Holiday e-commerce reached new heights in 2018 — officially pulling in $126 billion

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E-commerce sales over the holidays, running from the beginning of November through the end of the year, totaled $126 billion, up from $108.2 billion in 2017, according to a report from Adobe Analytics.

Global Holiday E-Commerce Sales
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This amounts to a 16.5% year-over-year (YoY) increase in holiday e-commerce sales, which is a notable acceleration from the 2017 holidays’ 14.7% YoY growth and 2016’s 14.4% annual growth. This significantly outpaces the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) forecast for overall holiday retail growth — which was expected to be between 4.3% YoY and 4.8% YoY — as e-commerce continues to drive growth in the industry.

These record holiday sales highlight the need to take advantage of m-commerce and Thanksgiving weekend:

  • Mobile shopping took on new importance in 2018, with smartphones driving over half of traffic for the first time. Smartphones accounted for 51% of traffic and 31% of revenue, up 25% and 34% annually, respectively. This shows that offering a quality shopping experience through mobile apps and sites is key to driving holiday sales. Brands and retailers should note that m-commerce is particularly important on weekends, when smartphones' share of visits and revenue rose 6% and 8%, respectively. Smartphones continue to struggle with conversion, however, so retailers must find ways to improve their offerings to maximize the channel's value.
  • Thanksgiving weekend’s share of holiday online sales rose to nearly one-fifth in 2018. The weekend made up 19.2% of sales during the holidays, up from 18.1% a year prior. So, although there are plenty of online sales to be made outside of the five-day period, retailers need to capitalize on it during future holiday seasons since its share may grow further. Additionally, making sales over Thanksgiving weekend can build loyalty for the remainder of the holiday season, which is key to growing sales and beating competitors: On average, shoppers spent 40% more per day over the three weeks after Cyber Monday than they did during the first three weeks of November.

Brick-and-mortar stores still have an important role to play during the holidays, as they were a popular destination for shopping and online order pickup. Despite the rise in e-commerce sales, 93% of shoppers made a trip to a store during the holidays and 70% went to a mall, according to a survey from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) cited by Retail Dive. Respondents also reported doing 44% of their holiday spending at stores, compared with 24% on Amazon, showing that stores are still relevant for holiday shopping.

Meanwhile, Adobe found that the number of buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) orders from November 1 through December 19 jumped 47% YoY. Consumers are therefore becoming more interested in pickup options for their online orders, making stores focal points of both in-store and online orders. Retailers should invest in their ability to fulfill both roles to succeed going forward.

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