Retail sales over the holiday season grew by 4% to $658.3 billion last year, above the forecasted growth rate of 3.6%, reports the NRF, which also reveals that non-store holiday sales (including e-commerce) grew by 12.6%, also higher the forecasted increase in online sales of 7-10%.
The NRF release notes that “while there might have been some bumps in the road for individual companies, the retail industry overall had a solid holiday season.” The bumps in the road? Those were mainly felt by department stores, ranging from Macy’s (-2.1% same-store sales) to Kohl’s (-2.1%), Saks Fifth Avenue (-0.5%) and others.
As for e-commerce, Adobe Digital Insights has its own figures, indicating that online sales grew by 11% during the holiday season (November and December), a solid figure that was nonetheless down from last year’s 12.7% increase. (Data from NetElixir found a comparable 10.4% increase in holiday e-commerce sales.) Of note, mobile represented half of all traffic during the holiday period, with smartphones alone contributing 41% of traffic, per Adobe Digital Insights. Still, desktops accounted for the vast majority (69%) of sales despite representing only half of traffic, as smartphones’ share of sales (21%) was only about half of its share of traffic (41%). That’s due to conversion rates being far higher on desktops than smartphones: almost 3 times higher during Q4, in fact, per Monetate data.
Overall, desktop-based retail e-commerce spending grew by 12% year-over-year, says comScore in its tally, with an impressive 30 individual days (including at one point 22 consecutively) exceeding $1 billion in online spending via desktop (up from 16 last year). Cyber Monday was again the heaviest desktop spending day, at almost $2.7 billion, followed by the day after Cyber Monday ($2.2 billion).
Meanwhile, data from Slice Intelligence suggests that Amazon captured an impressive 38% share of the rising e-commerce spending this past holiday season, with Best Buy (3.9%) and Target (2.7%) trailing distantly. Amazon itself reported that the number of Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) items shipped worldwide increased by more than 50% during the holiday season.
Separately, Hitwise reports in its holiday recap that Amazon boasted significantly more visits per unique users than other leading retailers including Walmart, Target and Macy’s. Interestingly, Amazon.com had a lower mobile share of traffic than many other leading retailers: 41% of traffic to Amazon.com came from mobile devices, compared to 55% for BestBuy, 54% for Target and 53% for Walmart.
In other results, the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) says – based on a post-holiday survey – that respondents spent 16% more per-person than in last year’s survey, with a slight majority (51%) waiting until the final days leading up to Christmas to finish their shopping. While some department stores suffered, the ICSC says that almost 70% of holiday-related shopping happened in stores with both a physical and online presence, and that 91% of holiday shoppers spent at physical stores, steady from last year. And for its part, FirstData’s figures indicates that more than one-fifth (21.3%) of holiday spending took place online, up from 15.4% last year.
Previously Published Research: Cyber Week Recap
Now that Thanksgiving weekend and Cyber Monday are behind us, results are coming out from several results. Although the precise figures differ from one source to the next, it appears that key takeaways include a new record for e-commerce spending on Cyber Monday and yet more gains in mobile commerce.
The following recap summarizes the main points from a host of research sources, with links provided for those who would like to explore the data in more detail. (Note that there is a considerable amount of data not covered below, so we encourage you to follow the links to see what each source has to offer.)
- Basing its observations on credit and debit card transactions rather than survey research, First Data reports that overall retail spending was up by 9% year-over-year on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday combined. Brick-and-mortar share of spending declined quite markedly, from 81.7% of total spending last year to 75.3% this year.
- Shopper visits were fairly flat on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, down only a combined 1% from the same days last year. Black Friday visits were steady from last year and appeared not to have been cannibalized by increased shopping on Thanksgiving Day, perhaps due to fewer store openings. More from ShopperTrak here.
- Fewer American adults shopped in-store (40%) than online (44%) over the Thanksgiving weekend (Thursday through Sunday), reports the NRF in analyzing survey results. Among those shopping in-store over the weekend, Black Friday (75%) was by the most popular day, followed by Saturday (49%) and Thanksgiving Day (36%). That equates to about 3 in 10 American adults shopping in-store on Black Friday. Per-person spending averaged $289.19 over the weekend, down about $10 from last year as adults took advantage of plentiful deals: more than one-third said that all of their weekend purchases were driven by sales.
- For its part, the International Council of Shopping Centers – by way of its own survey – says that three-quarters of Americans spent the same or more this year than last on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. The survey results suggest that 80% of all spending was captured by retailers with a store presence, with 18% going to pure-play retailers.
