Published June 29, 2021 | Updated December 14, 2021 As we approach a post-pandemic world, everything is unprecedented. The 2021 holiday shopping season will be no exception, with consumers’ shopping habits and spending behaviors transformed by the events of the past several months.

To help your brand thrive this holiday season and navigate these uncharted waters, we’ll be keeping this blog post updated with the latest holiday ecommerce stats and trends. Bookmark and keep coming back so you’ll always be up-to-date with the 2021 holiday shopping landscape.

December 14

Cyber Week 2021 in the rearview

Cyber Week is usually one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, with unmatched deals and sales that send customers flocking online and in stores from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday.

But this year, sales were spread throughout the month of November and even October as brands strategized how to navigate pressing supply chain issues. As a result, Cyber Week 2021 was a little lackluster compared to last year. People looking to scoop up Cyber Monday deals spent 1.4% less this year than last (Adobe Digital Economy Index).

Still, 1 in 3 people in the US made an online purchase on Cyber Monday.

Product shortages also likely had an effect on Cyber Week sales, with the number of products being sold down 6% this year.

In-store shopping has been down in light of the pandemic. This year, as shoppers increasingly feel comfortable with in-person shopping, in-store shopping was up 48% over 2020. However, that’s still down 28% over 2019.

December 2

Cyber Monday 2021 stats and updates

Online spending was much higher on Cyber Monday than Black Friday. Consumers spent an additional $1.8 billion on Cyber Monday over Black Friday, bringing the online-centric shopping event to a total of $10.7 billion in revenue.

Consumers spent nearly $2 billion more on Cyber Monday compared to Black Friday.

But don’t go thinking that consumers are shopping online less this holiday season than in years past. Online sales have reached $109 billion so far in 2021 – a significant increase from the $90 billion we were at this time last year.

So why would this year’s Cyber Week not see as impressive gains as we’ve seen in years past?

Many retailers developed a proactive strategy to start pushing enticing deals to shoppers in October and early November instead of waiting until Black Friday and Cyber Week to help ensure products arrive in time for the holidays in light of the supply chain crisis.

That means consumers started their holiday shopping earlier than ever – so it comes as no surprise that we’re $19 billion further ahead in spending compared to this point in 2020.

The most popular products purchased varied over the course of each day. On Black Friday, shoppers were all about the OLED Nintendo Switch, Barbie products, and the Oculus VR headset, while Cyber Monday shoppers centered around Hot Wheels, AirPods, and the Xbox Series S.

Desktop still reigns over mobile as the top device for online purchases, bringing in a total of $63 billion over Cyber Week to make up 57.8% of sales compared to $46 billion and 42.2% for mobile.

November 29

Black Friday 2021 stats and updates

Last year, the world was moving to digital more than ever as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Between store closures and safety concerns with being around other people in public, consumers shifted to online shopping enough last year to push ecommerce to levels that weren’t expected until 2025.

But this year’s Black Friday numbers seem to paint a different picture. Online Black Friday sales experienced a slight decline year-over-year for the first time ever, growing $8.9 billion in 2021 after growing $9 billion in 2020. Adobe Analytics predicted that online Black Friday 2021 sales would range from $8.8-$9.6 billion.

Online spending on Thanksgiving saw no change, reaching $5.1 billion for the second year in a row. That’s also at the bottom range of predictions from Adobe Analytics, which estimated Thanksgiving ecommerce sales to range from $5.1-$5.4 billion.

Does that mean consumers are shopping online less this holiday season than in years past? Not in the slightest! In fact, online holiday sales have reached $89 billion so far – a significant increase from the $71 billion we were at this time last year.

So why did Black Friday sales decline?

Retailers started their holiday deals earlier than ever this year, largely due to supply chain concerns. What started as factory shutdowns at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 has snowballed into issues across the entire delivery process, from material and labor shortages to increased freight prices to extremely delayed shipping.

With rising costs making it even more difficult for businesses to get their products delivered to stores and customers alike in a timely manner, many retailers developed a proactive strategy to start pushing deals to customers earlier instead of waiting until Black Friday and Cyber Week to help ensure products get where they need to in time for the holidays. That means consumers started their holiday shopping earlier than ever – so it comes as no surprise that we’re $18 billion further ahead in spending compared to this point in 2020.

