US retail holiday season sales are expected to surpass $1.3 trillion in 2023. Your holiday ecommerce strategy could mean the difference between plateaued year-over-year numbers or transformational business growth.
Are you prepared to exceed your brand’s goals this holiday season? In this blog, discover holiday ecommerce insights that will help you save money, grow profitably, and reduce risk during the busiest shopping period of the year.
We’ll update this blog regularly with the latest holiday ecommerce strategies, predictions, data, and trends as the shopping season progresses. Keep this blog bookmarked and make sure your brand is positioned to thrive this holiday season.
Jump to each topic using the links below:
- 2023 Holiday Ecommerce Predictions
- Timeline for Your Holiday Strategy
- A Key to Holiday Ecommerce Success: Start Planning Early
- How to Prepare Your Ecommerce Website for the Holiday Season
- 12 Q4 Seasonality Tips for Ecommerce Marketers
- Holiday Success Stories to Inspire Your Brand
- A/B Testing During the Holiday Ecommerce Season
- 10 Holiday SEO Projects to Fuel Your Holiday Ecommerce Strategy
- 2021 Holiday Ecommerce in Review
- 2020 Holiday Shopping Ecommerce: Where Have We Been?
2023 Holiday Ecommerce Predictions
Do you hear what I hear? The ringing bell sound of items being scanned in stores, the quiet pitter-patter of fingers tapping on the Amazon “buy now” button… it can all only mean one thing.
The holiday shopping season is upon us!
Let’s explore what’s in store for the 2023 holiday shopping season.
September is a key time to build brand awareness with your audience. This will help your target shoppers think of you when it’s time to buy holiday gifts.
When will holiday promotions begin? The deals will likely kick off with Amazon’s Prime Big Deal Days event in early October. This will be the second year that Amazon hosts a Prime Day-like sales event in October. Last year’s event was named the Prime Early Access Sale.
When Amazon has a special sales event, other retailers follow suit. Target Deal Days and Walmart Deals for Days have become annual staples during the same time as Prime Day.
Discounts will still peak during Cyber Week, when 25% of all online holiday sales are expected.
What is Cyber Week? Cyber Week, also known as Cyber 5, is the five-day period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday. It’s typically the highest-revenue time of the holiday season.
Cyber Week may see less year-over-year growth because discounts are starting earlier. There are two main reasons for holiday shopping starting earlier:
- Retailers started holiday deals earlier in 2020. Many businesses feared that the COVID-19 pandemic would make shoppers wary to spend money. The idea was that starting holiday promotions earlier would lead to more sales.
- In 2021, retailers started holiday deals earlier due to supply chain strain. The goal was to avoid an influx of purchases during Cyber Week. Instead, businesses wanted to encourage shoppers to make purchases throughout the holiday season.
But there’s probably a question you’re still pondering. How will the 2023 holiday shopping season fare against previous years?
The reality is, economic uncertainty is weighing heavy on the minds of consumers. 37% of consumers have been shopping less this summer compared to the beginning of the year. With shoppers making fewer purchases, holiday sales aren’t likely to increase tremendously.
In 2023, total US holiday retail sales will grow 4.5% to reach $1.3 trillion.
US holiday ecommerce sales will grow 11.9% to $261 billion and make up 19.6% of all holiday spend. Brick-and-mortar sales will grow 2.8% to $1.1 trillion and make up 80.4% of all holiday spend.
Desktop sales will make up just over half of holiday ecommerce purchases, expected to reach $131.3 billion at 8.7% YoY growth.
However, mobile sales dominate in terms of YoY growth, expected to increase 15.4% to hit $129.2 billion in sales. In 2020, holiday mobile sales hit just $86.6 billion.
During Cyber Week, however, mobile sales may slightly dominate desktop sales. In 2022, mobile made up 51% of Cyber 5 ecommerce sales.
What are the holiday ecommerce strategies that should businesses focus on to see profitable growth?
