Holiday Shopping Online: Trends and Statistics Across Retail and Ecommerce [Infographic]

Holiday Shopping Online: Trends and Statistics Across Retail and Ecommerce [Infographic]

Let’s cut to the chase: 2018 has already eclipsed 2017’s holiday shopping day-over-day stats. And in the U.S. alone, there’s still $65.5 billion on the table.

To make this holiday season your biggest ever, we’ve pulled together the most-meaningful 2018 holiday trends based on industry statistics and proprietary data from Shopify’s over 600,000 merchants.

Here’s an overview of where this special report is headed:

  1. Holiday Shopping 2018 Statistics: Ecommerce
  2. Mobile Takes Over Black Friday Cyber Monday
  3. Behold, the (Still) Almighty Power of Email
  4. AOV Makes or Breaks Holiday Success
  5. New Face of Black Friday Cyber Monday Discounts
  6. Top Products for Holiday Shopping Trends
  7. Holidays Go Global via Ecommerce
  8. Infographic: Holiday Shopping Online 🎁

Keep reading to discover the stats and trends

But if you’d like to go behind-the-scenes for comprehensive data collected from over 50 high-growth businesses …

Holiday Shopping 2018 Statistics: Ecommerce

The biggest of big pictures shows how crucial November and December are for online businesses, particularly if we pull back to 2015.

Total U.S. holiday online sales

Data eMarketer

Naturally, Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday are the biggest online shopping days. However, December is expected to outperform November by almost $7 billion.

Black Friday Cyber Monday 2018 is just the beginning of holiday shopping online

Data via StatistaAdobe Analytics, and compared to eMarketer projection

Given 2018’s remaining opportunity, learning as much as you can from the best holiday ecommerce strategies is critical.

Last year, Adobe reported 58 of Nov.-to-Dec.’s 60 shopping days saw over $1 billion in online U.S. sales. This year, the same source shows year-over-year growth across the board:

  • $3.7 billion on Thanksgiving up 27.9%
  • $6.2 billion on Black Friday up 23.6%
  • $7.9 billion on Cyber Monday up 19.3%
On Shopify, year-over-year growth in 2018 was even stronger …

Shopify businesses processed over $1.5 billion in GMV (total sales) during the four-day holiday.*

At their peak, this meant 10,978 orders per minute and $37 million sales per hour — 60.9% more than 2017’s $23 million sales per hour.

Shopify’s 2018 Black Friday Cyber Monday big picture

Data aggregated from Shopify merchants (2018)*; for a detailed look at the strategies behind that data, check out Holiday Ecommerce 2018: 10 Marketing Strategies from +$1.5B in Online Sales

On Black Friday alone, Shopify merchants generated …

During Black Friday 2018, Shopify merchants generated

In fact, Shopify’s BFCM revenue growth* was more than double U.S. ecommerce BFCM growth:

Black Friday Cyber Monday growth in 2018 vs 2017

The trouble is all those big numbers can feel overwhelming.

That’s why we’ve not only compiled all the data from 2017-2018’s holiday online shopping but also pulled out must-follow trends for this year and beyond.

Mobile Takes Over Black Friday Cyber Monday

Two years ago, mobile’s dominance over desktop solidified itself online. At least, in terms of usage.

Since then, the question haunting ecommerce has been, “Mobile traffic is nice. But how do we close the conversion gap and sell on mobile?”

Last year and this year’s holidays were no different. Total revenue was up on mobile — reaching a cumulative $35.8 billion during Nov. to Dec. in 2017 and hitting $2.1 billion on Black Friday 2018 (Adobe Analytics).

And yet, the disconnect between traffic and sales continues.

In the U.S., 57% of BFCM traffic came through a mobile device while mobile purchases only generated 39% of revenue.

Except on Shopify. Shopify storefronts essentially reversed those numbers with 66% of order during BFCM taking place on a mobile device.

Mobile takes over online holiday shopping on Shopify

Comparing orders by device throughout Nov. illustrates this point vividly:

Peak order volume by device on Shopify 2018 holiday shopping online

The dominance of mobile — and particularly the disparity between U.S. orders and Shopify — exposes an insight vital for ecommerce the whole year round: responsive isn’t enough.

Displaying beautifully across all screen sizes is a good start. Unfortunately, having a responsive online storefront is the equivalent of a cover charge; you have to pay to get into the party, but getting in doesn’t mean you’ll be the star.

What matters is optimizing your site for a mobile-first world.

Mike Mallazzo’s recent article, “How to Create Personalized Experiences for Unknown Black Friday, Cyber Monday Mobile Visitors,” offers a host of ways Dynamic Yield is doing that. His first example is also the most popular — page curl notification with personalized promotions.

Their use case illustrates why this mobile-based personalization is such a game changer:

“Consider that for a large outdoor retailer, Dynamic Yield data from Black Friday last year shows that iOS users spent about $110 on average while Android shoppers had an AOV of around $85.