Stay tuned for updates on Cyber Monday as the most popular online shopping holiday commences. We’ll make sure you get the most important news and data to keep you in-the-know.

November 23

Black Friday 2021 expectations

With 66% of consumers planning to start their holiday shopping early this year, the fact that Black Friday is in just three days rings a little less jolly. In fact, retailers have been spreading their holiday sales across October and November, especially big box businesses like Best Buy, Walmart, and Target.

A significant 20% of consumers aren’t planning to start their holiday shopping until Black Friday, so there’s still a significant customer base to market to as the holidays approach. That being said, product availability will pose a serious challenge to retailers and shoppers alike this year. For shoppers who start purchasing holiday gifts too late and retailers who wait too long to emphasize enticing deals, products may not arrive in time for the holidays.

Cyber Monday will likely be another successful online shopping event, with 61% of consumers planning to shop that day – up slightly from 59% last year. 61% of shoppers also say that price is the biggest buying factor for them, so retailers should still expect high traffic (both online and offline) throughout Cyber Week. If you’re a brand or retailer participating in Cyber 5 deals, we wish you the best with your success!

November 16

How Amazon and Apple will fare this holiday season

Amazon and Apple are the only top retailers that expect holiday ecommerce sales to grow this year. Apple will have stronger growth at 36.9%, but that won’t take Amazon down from having the largest market share at 41.9% compared to Apple’s 6.1%.

This will be the second year in a row that Apple sees significant online holiday sales growth. Sales grew 72.7% to $9.43 billion last year and are expected to grow 36.9% to $12.91 billion this year.

In 2019, Apple’s US holiday ecommerce sales were just $5.46 billion. The coronavirus pandemic shifted many tech shoppers from buying products in stores to online.

Amazon’s sales growth is expected to be less significant this holiday season, a sharp turn from the past several years when their sales growth has been in the billions each quarter. Analysts had previously estimated Amazon’s holiday sales growth to reach $141.6 billion, but Amazon now states that they expect $130-$140 billion in holiday revenue this year.

Supply chain issues are also contributing to reduced sales growth for Amazon as extra costs are incurred to pay for freight, shipping, increased wages, and more.

November 9

Nontraditional and omnichannel: Gen Z and millennial holiday shopping trends

Omnichannel shopping has been one of the most critical trends for marketers to embrace in 2021. Along with everything else that’s exaggerated during the holiday shopping season, omnichannel will thrive even more than usual as a way to convert shoppers – especially the growing consumer base of Gen Z and Millennials.

87% of Gen Z shoppers will get holiday shopping inspiration from social media – namely YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.

More than 2 out of every 3 Gen Z shoppers plan to shop via nontraditional channels such as Instagram, WhatsApp, and live streams this holiday season. Looking at all consumers, social media will influence 58% of buying decisions this holiday season, with Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram the top three social media platforms overall.

Millennials are expected to spend 10% more this year than last year on holiday items, while the average consumer will spend 7% more year-over-year and high-income shoppers will spend 15% more.

Social commerce is also driving the omnichannel movement forward this holiday season. US social commerce sales are expected to grow by almost 35% this year to surpass $36 billion, and by 2025, US social commerce will approach $80 billion. According to an NPD survey from June 2021, more than 50% of consumers say they have made purchases via Instagram or Facebook. 15% of those consumers named TikTok as a social media platform where they discover and learn about products.

November 2

Holiday shopping 2021 projections and stats

Overall US holiday sales (i.e. retail sales taking place in the months of November and December) are expected to grow 8.5-10.5% this year to as much as $859 billion after increasing 8.2% last year. Pre-pandemic, holiday sales averaged around 4.4% growth each year.

Online sales are expected to grow 11-15% this holiday season to reach up to $226 billion.

Consumer spend on holiday items surged over the past many years. Holiday sales are projected to reach $843-859 billion this year, more than double what they were in 2002, when total holiday sales hit just $416.4 billion.

These record sales are expected despite growing supply chain, inventory, and fulfillment concerns. Out-of-stock messages are up 172% right now compared to before the pandemic.