Compelling promotions are the most effective way to attract customers during economic uncertainty. However, not every business has the luxury of being able to do that. If you can’t offer deep discounts, the next best things you can offer are free shipping or free returns.
In fact, 32% of adults say cost of delivery is the most important factor to them when shopping online. 78% of shoppers will abandon their shopping cart if free returns aren’t available.
Another key trend to convert more customers is buy online, pick-up in store (BOPIS). BOPIS surged during the pandemic – and consumers haven’t lost interest in it. Businesses that offer BOPIS see 7x faster online revenue growth than businesses that don’t.
On top of that, when customers go in-store to pick up an item they purchased online, they’re likely to purchase additional items. BOPIS is expected to drive $28 billion in incremental store sales this year.
Social media will be a key driver of holiday sales. 50% of shoppers are likely to visit a brand’s website after seeing a social media ad. That’s compared to just 39% for promotional emails.
Social media is the most effective marketing tactic. In fact, it drives 10x more website visits than traditional marketing.
A last key trend to note is generative AI technology. Globally, AI is expected to influence $194 billion in holiday sales. That includes marketers using AI to assist in content creation, site search, and chatbot responses.
Looking for more insights on generative AI and ChatGPT? Peruse our blogs:
Looking to grow your revenue without increasing your ad spend this holiday season? We have some resources for you:
- How to Choose a UX Optimization Strategy That Drives Revenue
- How to Grow Revenue With Product Feed Optimization
- How to Increase Conversions by Reallocating Your Marketing Budget
Lastly, we know the holiday season can be overwhelming. We’ve helped hundreds of brands navigate this tumultuous time to exceed their goals. What heights could you reach with a guide to show you the way this holiday season? To explore the untapped opportunities that are waiting to be discovered by your brand, send a message to our team today.
Timeline for Your Holiday Ecommerce Strategy
From strategizing in September to decking the halls in December, the holiday season is a wild ride for digital marketers.
What are the shopping trends of consumers throughout late Q3 and Q4, and what should your brand be doing to engage with them?
Let’s look at a high-level overview of the holiday season for consumers and marketers alike to ensure your business is feeling jolly by the end of the holiday shopping season.
August & September
There’s a reason it seems like brands make the shift toward holiday-themed marketing earlier and earlier every year. 86% of consumers begin to shop before September ends, so if your brand waits too long to start, you’ll miss out on easy brand awareness and profits.
While shoppers are getting started with their holiday shopping, you should be wrapping up strategic planning so that you’re prepared to capitalize on this increased purchase intent.
Since it’s not the peak of the holiday season yet, early fall is the perfect time to start testing promotions – especially because CPCs remain pretty consistent until November hits. As the holiday hype heightens, you can implement thoughtful strategies based on your earlier findings.
At the same time, this early in the game, many consumers are still in the research phase of their journey. That means that while you test promotions, you should also focus on brand awareness. This way, you’ll be able to attract as many people to your brand as possible so that they can continue to move down the funnel as the holidays ramp up.
October & November
In general, consumers have different shopping behaviors during the holidays than at any other time of year. Benchmarking against past performance will be essential to your strategy.
77% of holiday shoppers will purchase from the same retailers as they did in previous years, but 95% of holiday shoppers say price discounts are the most effective way to get them to shop with a new retailer.
While brand awareness initiatives in the early fall will be crucial, you should increasingly focus on discounts and promotions as time goes on.
Lastly, 49% of marketers launch a holiday campaign before Halloween, so if possible, it’s a good idea for your brand to introduce its first campaign in the month of October. Also, beginning November 1, digital sales are projected to top $1 billion every single day. Get those campaigns live ASAP and be sure to optimize them as needed!
Cyber Week will account for a large portion of the projected $1.3 trillion in US holiday revenue. Is your brand prepared to reap the benefits? Explore the Cyber Week tips below to position your brand for ultimate holiday ecommerce success.
Of course, steep discounts are the biggest draw of Cyber 5. Highlight your discounts in your copy, along with timely terms like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or Cyber Week to help your brand capture even more attention. Be sure to include the year on any pages you create for these shopping periods, especially if you reuse the same page each year.