“Thus, why not display a 20% off orders more than $100 for Android users to try and push them to increase the value of their baskets? For iOS users, the standard 20% promotion could apply to a more expensive category of items or those with particularly high margins.”

Moving forward, mobile payments must be as simple and intuitive as possible … particularly for impulse buyers.

Shopify Pay, for instance, helped over 400,000 online buyers checkout 3X faster last Black Friday Cyber Monday.

Shopify Pay helped over 400,000 online buyers checkout 3X faster last Black Friday Cyber Monday

If you’re a Shopify or Shopify Plus merchant, you can enable accelerated checkouts here

In the words of Alan Cassinelli, Director of Marketing at Peel — who saw its conversion rate double during 2017’s holiday:

“Accelerated checkouts really take advantage of the new technologies we have to purchase. It doesn’t make sense to have to re-enter the same information over and over again across all of the Internet.”

As an added touch, consider employing dynamic checkout buttons to reduce the number of clicks necessary to purchase.

Dynamic checkouts for impulse holiday shoppers

Follow the instructions here to enable dynamic checkout buttons on your site

Once a customer has selected their preferred payment method — ApplePay, PayPal, or Amazon Pay — Shopify’s backend remembers their choice and automatically presents it in the future.

Behold, the (Still) Almighty Power of Email

Despite its long-heralded death, email ruled this year’s online holiday shopping.

In addition to a jaw-dropping 7.6 billion emails being sent by retailers over BFCM, Klaviyo reported that while “the industry average for percentage of sales through email was 24%; businesses built on Klaviyo generated nearly 30%.”

Email is still the holiday champion

Klaviyo data based on 1.2 billion emails sent over Black Friday Cyber Monday

Even more striking were the conversion rates. On Shopify*, email led the pack in conversion rate by referral source in 2017 and 2018:

Shopify’s BFCM conversion rates by source

Unfortunately, for 64% of retailers, shoppers acquired during BFCM have a lower lifetime value (LTV) than shoppers acquired at any other time of the year. To survive one-and-done customers, post-holiday online shopping strategies need to be built around loyalty-driving lifecycle emails.

Charlie Casey, co-founder and CEO of LoyaltyLion, outlines nine email strategies to move your holiday buyers from one-time customer to repeat customer and from at-risk customer to loyal customer.

“At LoyaltyLion,” Casey explains, “we recommend having a post-BFCM loyalty strategy in place before committing your acquisition spend. Only once both are in place will you see the full benefit of BFCM.”

What applies to the holiday season applies equally beyond it. Email shows no signs of slowing down as a revenue driver … as long as you invest in segmentation, personalization, and crafting emails with which your customers want to spend time.

AOV Makes or Breaks Holiday Success

It’s common knowledge that conversion rates, sales, and traffic increase during the holidays. However, Criteo’s Black Friday 2018 Interactive Sales Dashboard — which calculates the indexed daily traffic and sales from more than 2,500 retail advertisers in 19 countries — shows just how dramatic those increases were in the U.S.:

    Criteo’s Black Friday 2018 Index U.S. for sales and traffic

    Data via Criteo’s Black Friday 2018 Interactive Sales Dashboard
    All those sales and traffic can be intoxicating … until you consider two sobering realities.

    First, despite triple-digit lifts in overall revenue, increased competition means that average order value per shopper is nowhere near that.

    In fact, Q4 average order value (AOV) for U.S. ecommerce has trailed Q3 AOV for the past two years:

    Average order value in U.S. ecommerce QoQ

    Data via Statista and comScore

    Worldwide AOV in ecommerce for Q4 over the last two years, while higher, hovers around the overall mean:

    Average order value in worldwide ecommerce QoQ

    Data via eMarketer

    Side-by-side, holiday AOV is stark:

    Holiday ecommerce AOV

    Second, CPC advertising on Facebook — as tracked by Common Thread Collective, an agency that runs content and creative for a host of heavy-hitting brands like North Face and DIFF Eyewear — skyrockets:

    2017 cost per click on Facebook during holiday shopping online

    Data via Common Thread Collective and WordStream

    At Black Friday’s peak, CPC jumps to an average of $1.68 for ecommerce brands. Compare that to the overall CPC of Facebook retail and ecommerce ads of $0.70, and that’s an increase of 140%.

    Put more bluntly …

    If all you do is what the rest of the industry does, you can expect it to cost you 140% more to  get clicked on Black Friday Cyber Monday … with nothing more than a 1.45% increase in AOV at best.

    That kind of ROAS can kill your holiday profitability even in the face of selling more overall.

    The key is to build your holiday advertising with AOV front and center: from your ads to your storefronts to your product pages to your checkout.

    For more on increasing AOV, take a look at Pura Vida’s in-cart “Mystery” item upsells as well as Muscle Nation, 100% Pure, and Brooklinen’s discounts based on spend in our Holiday Ecommerce 2018: 10 Marketing Strategies from +$1.5B in Online Sales.

