son with only 27 days between Thanks­giv­ing and Christ­mas.CompressedShoppingSeason By com­par­i­son, there were six more days to shop in 2012. While online sales are still expected to grow by 12%, the shorter sea­son will cut a whop­ping $1.5B in poten­tial online sales from retail­ers. Typ­i­cally retail­ers launch big hol­i­day pro­mo­tions on Black Fri­day, a date that moves around each year. As a result, they have con­di­tioned con­sumers to wait for the best deals and this year there sim­ply won’t be as much time to shop. Suc­cess­ful retail­ers will off­set losses by help­ing early shop­pers know that they don’t need to wait until Thanks­giv­ing week­end to get the best deals.

The chang­ing role of Thanksgiving

On a brighter note, the late start and pent-up con­sumer demand will trans­late into strong year-over-year online sales growth on Thanks­giv­ing, which is expected to break into the “billion-dollar-day” club with online sales up 21% to $1.1B. Although many retail­ers have announced that they will be open, con­sumers still pre­fer to stay home with rel­a­tives on Thanks­giv­ing, ThanksgivingGrowingFastestbut they don’t want to miss out on the deals. This makes Thanks­giv­ing a nat­ural online sales day for couch surf­ing mobile users to get a jump on their shop­ping. Brick-and-click retail­ers will ben­e­fit most from online shop­ping that day as they receive the lion’s share of online spend early in the sea­son. In 2010, Thanks­giv­ing was a below aver­age sales day, but over the last three years it has grown faster than any other day for online sales. If cur­rent growth rates con­tinue, brick-and-click retail­ers are expected to sell more online on Thanks­giv­ing Day than on Black Fri­day within the next five years.

The impor­tance of mobile devices

MobileOptimizedLast year, retail­ers saw in-store mobile shop­ping start to take off. This year, con­sumers say they will shop even more on smart­phones and tablets. While wait­ing in long lines on Black Fri­day or vis­it­ing fam­ily over the Thanks­giv­ing week­end, con­sumers say they will shop 40% more from their mobile device than last year. Cur­rent trends indi­cate that both mobile and “local” will mat­ter more than ever, but the divide between the best mar­keters and the rest is widen­ing. Adobe pre­dicts that mobile opti­mized U.S. retail­ers will trans­act more than 20% of their online sales via mobile devices, a new record, while the aver­age retailer can expect closer to 14% of sales via mobile.

Con­sumers also say they’re more likely than ever to engage in show­room­ing, which is the prac­tice of going to a store just to see items that can be pur­chased online. Retail­ers that offer more sophis­ti­cated, holiday-focused mobile apps, geo-fencing, and loca­tion based pro­mo­tional strate­gies will ben­e­fit from giv­ing con­sumers a rea­son to pull out their mobile devices and shop online while wait­ing in line.

With social, it’s all about the pur­chas­ing journey

SocialAttributionVsInfluenceAdobe Dig­i­tal Index expects only 2% of shop­pers to jump directly from a social net­work to a retailer, but 36% of U.S. con­sumers say that a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion (about 30% or more) of their hol­i­day pur­chases require them to con­sult social media before mak­ing a final pur­chase deci­sion. As we noted in our recent Social Media Intel­li­gence Report, with ads in the news­feed and pro­moted tweets and pins, adver­tis­ing impres­sions on sites like Face­book are up 85% ver­sus last year so con­sumers should expect to see more rel­e­vant adver­tis­ing on Face­book, Pin­ter­est and Twit­ter. Retail­ers need to under­stand the value of social media in the pur­chas­ing jour­ney to effec­tively use social to drive online sales and not mea­sure social mar­ket­ing by just look­ing at direct referrals.

New hol­i­day shop­ping experiences

Los­ing six days will mean a more fre­netic, dis­tracted shop­per — one who will need a highly per­son­al­ized mar­ket­ing offer to cap­ture their atten­tion. Retail­ers will be able to off­set those lost days and drive online sales by focus­ing on spe­cial hol­i­day apps, inno­v­a­tive social media cam­paigns, free express ship­ping for last minute shop­pers, and early pro­mo­tions well before Black Fri­day. This shop­ping sea­son will be very dif­fer­ent than ever before – for con­sumers and for retailers.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter (@tyr­white) and I’ll keep you posted on any new retail trends we find. You can also fol­low @AdobeIndex for the lat­est dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing trends and insights from Adobe’s Dig­i­tal Index team.

About the prediction

Adobe’s pre­dic­tions come from analy­sis of 450 bil­lion vis­its to 2000+ retail web­sites over the last seven years and a sur­vey of thou­sands of con­sumers around the world. The model’s accu­racy last year was within 1% of actu­als due to the breadth and depth of the data avail­able for analy­sis, the most accu­rate pre­dic­tion in the indus­try of its kind. Accord­ing to fig­ures from Inter­net Retailer, 72% of the online sales rev­enue from the top 500 U.S. retail­ers is gen­er­ated by com­pa­nies using Adobe Mar­ket­ing Cloud tech­nol­ogy. Com­bin­ing this large mar­ket share with aggre­gated and anony­mous behav­ioral data allows Adobe Dig­i­tal Index to accu­rately fore­see this hol­i­day season’s shop­ping trends. No spe­cific shop­per data is viewed or tracked and, as such, no demo­graphic infor­ma­tion includ­ing whether the shop­per was male or female can be included in the data.