During the busiest shopping period of the year, it’s critical that you ensure your product feeds are as accurate as possible (especially regarding promotions, pricing, and availability). Showing the customer incorrect information is a surefire way to lose their purchase.
With so many consumers scouring for a deal during Cyber 5, it’s important to also use creative specific to your promotion and specific to the holiday season. When many brands are competing in the same space, your creative needs to stand out among the blizzard of holiday advertisements.
Highlight your special deals using text overlays in your video ads or discount codes in your ad copy and headlines.
One of your brand’s top priorities when preparing for the Cyber 5 surge in traffic will be to optimize for mobile. Just like in all other facets of digital marketing, a mobile-first mindset during Cyber 5 will bring you more profitable success and lead to more satisfied, returning customers.
Here are some mobile marketing tips you should follow during Cyber Week to make sure you stay on your audience’s “nice” list:
- Keep your copy clear and concise since you have less room on mobile to make an impact.
- Use mobile bid adjustments to target on-the-go shoppers.
- Use square images for single image/video ads.
- Eliminate friction points like slow load times.
- Bonus points if you can inspire users by prioritizing storytelling in your ads!
Once Cyber 5 wraps up, don’t forget about all the shoppers who either a) made a purchase or b) visited your site but didn’t make a purchase. December is the time to keep relationships strong. Now that you’ve built up traffic and reached tons of new shoppers, it’s time to remarket to them! Remind them about your brand and entice them to reconsider shopping with you (or even place another order), using your ad copy to reflect the urgency of time.
December & Beyond
Just because the holiday shopping season is nearing an end doesn’t mean you should slow down. This is when you need to find the motivation to keep chugging along with all the strength your brand can muster to end the year on a high note.
Focusing heavily on your remarketing efforts in December is a great way to remind shoppers who have already started their journey down the funnel about your brand and entice them to reconsider shopping with you or to place another order.
All of your copy, but especially your retargeting copy, should reflect the urgency of time during December. Time is running out for shoppers to get the perfect gifts for their loved ones, so playing off of that is a great way to encourage them to spring into action.
A Key to Holiday Ecommerce Success: Start Planning Early
It may seem early, but summer is a great time to start thinking about your holiday ecommerce strategy.
In 2020, 69% of shoppers planned to shop for the holidays earlier to avoid long shipping times and out-of-stock items.
ROI Tip: The best way to successfully navigate holiday ecommerce is to start with a solid marketing strategy. Begin planning early because your holiday ecommerce planning period may sneak up quickly. Develop your promotions now so that your team has time to determine a creative and intentional strategy that will attract customers to your brand and away from your competition. By creating a detailed plan for tests, promotions, budgets, and analysis early on, you can ensure your business sees year-over-year growth instead of feeling disappointed in your performance.
How can your brand capitalize on the 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.
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 your 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 to ensure your brand is top-of-mind during the purchase decision process.
How to Prepare Your Ecommerce Website for the Holiday Season
If you have physical locations, Google My Business can be vital to get 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 your Google My Business profile.
Additionally, an accurate company description, bright photos and videos, and positive reviews all play a key role in reflecting your brand image to the world.
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 make 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.
When you are ready to replatform, you can refer to our white paper, Replatforming Your Website? Avoid These Marketing Pitfalls.
12 Q4 Seasonality Tips for Ecommerce Marketers
The holiday shopping journey is a long, winding path from beginning to end. The key to successfully navigating holiday seasonality is to take an omnichannel approach and make it as convenient as possible for shoppers to buy from your brand.
Brands that don’t proactively anticipate roadblocks or face challenges head-on during the holiday shopping season will be left in the digital dust.
But you don’t have to walk blindly into your brand’s holiday ecommerce strategy.
With the right omnichannel mindset, you can crush your competition and have a profitable holiday season.
Use these tips for Amazon, Google, social media, website optimization, and more to save money and drive revenue growth this year.