Many retailers are encouraging customers to buy products earlier than usual to give plenty of lead time for orders to be fulfilled and shipped. Cyber Week is still expected to account for 17% of total 2021 holiday sales. The close proximity of the major shopping period to the big holidays in December means that many customers may be getting their products much later than anticipated.

October 27

Supply chain disruptions shake up holiday strategy for retail ecommerce brands

Supply chain strain will be the name of the pain for brands expecting any holiday seasonality this year. The combination of inventory and fulfillment issues plus heightened consumer demand will make inventory, fulfillment, and shipping much bigger concerns this year than in previous years.

40% of consumers are starting to shop earlier this year than last year, largely due to heightened media coverage about supply chain issues.

At the end of the day, ensuring that your customers receive your product on time and in good condition should always be a big focus for your brand, especially during holiday seasonality. This year, this needs to be a top priority.

Fast delivery speed and high reliability will be more critical than ever. Free or discounted shipping has always been the top buying factor that shoppers prioritize, but speed and reliability will be just as if not more important than free shipping in the US this year.

One holiday strategy brands can use to encourage a purchase is displaying whether a product is made and shipped in the US. This can help qualm some of consumers’ fears about the items they purchase needing to be shipped across long distances and taking an even longer time to arrive.

October 21

The latest 2021 holiday shopping ecommerce stats

October 12

Online holiday sales: Where we’ve been and where we are now

Online sales will make up 18.9% of total holiday season retail sales this year, a 1.4% increase over 2020. Holiday ecommerce rose 3.5% YoY in 2020 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, with ecommerce as a whole surging from $140.28 billion to $185.88 billion.

This year, ecommerce holiday sales will reach a record $206.88 billion.

In 2016, retail ecommerce holiday sales were just $93.53, with ecommerce making up a mere 10.4% of holiday sales. That means that this year, online holiday sales will be 121.2% higher than they were just five years ago – a difference of over $113 billion.

The percentage of online holiday sales grew the least from 2017 to 2018, when online sales went from 16.2% yearly growth to 12.6% yearly growth. Digital sales still grew as a percentage of total holiday sales by 1.1%.

October 5

Ecommerce website optimizations for the holiday season

As the holiday season quickly approaches, consumers are already starting to shop. What can you do to make sure your brand’s website is prepared?

If you have physical locations, Google My Business can be vital to getting customers through the door. Update your local SEO listings to reach shoppers near your brick-and-mortar locations. Seasonal details such as pickup and delivery options, extended holiday hours, or pandemic restrictions can all be updated through a Google My Business profile.

Additionally, an accurate company description, bright photos, videos, and positive reviews all play a key role in reflecting your brand image to the world. Make sure all of your citations are up-to-date.

If you’re considering a replatform, redesign, retheme, or new site launch during this time… maybe reconsider. The holiday season is not the time to be making large changes to your website.

Troubleshooting during replatforms requires immense resources, and resolving key issues can take months if implementation goes askew. Additionally, rushed deployments don’t just impact the organic channel but can also create problems for paid ads and overall user experience.

It’s best to avoid large site changes and leave site alterations to launch after the holiday season when traffic to the site has calmed down and when there aren’t time-sensitive restrictions.

September 28

Online ratings & reviews spike during holiday season

The coronavirus pandemic accelerated the world’s shift to ecommerce, with ecommerce reaching levels it wasn’t predicted to for another five years last year. It’s crucial for your brand’s entire online strategy to be aligned and optimized to reach your target audiences and convert them to customers this holiday season.

In light of the pandemic, online ratings rose 87% in December 2020 over December 2019.

We’re about to head into October, which is a great time to ensure your product review strategy is in place. Most consumers start their holiday shopping in October. With 93% of shoppers saying online reviews have influenced their purchase decisions, there’s a wealth of opportunity for brands like yours to acquire more customers and boost conversions through product reviews.

Customer service is mentioned in around 20% of negative reviews, making it a key differentiator between a 5-star and 1-star experience. Investing in those resources before and during peak shopping season to resolve issues and make customers feel heard is well worth it.

September 21

4 technical SEO tips for the holiday season

With the pandemic throwing a wrench into the holiday shopping season, anticipating consumer challenges and optimizing your brand’s website accordingly will be crucial. Consider these 4 crucial technical site optimizations to keep in mind when heading into the holiday season.