- As for Small Business Saturday, an estimated 112 million consumers said they shopped at small businesses that day, a 13% year-over-year increase, per data from the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and American Express. Total reported spending at independent brick-and-mortar retailers and restaurants hit an estimated $15.4 billion, though that was down from last year’s estimated $16.2 billion.
Mobile and Desktop Commerce
- In its recap, Adobe Digital Insights found that Cyber Monday was on track to become the largest online sales day in history with $3.39 billion spent, up 10.2% year-over-year and edging Black Friday ($3.34 billion). Of the total spending online on Cyber Monday, mobile devices are expected to account for 35% share ($1.19 billion), with one-quarter of sales coming from smartphones and 10% from tablets. That’s despite mobile devices combining for a majority (53%) of retail website visits on Cyber Monday, though. Still, conversion rates were higher across all devices on Cyber Monday than their holiday averages. As for Thanksgiving weekend (Thursday through Sunday), Adobe Digital Insights reports a 16.4% increase in e-commerce sales, with Black Friday setting a new record powered by 21.6% year-over-year growth and Thanksgiving Day almost reaching $2 billion in online spending. Black Friday was also the first day in history to see more than $1 billion in mobile commerce sales, per ADI.
- Globally, retailers saw online sales grow by 16.7% year-over-year on Cyber Monday, while the 5-day shopping period from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday experienced e-commerce sales growth of 8.8%, per IBM data. E-commerce sales growth for US retailers was slightly higher on Thanksgiving Day (up 11.7% over 2015) than on Black Friday (9.3%), according to separate IBM data.
- Average order values online grew by 5.5% year-over-year on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday combined, notes Monetate, which also points out that conversion rates declined slightly on Thanksgiving Day (-2.2%) and more precipitously on Black Friday (-34%). Desktop conversion rates fell at an above-average rate, though desktops maintained the strongest overall conversion rates. Still, mobile cart abandonment rates fell on both days, and mobile saw a 115% increase in conversions on Thanksgiving Day. On a related note, data from Barilliance indicates that cart abandonment rates in North America during the Black Friday – Cyber Monday weekend were highest on mobile phones (77.6%) and lowest on desktops (63.1%).
- Ongoing data from HookLogic indicates that on Thanksgiving Day, e-commerce shoppers peaked during the 7PM-10PM window, with the peak shopping hour on mobile being 9PM. Based on aggregate data from its retailer network, which includes Walmart, Target, Best Buy and more, HookLogic also says that the number of shoppers and purchasers were up by 11% on Cyber Monday, with the 8-9PM hour on Cyber Monday becoming the biggest purchasing hour in online holiday shopping history.
- It wasn’t just mobile commerce seeing gains. Indeed, comScore data demonstrates that desktop e-commerce spending increased by an impressive 17% year-over-year on Thanksgiving Day and by 19% on Black Friday. Desktop retail e-commerce spending exceeded $1 billion ($1.3 billion) on Thanksgiving Day for the third consecutive year, while reaching almost $2 billion ($1.97 billion) on Black Friday. As for Cyber Monday? Well, it was the single largest desktop retail e-commerce spending day in US history, per comScore’s data, with its $2.67 billion in desktop-based sales up 17% from last year. Apparel & Accessories was the top desktop e-commerce product category on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In other news, affluents (those from households with at least $100k in annual income) comprised 42% of buyers and 45% of desktop e-commerce spending on Black Friday, and 44% and 48%, respectively, on Cyber Monday.
Some 59% of American adults are planning to – or considering – shopping online or in-store this Thanksgiving weekend (Thursday through Sunday), according to the latest holiday survey from the NRF. That equates to a potential 137.4 million shoppers, up slightly from last year. Interestingly, Millennials show an above-average inclination to shop over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Indeed, some 77% of 18-24-year-olds plan to shop over the weekend, as do 76% of 25-34-year-olds. Among these, 86% of 18-24-year-olds shoppers expect to shop on Black Friday, again well above the adult average that shows 74% of Thanksgiving weekend shoppers planning to shop that day.
If these figures were to hold true, roughly 44% of American adults will be found shopping online or in-store on Black Friday, including two-thirds (66%) of 18-24-year-olds.
It’s worth noting that Deloitte sees even more buoyant shopping projections for this weekend: in its pre-Thanksgiving pulse survey [pdf], it finds 76% of holiday shoppers planning to shop over the weekend, though it includes Cyber Monday in its tallies (which the NRF does not).