1. Determine your profitable revenue goals for the holiday season.
- Am I willing to sacrifice return to scale year-over-year revenue?
- Has my business experienced inventory issues due to supply chain strain in the last 1-2 years in a way that might impact YoY growth?
2. Start testing, planning, and discussing budgets early!
Finalize your campaign structures by October to give them time to learn, especially for your Performance Max campaigns. Don’t forget that CPCs are expected to climb throughout Q4. Take that into consideration when determining your Q4 budget. If you’re planning to write content for SEO, those pages should be complete by August to give Google time to crawl and index them.
3. Increase your prospecting and retargeting spend.
Capitalize on increased traffic and stay top-of-mind with your ideal customers throughout the holiday season by increasing your targeted ad spend to reach shoppers who like to browse around before making a purchase decision. You can also use the Cyber 5 period to build remarketing lists for the remainder of the holiday shopping season.
4. Run your Cyber 5 promotions earlier and longer.
Since the coronavirus pandemic, Cyber Week has started earlier and lasted longer. Cyber Monday used to see the biggest spikes out of the five-day period by far, but sales are more spread throughout Cyber Week now. This shift occurred with the shift to primarily online shopping during the pandemic (remember when ecommerce accelerated to levels it wasn’t expected to reach for another five years?).
Additionally, previous years’ trends of shoppers buying gifts earlier to avoid shipping delays will likely continue this year. Consider offering a promotion before Cyber 5 even begins to entice shoppers to purchase from your brand over your competitor.
5. Provide personalized recommendations to shoppers.
Many sites utilize recommendation sections like “You May Also Like” or “Customers Also Shopped For” on their product pages to promote further purchases. If you don’t use this feature already, be sure to enable it before the holidays to boost your AOV for each order.
ROI Tip: Already using this functionality? Consider modifying the language to match the intent of the user. For example, you could relabel these sections as “Additional Gift Options” or “One for You, One for Them.”
6. Use countdown timers to create urgency.
Countdown timers give users a powerful push to make a purchase. Your timer could count down to a specific sale (like during Cyber Monday) or could be related to your shipping cut-off date for guaranteed holiday arrival.
7. Ensure your ads focus on the seasonality of the holidays.
Appeal to shoppers’ intent by making your ad copy and creative match their mindset. This includes updates to your Amazon Store and Posts.
For example, you could use language like “The perfect gift for her this holiday season” or “Keep your pond protected from cold weather.” Include creative on your product detail pages (PDPs) and in your ads showing people happily using your product.
ROI Tip: You’ll also want to call out shipping details in your ad copy. Customers are always looking to get their gifts in time for the holidays, and they haven’t forgotten about the shipping woes of the past few years.
8. Ensure you have a strong supply chain before Cyber 5 and throughout the holiday season.
There’s never a more important time than the holiday season for consumers’ packages to arrive when they expect them to. Plan ahead so that when your peak days hit, you have time to focus on making quick, strategic decisions instead of worrying about whether your customers are able to buy and receive your product.
ROI Tip: Make your last ship dates extremely clear to your customers. If you feel confident in your inventory supply, consider promoting “quick shipping” incentives to target your loyal customers. If supply chain delays mean you won’t be able to ship as much of your product, consider promoting virtual gift cards.
If you’re selling on Amazon, consider using the Merchant Fulfilled Network (MFN) or direct fulfillment as a backup method to ensure you have enough inventory. This can be especially helpful if the products you’re selling are large or heavy, such as furniture.
9. Leverage holiday-specific banners on marketplace sites.
These ads have flat rates for the holiday period rather than the usual daily and monthly budgets, and give your brand the opportunity to take over an entire category page. If you do not take advantage of a holiday-period banner, your banner ads may be cut off completely for a competitor who does.
10. Make sure your product feed data stays up to date.
Merchants can experience lots of changes to product price and availability during holiday ecommerce seasonality. If you’re updating product information on your site, update your feed to refresh item data in your Merchant Centers and Catalogs to ensure everything is accurate and avoid disappointed customers.
