5 Important Insights From 2016’s Holiday Sales

January 10, 2017ECOMMERCE

1. “According to Adobe, total e-commerce sales (November 1 to December 31) hit $91.7 billion, representing growth of 11% year over year.”


Online shopping is the new normal, and it’s surprising that more people aren’t participating. As we’ll see in a later stat, the percentage of shoppers that actually bought products online still paled in comparison to what was spent in stores.


Still, as it’s been proven time and time again, we love to consume. And now that we have the internet, it has only opened up new avenues for brands to reach out to consumers. Website optimization, search engine optimization, the expansion of social media as an advertising platform, and email marketing have all played key roles in this uptick in eCommerce sales:



This is the third consecutive year of growth for retail eCommerce holiday season sales. It has reached its peak since data for the study began accumulation, starting in 2010. Also, notice how online sales rose in 2015, despite a decline in overall holiday season sales. Both sales rose over a full percentage point from last year to this year.


Unlike the slide from 2011 to 2013, this trend of online shopping will likely continue to rise, unless brick-and-mortar sales offer more incentives to visit. However, even big retail chains like Wal-Mart are offering the same deals online that you would find in stores.


Rather than force Black Friday down their customers’ throats, retail giants are beginning to follow the trend of eCommerce spending. The stigma around the weekend, whether for its mob-like crowds or its lack of actual deals, has created an aura of degenerate materialism and lack of compassion for others that has turned people off.


Instead, we should expect more of the numbers that we’ve seen over the past three years. Especially when you consider just who is shopping online…


2. “Milennials were the segment most likely to shop in stores (81%) compared with Baby Boomers (62%) and Gen Xers (73%).”



Well this is surprising.


Here we thought Milennials would obviously gravitate more towards online shopping. Meanwhile, there is no demographic more likely to shop in stores than them; even when compared to their parents and grandparents.


The older generations preferring to shop online isn’t much of a surprise. It’s safe to say parents and grandparents would rather shop online than deal with all of those Milennials that are frequenting the mall and retail stores.


Why Milennials are finding themselves shopping in stores, and so overwhelmingly at that, is befuddling to say the least. After all, they’re the social media generation. They spend so much time online that surely their shopping habits would carry over, right?


Apparently not. The tradition of going to a store and picking out a gift is more appealing to Milennials than simply shopping online. Maybe it’s a hipster thing and shopping online is too mainstream now.


But that hasn’t stopped brands from trying to reach out online.


Where the Milennials go, the brands will follow. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have restaurant chains and presidential candidates on Twitter painfully trying to connect with young voters through their supposed lexicon.


Although Milennials are not big spenders, yet, they will eventually move into income brackets that will have them replacing baby boomers and gen xers. They are the first generation to be exposed to the internet’s ubiquity and social media. They are the first to be exposed to and embrace social media AND the first to build on it, mainly as an advertising platform.


Now retail brands are catering to their Milennial audience, because they noticed the generation’s tendency to spend more time online, specifically on their phone. Websites have also become optimized for easier mobile navigation, seeing as the reliance on phones as a tool to access the internet (often) will not be disappearing anytime soon.


However, while mobile optimization has become a priority for brands, they’re still facing some issues with the checkout process….


3. “Traffic to retailers were split evenly between the desktop and mobile, but sales still heavily favored the PC. Mobile devices accounted for 31% of sales, and the desktop generated 69%, according to Adobe’s estimates.”


Take note of all the parts of that initial sentence. Visits to a retailers’ website were split down the middle between desktop and mobile, yet desktop purchases overwhelmingly beat out mobile purchases by a substantial margin.


Why? Let’s work out a couple theories:


  1. Mobile isn’t fully optimized yet
    1. Not every major retail brand has fully optimized mobile yet. Wal-Mart is a great example of a brand that has, however. It’s clear how much they know their audience and their tendencies, placing the best deals and best sellers at the top, and creating easily navigable listings separated by industry.
  2. It’s easier to buy on a desktop
    1. It’ll be intriguing to see how brands optimize the mobile checkout process. With all of the information that has to be input, it’s simply easier to input all of that info (Name, address, billing info, credit card info, etc.) with a standard keyboard on a desktop. Not to mention that some mobile sites are so poorly made that all of your info will be erased if a single input error is made.
  3. People feel more comfortable buying on a desktop
    1. If you’re as neurotic as I am, you want a full visual of what you are buying when checking out. You want to see the breakdown of what you’re paying for (Product price, tax, shipping) and the product itself and the quantity to make perfectly sure it’s correct. Obviously this is difficult to do on a mobile, simply because there’s not enough space.
  4. People are more likely to buy when browsing on a desktop rather than a mobile
    1. It’s easier to find yourself navigating over to Amazon or some other retail giant’s website while on a desktop. Plus, and this goes back to the issue with screen size, there’s more room on a desktop to survey the product landscape.


These are only theories. But there is a significant discrepancy between mobile and desktop purchases that has no doubt already caught the eye of retailers. Perhaps when Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2017 roll around, we’ll see a completely different layout to the way people make mobile purchases.


4. “Sales on Amazon amounted to almost 40 percent of online spending, according to Slice Intelligence.”



When you run a prosperous business that sells a little bit of everything instead of just one thing, these types of numbers should be expected.


No company makes searching for and finding a product easier than Amazon, partly because it has everything. There’s no limit to the products that are available on the online retail giant, nor is there a limit to just how many products can be sold. This is the benefit of running a company that bases its success on independent sellers in need of a large platform to sell on.


In fact, it’s surprising it’s not higher.


5. “Total holiday sales exceeded $1 trillion; online was just over 9%”


Neither of these metrics show any sign of decreasing:


“In 2015, approximately 103 million shopped online while 102 million bought in-stores. This year, the Internet had a clear advantage: More than 108 million purchased electronically, while only 99.1 million bought in stores.”

Unless there’s another Recession in the near future, which would likely cause a downturn in sales similar to what happened between 2011 and 2013, we should only expect more sales, especially online.

You’re not going to convince Americans to not buy things for the holidays. Start considering how to optimize your mobile website, navigation, and checkout page so that no conversion is left behind.

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