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2017 Holiday Shopping Results: eCommerce is a Boon to Retail on the Biggest Shopping Days of the Year

Brenna Johnson
Senior Product Strategist

The biggest shopping days of the year are behind us. The $79 InstantPot, AncestryDNA kit, and AirPods were big winners – but so are the retailers who balanced the right promotional strategy with how consumers want to shop in 2017.

While final results are still trickling in from popular late-night Cyber Monday shopping sessions, it’s predicted that total eCommerce Holiday sales will rake in $107 billion in the U.S., with $6.6 billion of that from Cyber Monday, and $5 billion raked in online on Black Friday.

Interestingly enough, retailers are highlighting their online results vs their in-store results – particularly on Thanksgiving Day. Kohl’s had a “record-breaking” Thanksgiving, while JCPenney said online traffic increased double digits the week of Thanksgiving with site visits peaking on Thanksgiving Day, as consumers used mobile to buy jewelry, furniture and refrigerators.

A few of our predictions for online holiday shopping came true: the Big Sale is dying, shoppers are mobile-first, and stores have an evolving role.

Let’s look at a roundup of the “Turkey 5” – now that the five biggest shopping days of the year are behind us.

Looking positive for retailers with a blended strategy

For retailers with digital and physical presence, this season looks like a winner for most with retail stocks rallying from a positive Black Friday. While Black Friday is still the busiest shopping weekend of the year for retail, overall foot traffic was down 7.5% this year. Retailers have typically reserved big-ticket items for stores, believing shoppers feel more comfortable spending more in person (and counted on those in-store impulse buys). But it’s now clear that shoppers are comfortable with bigger online purchases. According to Criteo, online shoppers spent $24 more on online baskets Thanksgiving Day than average online shopping days.

It’s clear that digital has recorded the strongest gains, and thankfully, many retailers understand that more shoppers prefer to browse and buy from home. Those who blend online and offline features like popular buy online pick up in store, and mobile-in store links, and exclusive in-store experiences fared well.

Largest Online Black Friday Ever! (just not as big as Cyber Monday)

With how fast digital is growing, it’s not a surprise that every passing year is a record-breaker. Online Black Friday sales were $5.03 billion, up 18% YOY with over $2 billion in mobile sales. But – Cyber Monday still overshadowed Black Friday online sales.

USA Today reports that most retailers still prioritize “the store” for Black Friday and see Cyber Monday as a great day for online bargain hunters. But shoppers are increasingly showing us that they aren’t waiting for a brand to sell select products in different channels with different prices on different days. They’ll simply spend elsewhere. They certainly have options.

Business Insider reports that every day in November so far has seen over $1 billion in online sales, “creating a new paradigm for shoppers and retailers.”

Wal-Mart has a Cyber Week. Amazon starts holiday pricing November 1st. Thanksgiving is now the third-biggest shopping day of the year, with online sales up 18.3% YOY, and mobile orders up 50%.

Some analysts think the old Black Friday is dead as retailers increasingly spread sales and discounts throughout the month. November has become a shopping extravaganza – and it’s meaningful this year as Thanksgiving came early and there’s an extra weekend to get that shopping in. Yes, there are higher traffic and sales spikes on the industry-set days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and they will continue to be successful at generating sales, but that doesn’t mean they wont eventually go extinct.

Mobile’s ascent is generating big bucks

Retailers and shoppers are getting better at mobile – and the results speak for themselves. Mobile has gone from 5% to nearly half of digital sales in under 5 years. It’s no longer the website’s little sister. If optimized, it’s a cash-collecting machine.

In fact, mobile accounted for 61% of all traffic to retailer’s sites and accounted for 48% of digital retail sales. Traffic from tablets and desktops decreased, making mobile the most popular option for Thanksgiving shopping for the first time – outnumbering orders placed on computers.

Amazon reported that this Thanksgiving had 50% more customers shopping on their mobile devices than last year, with 40% of Black Friday shoppers transacting on mobile -- that’s up from 29% from last year.

With fast check out and instant payments like ApplePay, mobile will continue to grow in popularity as the convenient, always-there shopping tool.

Retailers counting more on email marketing to drive commerce behavior

If your inbox looked anything like mine the last week, you’ll be deleting promotional emails for weeks. Price transparency and endless online options have made it harder for retailer’s to always stay top of mind, and orchestrated marketing messages can help drive qualified traffic, often for less than SEM.

But, more email doesn’t mean more sales. The average retailer sends 15 emails over the holiday season, and that can crowd a shopper’s inbox quickly if they subscribe to 5, 10 or 20 different retailer’s lists. This is why the revenue per email sent is 4x higher on an average day versus Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality. And based on some highly personalized emails this season, I can safely say that retailers are getting better at segmentation and personalizing their promotional emails – and it’s effective. Experian cites that personalized product suggestions in email deliver 6x conversion rates of generic content, yet less than 40% of retailers do it.

While some tactics are effective but common (sale extended!,or 30% off your entire order!) there were some inventive messages that got attention. VIP savings and pre-sale access, limited inventory alerts for abandoned items and new tactics like giveaways, charitable matching, or a promotion highlighting no savings at all got my attention. And don’t worry if you missed out – there are still plenty of deals to be had and promo codes to be shared. It’s not even December yet.

Closing holiday sales is just the tip of the iceberg. With a predicted $14 billion worth of online goods expected to ship in November and December, it’s on to fulfillment! The stress on DCs, delivery services, and customer service reps is just beginning. The real winners will be retailers who can keep momentum going year-round and orchestrate amazing customer experiences to turn that one-off holiday buyer in to valuable loyalist. 

Also Read: 3 Reasons Oracle Commerce Cloud Should Top Ecommerce Pros Wish Lists

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