You can also use feed-powered Free Listings to get a full picture of how your feed data is impacting the entire Google Shopping landscape.
Your product feeds are the foundation of your digital marketing strategy. Ignoring them can derail your entire holiday ecommerce strategy. At ROI Revolution, we have an entire team dedicated to optimizing product feeds. Other agencies deprioritize product feed optimization at their clients’ demise. To explore the revenue growth your business could discover through product feed optimization, send a message to our team today.
11. Start optimizing your website early.
Optimize your pages ahead of time for products that are more likely to be given as gifts. Don’t wait until December to write your holiday-specific informational content. Submit your page to Google Search Console at least one month prior to your sale. Don’t replatform during your peak seasonality (or right before it)! Start any targeted backlink campaigns in Q3 to build backlinks to your seasonal page(s).
ROI Tip: Use a load testing tool to find out how your website’s performance may be impacted by the strain of higher-than-normal traffic during Q4 seasonality.
12. If you have 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 (for example, /cyber-friday-sale/). 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.
Next Steps for Your Holiday Ecommerce Strategy
Consumers’ holiday shopping behavior will be a hybrid of the old and the new. Brands that optimize and align both their online and in-store presence will be positioned to thrive the most this holiday season.
A solid foundation is critical to a successful holiday strategy. Between all of the stages of the funnel you want to reach, all the different channels you can leverage, and all of the goals your brand has this holiday shopping season, figuring out the best way forward can be a daunting challenge.
Creating and implementing a holiday ecommerce strategy takes time, expertise, and dedicated effort that not every business is lucky enough to have. At ROI Revolution, we’ve helped consumer brands successfully navigate the holiday shopping season for over 20 years.
Let the strategy development and execution lie in the hands of experienced channel and business management experts. To see how ROI Revolution can help your business exceed your holiday ecommerce goals, send our team a message.
Holiday Success Stories to Inspire Your Brand
Since 2002, ROI Revolution has been guiding brands to holiday success with digital marketing strategies that are thoughtfully designed to exceed even the loftiest goals.
Here are some of the wins the brands we partner with have achieved over the years.
Designer furniture brand:
- 105% YoY increase in transactions during the holiday season
- 30% decrease in ad spend
- 127% increase in ROAS
- On Thanksgiving alone, revenue surged 1,473% while spend decreased 44%
Apparel industry brand:
- 519% YoY increase in revenue during the holiday season
- 34% decrease in ad spend
Golf gear brand:
- 3x YoY increase in revenue during the holiday season
- 421% increase in ROAS
- 154% YoY increase in Black Friday revenue with Display and YouTube strategy
- 83% increase in Cyber Monday revenue
- 97% increase in Cyber Week revenue
Auto parts brand:
- 1,000% return on investment (ROI) during Cyber Week with Google Ads
- 15% YoY revenue growth
- 207% YoY Cyber Week revenue growth via paid social advertising strategy
Home goods brand:
- 291% YoY Cyber 5 revenue growth with Display ads
- 881% ROAS
- 195% YoY increase in Cyber 5 revenue with Google Ads
- Hit holiday season revenue goal of $1 million on December 1st
Home appliances brand:
- 127% YoY revenue growth over Cyber 5 with Walmart Advertising
- 108% increase in ROAS
Luxury goods brand:
- 69% YoY revenue increase
- 32% increase in clicks
- 42% increase in transactions
- 11% lift in conversion rate
A/B Testing During the Holiday Ecommerce Season
Many brands make the mistake of thinking that the holiday shopping season is too risky of a time to run A/B tests. However, quite the contrary is true. With higher traffic, more purchases, and increased average order values, the ecommerce holiday season presents a great opportunity to learn a lot about your shoppers.