    New Face of Black Friday Cyber Monday Discounts

    Part of that study asked participants to rank the effectiveness of 15 different holiday offers, deals, and discounts. Their answers showed clear winners and losers:

    Holiday offers, deals, and discounts ranked by effectiveness

    Interestingly, many of the top five “will not use” promotions — namely product bundles, discount tiers by order value, and free gifts with purchase — appeared when we examined 10 of the best holiday ecommerce strategies from 2018.

    More interesting still, Web Smith’s 2PM, Inc cataloged 77 discounts based on its Digitally Native Vertical Brand (DNVB) Power List for what it called a “Brand Equity Study.”

    “Brand equity,” writes Smith, “is a marketing term for the value of that brand. That value is determined by consumer perception of and experiences with the brand: awareness, recognition, trial, preference, and product loyalty are each vital components of this measure.”

    Smith’s hypothesis?

    “For consumers, price is the most important factor when considering the purchase of some brands’ products. Brands with the highest [brand equity] value, are known as veblen brands. A veblen brand defies economic law. As price rises, so does demand.”

    To test that hypothesis, 2PM divided BFCM discounts into six tiers with Tier 1 representing DNVBs that did not discount and Tier 6, the deepest discounts.

    DNVB discounts over BFCM 2018

    To look at the full list of brands and discounts, visit 2PM’s “Brand Equity Study”

    The more creative and the less drastic the discount promotion,” Smith concludes, “the better the odds of increased brand equity in the long-term.

    As with all best practices, industry data only gets us so far. Perhaps the most telling advice on the new face of Black Friday Cyber Monday discounts comes from Rich Fulop, CEO of Brooklinen, a company that appeared in all three of the linked resources in this section:

    “We did some extensive testing on our Black Friday deal structure in order to optimize AOV and CVR to ensure we ended up on target. This meant testing dollar-based deals vs %-based deals at different levels in order to find the winning combination to maximize ROI.”

    For Brooklinen, that testing led to a free gift offer and three discount tiers all tied to spend. The only way to know what’s right for your campaigns … is to test for yourself:

    Top Products for Holiday Shopping Trends

    Another perennial question is, “What product categories perform best?” Based on 2018 data from Shopify’s merchants*, here’s a cheat sheet:

    Holiday shopping online by products in 2018

    Data aggregated from Shopify merchants (2018)*

    Getting more precise, here is how specific products performed last year:

    Holiday shopping online by products in 2018

    Data aggregated from Shopify merchants (2017)

    Holidays Go Global via Ecommerce

    Black Friday Cyber Monday is now a worldwide phenomenon. In 2017, 20.9% of all BFCM sales through Shopify (GMV) came from 10 countries outside the United States. In 2018, 18.54% of all orders were shipped internationally* — i.e., cross-border from the merchant of origin.

    Holiday shopping goes global on Shopify

    Data aggregated from Shopify merchants (2017-2018)*

    Breaking those number down into the top 10 purchasing countries shows BFCM’s spreading influence …

    Top 10 countries by sales 2018

    Lastly, a closer look at nine of 2017’s countries reveals just how global online holiday shopping is becoming:

    2017 global sales growth on Shopify

    Data aggregated from Shopify merchants (2017)

    The truth is that global ecommerce isn’t just the present and future of holiday online shopping. It’s the present and future of commerce itself.

    Two lessons stand out …

    Number one, site performance and page speed are paramount. Especially when you go global.

    Part of the reason Shopify merchants are growing in over 175 countries is the dual content delivery networks (CDNs) Shopify provides to ensure international ecommerce visitors are given the fastest possible experiences.

    Number two, businesses must deliver fast offline orders regardless of where their customers live.

    For most online retailers operating at scale, this means finding a global fulfillment partner. After walking through a checklist of benefits, costs, and questions to vet such a partner, Nathan Resnick, CEO of Sourcify, concludes:

    “That moment when you feel like an international customer has the same experience as a domestic one is when your business will have crossed borders. This is when you’ll really be able to spark an international brand and create seamless customer relationships across the world.”

    It’s a lofty goal. One that the survival of your company may depend on.

    Infographic: Holiday Shopping Online

    The overlaps between holiday online shopping and year-round ecommerce are striking. In order for you to keep those lessons close at hand as you move through 2018’s holiday season and into 2019, we’ve put all the data and insights into a single infographic. 

    Holiday Shopping Online 2018-2017 Infographic

    *Shopify’s Black Friday Cyber Monday data was based on sales experienced by its more than 600,000 businesses in 175 countries around the world from November 23 to November 26, 2018. All data presented here is approximate and is based on various assumptions. All data is unaudited and is subject to adjustment.

    About the author

    Aaron Orendorff

    Previously the Editor in Chief of Shopify Plus, Aaron Orendorff is the VP of Marketing at Common Thread Collective. Named by Forbes as one of the top 10 B2B content marketers, his work has appeared on Mashable, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Fast Company, Inc., Success Magazine, The Next Web, Content Marketing Institute, and more.

    Check out Aaron Orendorff’s work