1. Improve site speed and page experience. A fast and functional site is crucial to meet Google’s page experience criteria and handle the seasonal influx of traffic. Sites that aren’t ready for the traffic increase usually drive shoppers to purchase from a competitor. Now that page experience is an official Google ranking factor, there’s even more incentive to improve your Core Web Vitals performance.

2. Incorporate structured data to help search engines understand your on-page content. When implemented correctly, structured data can improve organic click-through rates with the potential of earning rich results. Product and review schema can be particularly valuable during the holiday rush by highlighting product details and improving rapport with first-time purchasers.

3. Consolidate page equity to mitigate the impact of 404 errors. Nothing frustrates users and search engines alike as much as the dreaded “page not found” error. Mitigate the negative impact of these errors with 301 redirects. You can also implement 301 redirects on products that will be out-of-stock for a significant amount of time to the next most relevant product.

4. Handle seasonal sale pages with care. Many brands end up amassing multiple versions of a holiday page over the years. Implementing a 301 redirect from prior years’ holiday pages to one evergreen holiday URL is the best way to ensure your SEO value is maximized.

September 14

New 2021 holiday ecommerce predictions

September 7

4 content SEO tips for the holiday season

Many brands count on holiday seasonality to meet their overall business goals, which is all the more reason to ensure that all of your digital marketing efforts are based on a strong website foundation.

There’s still time to optimize your copy for Google to crawl during the holiday season and improve your organic keyword rankings.

Below are 4 content SEO projects you can work on now for a more successful holiday season!

1. Update the seasonal pages for your sales and promotions with optimized title tags, meta descriptions, and on-page copy to inform both users and search engines of a page’s main purpose. Your updated copy can share the details of an upcoming special sale with detailed expiration dates to generate a sense of excitement and urgency.

2. Consider including contextual links on your holiday sale pages, relevant categories, or informational content like gift guides to improve user navigation and help search engines understand page relevance. These links are particularly beneficial for pages that aren’t included within your main navigation to ensure they don’t become orphaned.

3. Add text overlay on your images so that they can be processed by search engines. If a page contains no textual content besides an image, search engines could determine the page has thin content and might not be useful to searchers. If you do choose to use text within image files, make sure you include keyword-rich copy elsewhere on the page as well as an image alt tag.

4. Create a gift guide to help inspire searchers and improve awareness during the giving season. Gift guides can be used across a variety of channels, including email, organic, and paid search.

August 31

Holiday ecommerce tips from ROI digital experts

This year, retailers and shoppers alike will navigate yet another unprecedented holiday shopping season. As we enter the uncharted territory of a post-pandemic marketplace, consumers’ holiday shopping behavior will be a hybrid of what it once was and what the pandemic pushed to be different.

An omnichannel approach will be necessary for brands that want to crush their competition this year.

Here are some tips to ensure your brand is optimized across all of your holiday initiatives:

Optimize your pages ahead of time for products that are more likely to be given as gifts. If you have any seasonal pages, don’t delete them and create a new page every year. Keep the same page, update it, and reuse it with an evergreen URL. And make sure any dedicated pages you create for email marketing are tied into your current navigation or redirected to the most relevant page once the event ends. – Andrew Flinchum, SEO Team Lead

Use countdown timers to give users an extra psychological FOMO push. Countdown timers could apply to a specific sale (like during Cyber Monday) or could be related to shipping cut-offs for guaranteed holiday arrival. – Brandon Howell, Director of Website Optimization

Make updates to your Amazon creative and copy focus on the seasonality of the holidays and gift-giving – for example, “The perfect gift for her this holiday season” or “Keep your pond protected from cold weather.” This includes updates to your Amazon Store, Posts, and DSP. – Carly Turpin, Marketplaces Team Lead

Finalize campaign structures by October to be ready to fully leverage automation. CPCs will continue to climb into Q4, so take that into consideration when determining budgets for October through December. – Michelle Jereb, Paid Search Team Lead

Get the most out of your promotions by using a promotions feed to submit them ahead of time. You can utilize the Promotion Effective Date attribute to have Google test your promotion before it goes live and the promotion display date to indicate when you actually want it to be shown in ads. This will help reduce any lag time in your promotion being approved by Google after going live. – Stephen Smith, Product Feeds Team Lead

August 24

New report: 2021 Holiday Success Plan for Brands

The world is in a very different place today than when we published our 2020 holiday report. Between recovering from a pandemic that disrupted every marketing executive’s expectations, keeping up with sudden transformations in how consumers shop, and reaching milestones that weren’t predicted to happen until 2025, this year has set brands up for yet another challenge this holiday season.