Some holiday A/B testing ideas include:
- Add promo code banners on your product detail pages
- Gamify your promo codes to increase engagement
- Update your navigation bar language to include frequently searched-for items
- Include the number of times that product was sold that day
- Show a pop-up for return customers with items currently in their basket
- Offer a giveaway for shoppers who make purchases of a certain amount to drive higher AOV
- Keep a fixed search bar that stays on the page
- Provide simplified payment options
Want to dive deeper into these ideas, plus learn some key points you’ll want to consider with holiday A/B testing? Read our blog on 8 Holiday A/B Tests to Boost Your Ecommerce Growth This Holiday Shopping Season.
10 Holiday SEO Projects to Fuel Your Holiday Ecommerce Strategy
No matter how great your products or how deep your discounts, if you don’t have a strong website foundation, your holiday ecommerce strategy will be hurting. Follow these ten tips for prepare your website for the holiday shopping season:
- Improve site speed and page experience
- Incorporate structured data
- Consolidate page equity
- Handle seasonal sale pages with care
- Optimize your seasonal pages
- Incorporate internal links
- Use text overlay on images
- Create a gift guide
- Update your local SEO listings
- Avoid large site changes
Want to dive deeper into how to optimize your organic presence for the holiday season? Read our blog on how to turn these holiday SEO projects from ideas into reality.
2021 Holiday Ecommerce in Review
As the first full year since the onset of COVID-19, the 2021 holiday shopping season delivered unprecedented shopping habits and transformed spending behaviors. Here’s a look back at what the 2021 holiday shopping landscape looked like.
Cyber Week 2021
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 in 2021, the big holiday deals started earlier than usual. Sales were spread throughout November and October as brands strategized how to proactively navigate pressing supply chain issues. In fact, US retailers were projected to face an additional $223 billion in costs during the 2021 holiday season due to global supply chain issues.
As a result, Cyber Week itself was a little lackluster compared to 2020.
On Cyber Monday, shoppers spent spent 1.4% less year-over-year. Black Friday sales were down 1.1% and were at the low end of Adobe Analytics’ predictions. Thanksgiving sales were stagnant.
Product shortages likely influenced the slight decline in Cyber Week sales, with the number of products being sold down 6%.
Still, a significant 1 in 3 US shoppers made an online purchase on Cyber Monday.
In-store shopping was down 28% compared to 2019 in light of the pandemic. However, that was a 48% increase over 2020, indicating shoppers’ increasing comfort with in-store shopping.
Cyber Monday 2021 delivered $10.7 billion in revenue. Online shoppers spent $1.8 billion more on Cyber Monday than Black Friday.
Consumers started their holiday shopping earlier than ever. In early December 2021, shoppers had already spent $19 billion more than they had in early December 2020.
The most popular products purchased during Cyber Week 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. Cyber Monday shoppers focused on Hot Wheels, AirPods, and the Xbox Series S.
Desktop still reigned over mobile as the top device for online Cyber Week purchases, bringing in a total of $63 billion over Cyber Week compared to $46 billion for mobile.
2021 Holiday Ecommerce Stats
Here’s what consumers were thinking during the 2021 holiday shopping season:
- 66% planned to start their holiday shopping early in 2021
- 61% planned to shop on Cyber Monday 2021, up from 59% in 2020
- 61% said that price was the biggest buying factor for them
- 20% didn’t plan to start their holiday shopping until Black Friday
- 45% said their biggest fear during the 2021 holiday season was out-of-stock products
- 38% said delivery delays were their largest concern
- 42% expected products to be more expensive
- 28% of consumers planned to do more holiday shopping online in 2021 than 2020
- US consumers spend approximately 15% of their monthly income on holiday gifting
- Each year, US consumers spend an estimated $15.2 billion on gifts their receivers don’t end up wanting.
- 27% of US consumers exchange or sell the unwanted holiday gifts they receive
Overall US holiday sales were expected to grow 8.5-10.5% year-over-year in 2021 to as much as $859 billion after increasing 8.2% in 2020. Before the pandemic, holiday sales averaged around just 4.4% growth each year.
Online sales were expected to grow 11-15% to reach up to $226 billion.
In November 2021, out-of-stock messages were up 172% compared to before the pandemic.