While Thanksgiving Day is expected to see the fastest year-over-year growth in e-commerce sales (see below), adults are more than twice as likely to say they’ll likely shop on Small Business Saturday (47%) than on Thanksgiving Day (21%), per the NRF results. A survey from the National Federation of Independent Businesses and American Express shows that awareness of Small Business Saturday has reached a new high of 58% of US adults. More than 6 in 10 of adults aware of Small Business Saturday who plan to shop locally that day say that the main reason they’ll do so is because they value the contributions small businesses make to their community, per the results.
Meanwhile, the Consumer Technology Association has released new survey results suggesting that almost half (47%) of American adults plan to purchase technology or technology accessories this week (starting the Monday before Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday). That’s a new peak, up 10% points from last year, with TVs, laptops and smartphones on top of the tech products shopping list.
The NRF survey indicates that more than one-third (36%) of adults plan to shop online on Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday joins Thanksgiving Day as the only ones of the 5-day weekend period in which more shoppers plan to shop online than in-store, per Deloitte’s research.
See below for previously published holiday research (including the most popular shopping days).
Previously Published 2016 Holiday Research
We’re well and truly into the holiday season now, which means (among other things) that dozens of research studies are being released surrounding spending trends, retail destinations and shopping attitudes. This article (which will be updated periodically during the holiday period) highlights key points from holiday-related research for what appears to be a bright season in terms of spending.
[Editor’s Note: As with last year’s holiday data hub, this year’s article will highlight one or two unique findings from each piece of research, loosely lumped together by category. Readers interested in more data are encouraged to follow the links provided to access the studies.]
Before getting to the list of highlights from the body of research that’s been released to-date, let’s a look at the broad forecast for this holiday season:
- – The NRF is projecting a 3.6% increase in sales this year (above the 10-year rolling average of 2.5%, though down very slightly from last year’s 3.7% forecast increase) to $655.8 billion;
- – The NRF’s forecast increase sits at the bottom of the range expected by Deloitte, of a 3.6-4% increase (with e-commerce up 15-17%;
- – Kantar Media is predicting a topline retail sales increase of 3.8% during Q4, up from the 3.4% growth posted during Q4 of 2015;
- – Brand Keys is on the lower end of that range, anticipating a 3.5% increase in holiday spending [pdf];
- – The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) has a slightly lower forecast, of a 3.3% rise in holiday sales, which would top 2015’s 2.2% climb;
- – eMarketer agrees with the ICSC, predicting a 3.3% increase in retail holiday season sales, including a 17.2% increase for e-commerce sales (both up from last year)
- – RetailNext has the gloomiest forecast (as they did last year), of a modest 3.2% lift in sales.
For their part, CMOs responding to a BDO USA survey are expecting a 4.7% increase in overall holiday store sales, tied with 2012 as the highest projection in the survey’s history, which dates back to 2008.
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The following list highlights key points from the studies cited above – along with several others. We’re generally disregarding data regarding shopping times, as the surveys disagree widely with respect to when shopping will begin and end. Likewise, we’ll avoid shopping destinations data for the same reason, unless there are very noteworthy results to point out. (For example, Epsilon data indicates that more people will shop in stores than online, while Deloitte predicts that shoppers will spend as much online as they will in stores…)
Broadly speaking, though, we would note that mobile and digital will likely play a greater role in this holiday season than last, and that consumers will be shopping for discounts and promotions.
Links to the research are provided at the end of each bullet point.