Luckily, we love challenges here at ROI – which is why we’re so excited to share with you our executive holiday guide for 2021. Our 2021 Holiday Success Plan for Brands reveals key insights to make sure your brand is prepared to thrive this holiday season. You’ll uncover insights like:

Don’t let the challenges of this year’s holiday shopping season stop your brand in its tracks. Download your report to make sure you’re in a position to thrive. Cheers to your brand’s success!

August 18

4 tips for holiday season success

The holiday shopping journey is a long, winding path from beginning to end. The key to successfully navigating 2021’s unprecedented shopping season is to take an omnichannel approach and make it as convenient as possible for shoppers to buy from your brand. Keep these four pointers in mind as you form and execute your holiday strategy:

August 10

4 pillars of a successful holiday strategy

Your brand’s holiday strategy can’t succeed without a secure foundation in place. These tips will help you ensure that your brand is set up for success this holiday season.

1. Keep a close eye on your product feeds: Ensuring the data in your live product feed stays up-to-date is absolutely critical, especially if holiday seasonality brings lots of changes to your pricing and availability.

2. Be proactive about supply chain strain: Product availability is top-of-mind for consumers this holiday season, with supply chain strain remaining an issue around the globe. Consider using FBM or direct fulfillment as a backup method to ensure you have strong inventory before Cyber 5 and throughout the holiday season.

3. Optimize your organic presence: If you have any seasonal pages, don’t delete them and create new pages every year. Keep the same page, update it, and reuse it with an evergreen URL. You’ll also want to submit your page to Google Search Console a month prior to your big sale, including promotional dates in your copy in case it shows up early.

4. Use personalization to connect with customers: Enable recommendation sections like “You May Also Like” or “Customers Also Shopped For” on your product pages before the holidays to boost your AOV. Consider modifying the language to match user intent by relabeling these sections like “Additional Gift Options” or “One For You, One For Them.”

July 31

Preparing for an extended holiday shopping season

Last year, brands and retailers started pushing holiday deals earlier than ever to both discourage large swaths of shoppers from coming to their stores during the pandemic and mitigate supply chain concerns.

And shoppers followed suit: 40% of consumers started shopping for holiday gifts earlier than they normally would.

How can your brand capitalize on a lengthier holiday shopping season without sacrificing your sanity? Determine your goals and start testing, planning, and discussing budgets as early as possible. Asking the right questions early will make it easier for your brand to know what to expect and measure success in the right way.

With a longer holiday shopping season comes the opportunity for brands to run Cyber Week promotions earlier and longer. Black Friday saw a huge spike last year that carried through Cyber 5 weekend, compared to previous years when Cyber Monday saw the biggest spikes. Offering a promotion before Cyber Week can entice them to purchase from your brand over your competitor.

During the busiest shopping season of the year, remarketing is a must. Only 4% of website visitors are ready to make a purchase, meaning that 96% of website visitors haven’t decided if they want to buy from you yet. Build up your remarketing lists for Cyber 5 shopping by running brand awareness strategies starting in late Q3 or early Q4 (or even earlier) to ensure your brand is top-of-mind during that critical purchase decision process.

July 27

Blast from the past: Our 2020 Holiday Guide

Did anyone say they want to go back to 2020? Probably not, but if you want to take a step back in time to reflect on how much our world has changed since the holiday season last year, look no further than our 2020 Holiday Guide.

With insights from experts at not just ROI Revolution but also our partners at Attentive, Pepperjam, and Trustpilot, this report will take you back to last year’s coronavirus considerations with insights to help you:

You can claim your copy of The 2020 Retailer’s Holiday Ecommerce Playbook here. And stay tuned for our 2021 Holiday Success Plan for Brands, coming soon!