Many retailers encouraged customers to buy products earlier than usual to give plenty of lead time for orders to be fulfilled and shipped. Cyber Week was expected to account for 17% of total 2021 holiday sales.
In 2021, Cyber Week fell at the end of November. The close proximity of the major shopping period to the big holidays in December meant that many customers had to make careful buying decisions since their products would arrive later than usual.
Here are some more key holiday ecommerce stats:
- Suppliers faced a projected $12 billion more in manufacturing costs in 2021 vs. 2020
- Online and other non-store holiday sales grew 24% in 2020 vs. 2019 to reach $209 billion
- 82.5% of consumers planned to shop online as much as or more than they did during the 2021 holiday season compared to 2020
- 43% of the unwanted gifts that US consumers receive every year are clothing and accessory items.
Online sales were projected to make up 18.9% of total holiday season retail sales in 2021, 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.
In 2016, retail ecommerce holiday sales were just $93.53 billion, with ecommerce making up a mere 10.4% of holiday sales. That means that in 2021, online holiday sales were projected be 121.2% higher than they were just five years prior – a difference of over $113 billion.
Amazon & Apple During the 2021 Holiday Ecommerce Season
Amazon and Apple were the only top retailers that expected to see holiday ecommerce sales growth in 2021. Apple was projected to have stronger growth at 36.9%. However, Amazon still reigned in terms of market share, sitting at 41.9% compared to Apple’s 6.1%.
The coronavirus pandemic shifted many tech shoppers from buying products in stores to online. Apple’s online sales grew 72.7% to $9.43 billion in 2020 and were expected to grow 36.9% to $12.91 billion in 2021. In 2019, Apple’s US holiday ecommerce sales were just $5.46 billion.
Amazon’s holiday sales growth was expected to be less significant in 2021, a sharp turn from previous years when their sales growth was in the billions each quarter. Analysts previously estimated Amazon’s holiday sales growth to reach $141.6 billion, but Amazon later clarified that they expected $130-$140 billion in 2021 holiday revenue. Supply chain issues also contributed to lower sales growth for Amazon, with extra costs incurred for freight, shipping, increased wages, and more.
Nontraditional & Omnichannel: Gen Z & Millennial Holiday Ecommerce Trends in 2021
Omnichannel shopping was one of the most critical trends for marketers to embrace in 2021. Along with everything else that was exaggerated during the 2021 holiday shopping season, omnichannel thrived even more than usual as a conversion tactic – especially with the growing consumer base of Gen Z and Millennials.
87% of Gen Z shoppers got holiday shopping inspiration from social media (namely YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok).
More than 2 out of 3 Gen Z shoppers planned to shop via nontraditional channels such as Instagram, WhatsApp, and live streams during the 2021 holiday season.
Millennials were expected to spend 10% more year-over-year on holiday items, while the average consumer would spend 7% more and high-income shoppers would spend 15% more.
Supply Chain Disruptions Impacting 2021 Holiday Ecommerce
The combination of inventory and fulfillment issues plus heightened consumer demand meant inventory, fulfillment, and shipping were much bigger concerns in 2021 compared to previous years.
Ensuring that customers receive your product on time and in good condition is always important, especially during holiday seasonality, and especially in 2021.
Fast delivery speed and reliable delivery were just as if not more important than free or discounted shipping during the 2021 holiday shopping season.
ROI Tip: 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 ease some of consumers’ fears about the items they purchase needing to be shipped over long distances and taking an even longer time to arrive.
Online Ratings & Reviews During the 2021 Holiday Season
The coronavirus pandemic accelerated a global shift to ecommerce. It’s crucial for your brand’s entire holiday ecommerce strategy to be aligned and optimized to reach your target audiences online and convert them to customers.
Reviews are one way that consumers learned about products during the pandemic when in-store shopping wasn’t an option. In fact, online ratings rose 87% in December 2020 over December 2019.
93% of shoppers say that online reviews have influenced their purchase decisions. There’s a wealth of opportunity for consumers brands to acquire more customers and boost conversions during the holiday shopping season 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.