- – Print circulars will have the biggest influence of any promotions on shopping destinations, per a survey from Market Track, which also finds almost 1 in 5 (18%) planning to make purchases directly from social media sites, double the share from last year. [Link]
- – Direct mail will also have a strong influence: more than 3 in 4 consumers feel that ads received by mail will have a least some influence on their shopping decisions this holiday season, according to Epsilon. This influence seems to pertain to their perception that direct mail will usually contain an offer or discount. [Link] Separately, research from Fluent similarly finds that direct mail will be the most important channel in determining where they shop, ahead of print advertising and TV advertising. [Link – download page]
- – Deals (69%) and convenience (65%) are consumers’ determining factors when deciding whether to shop online or in-store, per RadiumOne. [Link – PDF]
- – Almost 6 in 10 holiday shoppers are persuaded to purchase gifts online by reading articles on products or gift guides, says Yahoo Advertising in survey results that also suggest that consumers are more value than price-driven. [Link]
- – The average e-commerce business acquires almost one-quarter (23.8%) of its new customer during the holiday season (Nov-Dec), but holiday customers have a customer lifetime value that’s 13% lower than non-holiday customers, according to RJ Metrics, a Magento company. [Link]
- – Judging by the lift in spending last holiday season and then during the first 8 months of this year, AdGooroo believes that the retail category will see a double-digit increase in paid search advertising spending this holiday season, with December being the top month for retail paid search ad spend. [Link] In other paid search research, AdGooroo notes that the vast majority (86%) of paid search ad spending on Cyber Monday keywords happened before the actual day last year. [Link]
- – When it comes to the in-store experience, ease of checkout (56%) is consumers’ top priority, followed by easy access to in-store WiFi (37%) and product availability (35%), per a PwC report that is loaded with other insights. Among them: 90% of shopping say that free shipping is a very important deciding factor when shopping online, and 78% want free returns. [Link – PDF] For respondents to a survey conducted regarding the 2015 holiday period from Oracle Marketing Cloud and Edison Research, however, the availability of sale items and the quality of the products on sales were the most important aspects of the in-store shopping experience during the holiday season. [Link] As for the popularity of online shopping, aside from convenience? A majority of holiday shoppers feel that the best deals are found online, per Synchrony Financial research. [Link]
- – Shopping networks such as Amazon and eBay (65%) are the top source for online holiday shopping, says American Express, with superstores such as Target and Walmart (48%) not quite as popular. [Link] In a narrower list, Offers.com details survey results indicating that Amazon (57.4%) beats Walmart (33.2%) and others (9.4%) as the top destination for holiday shopping. [Link]
- – Friday December 23rd will be the biggest day in terms of store sales, predicts RetailNext, while the busiest shopping day for store traffic is projected to be Super Saturday, December 17th. [Link] For its part, ShopperTrak expects Black Friday to be the busiest shopping day, followed by Monday December 26th and Friday December 23rd. While Super Saturday is predicted to be the biggest Saturday, ShopperTrak feels that “it will be no match for Black Friday.” [Link]
- – Black Friday and Cyber Monday are moving in opposite directions in public perception, says RichRelevance: respondents are about 4 times more likely to say that Black Friday’s importance has receded than grown (42% vs. 11%) over the past 5 years, while one-third say that Cyber Monday is more important than it was then. Also, results suggest that Americans (particularly Millennials) are becoming more accepting of Christmas Creep, though a majority are on board with retailers who decide to close stores on Thanksgiving and are more likely to shop with those retailers. [Link] As for Black Friday’s decline? A study from Periscope By McKinsey shows that 31% of US respondents have always disliked shopping on Black Friday and 29% believe it’s just a marketing trick with retailers manipulating prices to make it look like consumers are getting a good deal. [Link]
- – Cyber Monday is poised to become the “largest online shopping day in history,” says Adobe Digital Insights, while Black Friday will also reach new heights for sales. Once again, though, it seems as though Thanksgiving Day will have the fastest growth. Separately, consumers surveyed believe that emails directly from retailers (22%) are the best source of online shopping deals and bargains during the holidays, just edging ads seen from search. [Link]
- – On the top of email: emails send by 30 major brands – including Amazon, Target and Nordstrom – saw higher engagement rates last year on Green Monday than on Cyber Monday, according to a report from Yes Lifecycle Marketing. While only 1 in 10 retailers sent Green Monday emails, open rates on these emails increased by 13% year-over-year, the only major day of the holiday season to seen an increase in engagement. [Link] GoDaddy has its own data on 2015 holiday emails, and recommends that brands send their holiday email campaign between the 1st and 15th of November. (In other words, get on it now!) [Link]
- – Shoppers will be treating themselves this year, details the Rubicon Project in its survey results, aligning with NRF survey data showing that personal spending will increase markedly this holiday season. [Link]
- – Looking back to Q4 2015, Nanigans reports that Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays captured a higher share of weekly purchases by shoppers than they did over the rest of the year. [Link]
- – Clothing (50%), gift cards or gift certificates (48%) and electronics (36%) are the most popular planned gift purchases this holiday season, per Deloitte, though we caution that these results tend to vary by survey. [Link] For what it’s worth, the Consumer Technology Association expects this season to be a record-breaking one for tech, in that more consumers than ever plan tech gifts. [Link] Hitwise by Connexity has a list of hot holiday products moving into November based on search behavior, which is accessible here.
- – Meanwhile, Deloitte finds that almost 3 in 4 consumers are willing to shop new and/or different stores or online retailers, most commonly local stores and businesses (66%) and new websites they’ve not visited before (52%). [Link] Promotions should do the trick on that end: Accenture survey data indicates that 72% of shoppers would be enticed by promotions or coupons to shop at a store they haven’t used in the past year. [Link] On a similar note, research from Criteo indicates that 7 in 10 Millennials are open to considering new retail apps during the holidays that they haven’t used before. [Link]