July 19

The scary side of shipping this holiday season

There’s never a more important time than the holiday season for consumers’ packages to arrive when they expect them to. Delivery times and shipping rates are always extremely important factors in consumers’ online holiday purchase decisions.

But this year, retailers and shoppers alike will navigate yet another unprecedented holiday shopping season. Merchandising, fulfillment, and shipping have been major concerns of ecommerce brands since the onset of the pandemic. Last year, many shoppers bought gifts earlier last year in hopes of avoiding shipping delays, a trend that is expected to continue into this year.

This year more than ever, the ability to have speed and flexibility in your decision-making will be paramount. Do as much of your planning ahead of time as you can so that when your peak days hit, you have time to focus on performance and making quick, strategic decisions instead of whether or not your customers are able to buy and receive your product in the first place.

Make your last ship dates extremely clear to the customer. If you feel confident in your inventory supply, consider promoting “quick shipping” incentives to target your loyal customers. If warehouse and supply chain delays mean you’ll be able to ship less of your product, consider promoting virtual gift cards.

July 13

How COVID-19 transformed holiday shopping

Ecommerce soared to new heights in 2020 as the pandemic drove consumers to shop online instead of in-store more than ever. Nearly 1 out of every 5 holiday purchases were made online last year. While that may not sound like much, it was a significant year-over-year jump and nearly twice what happened in 2016.

What does that mean for your brand this holiday season? As pandemic restrictions have eased up and shoppers have become more comfortable shopping in-store, brands should expect more traffic to their brick-and-mortar locations than last year. Brands with a presence both online and in-store will be positioned to thrive the most this holiday season.

Whether it’s offering hybrid shopping options like curbside pickup, using localized campaigns to target shoppers on their phone when they’re near your physical store during the Cyber 5, or implementing augmented reality in your app for virtual try-ons, any way that your brand can connect your physical and digital experience this year will resonate with consumers.

Last year, shoppers were wary about spending discretionary income. As the pandemic has subsided, so have consumers’ economic concerns, with consumer spend now accelerating past pre-pandemic levels. Expect consumers to be more willing to part with their money this year to find the perfect gift.

July 6

Approaching now: 2021 holiday shopping season

Summer may be in full swing, but now is the time to start thinking about your holiday marketing strategy.

Last year, 69% of shoppers planned to shop for the holidays earlier to avoid long shipping times and out-of-stock items. Your planning period for holiday marketing strategies and the beginning of seasonal consumer buying behavior may sneak up faster than usual.

49% of U.S. consumers expect retailers to offer them discounts when shopping during the holidays.

Promotions will be crucial in differentiating yourself from your competitors this holiday season. Knowing that the majority will expect some sort of discount, planning your promotions now will allow your team to determine a creative and intentional strategy to attract customers away from your brand’s competition.

The best way to successfully navigate the holiday and Q4 shopping season is to start with a solid marketing strategy and to begin planning early. Creating a detailed schedule of all marketing initiatives, tests, promotions, budgets, and 2021 competitive trends can make the difference between year-over-year growth or flat (or even declining) performance.

June 29 update

2020 holiday shopping ecommerce: Where are we coming from?

US holiday retail sales are expected to surpass $1 trillion for the first time ever this year. But before we dive into what brands can expect in 2021, let’s rewind to last year and see where we’re leaving off from.

Consumers did spend more conservatively last year, with total retail sales for Black Friday down year-over-year. Black Friday numbers could have also been down because shoppers started shopping earlier than ever last year, with brands and retailers offering special holiday sales starting as early as October and continuing throughout the shopping season.

As it did throughout the entire year, ecommerce thrived during last year’s shopping season. Ecommerce made up 19.7% of overall retail sales this holiday season, a jump from 13.4% last year.

According to data from Mastercard SpendingPulse, total ecommerce sales from October 11-December 24 were up 49% year-over-year. At the same time, total YoY retail sales declined 19.1%.

Cyber 5 – also known as Cyber Week, or the five-day period between Thanksgiving Day and the day after Cyber Monday – managed to hit an all-time high of $60 billion last year, reaching $270 billion globally. ROI’s clients also reached new records online, including 881% ROAS and a 207% revenue increase. See our Cyber Week 2020 recap post for more.