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 5 holiday purchases were made online in 2020. 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? Shoppers have become comfortable shopping in-store again, so brands should expect more traffic to their brick-and-mortar locations than in previous years. Brands with a presence both online and in-store will be positioned to thrive the most this holiday season.
Any way that your brand can connect your physical and digital experience will resonate with consumers. Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas:
- Offer hybrid shopping options like curbside pickup
- Use localized campaigns to target shoppers on their phone when they’re near your physical store during Cyber 5
- Implement augmented reality in your app for virtual try-ons
How the Pandemic Affected Cyber 5 on Amazon
With the pandemic in 2020, big-box stores like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy started to sprinkle their Black Friday deals throughout the month since the beginning of November. As we prepare for foot traffic to shift online, what other trends are we seeing that will inform Cyber 5 strategy?
With the turbulence and uncertainty that defined 2020, many industries took a hit. Consumers prioritized saving money and only buying the essentials, while brands faced inventory issues due to stalled production or supply chain delays.
Brands with inventory issues were more conservative with their Cyber 5 deals and discounts on Amazon. On top of that, brands that were facing lower sales were less able to run deals or discounts, with margins already tight.
Out of the brands that did choose to run promotions, many opted to run deals for a longer period instead of prioritizing Cyber 5 to avoid too much demand at one time.
Many brands were able to see great success by increasing bids for Sponsored Display, with a focus on competitor targeting and retargeting campaigns.
Amazon Ad Types During Cyber 5 2020
With this eye-catching ad type, advertisers can:
- Run short, compelling videos that appear in Amazon search results
- Drive a stronger click-through rate and ROAS than standard Sponsored Brands campaigns
All of this made it a must-have addition to the Cyber 5 mix in 2020.
2020 Holiday Shopping Ecommerce: Where Have We Been?
Consumers spent more conservatively in 2020 than in past years, with total retail sales for Black Friday down year-over-year.
Similar to 2021, Black Friday numbers could have been down because shoppers started shopping earlier, 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 the 2020 holiday shopping season. Ecommerce made up 19.7% of overall retail sales in 2020, a jump from 13.4% in 2019.
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 managed to hit an all-time high of $60 billion in 2020, reaching $270 billion globally. ROI Revolution’s clients also reached new records online, including a home goods brand that saw 881% ROAS and a major apparel brand that saw a 207% revenue increase.
To explore more about 2020 holiday ecommerce, peruse some of our resources from that year:
- Blog: 2020 Holiday Ecommerce News & Updates
- White Paper: The 2020 Retailer’s Holiday Ecommerce Playbook
- Webinar Replay: 2020 Holiday Insights Panel
Did October 2020’s Prime Day Impact Cyber 5?
As it turns out, Prime Day’s lateness didn’t affect Cyber 5 very heavily. Because Prime Day came about more suddenly this year, many brands didn’t have time to plan and ended up not participating at all. That left their Cyber 5 plans unaffected.
The lucky brands that were thriving in 2020 could afford to run deals and discounts during Prime Day, and that momentum continued with more sales in Cyber 5.
Tying It All Together: Holiday Ecommerce Strategies
Well, there you have it. It should be pretty simple to exceed all of your goals this year! Right?
If you feel overwhelmed by everything that goes into creating and executing an effective holiday ecommerce strategy, that’s because there’s a lot you need to consider.
Between economic uncertainty, supply chain strain, and shifting consumer behaviors, reaching your goals during the holiday season won’t be a walk in the park.
As a digital marketing agency, ROI Revolution has witnessed first-hand the turmoil and struggle that consumer brands across various industries have faced since the onset of the pandemic.
We have experience successfully creating and executing strategies that pave the way for businesses to:
- Grow profitably
- Save money
- Reduce risk
The stakes are high this holiday season, and you deserve better than the success of your holiday ecommerce strategy hinging on factors that are outside of your control.
It’s time to discover the untapped opportunities for growth that are waiting for your brand this holiday season. To explore the wins you could uncover, book a meeting with our team today.
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