The 2017 holiday season was another record-breaker in online sales.
Adobe reported $108.2 billion in online sales generated between November and December of last year, an increase of 14.7 percent year over year. Adobe’s final numbers were nearly a billion dollars more than what the company had predicted back in November, when it forecast online holiday sales would reach $107.4 billion.
Adobe’s online sales results are more than $30 billion less than the holiday online “and other non-store” sales of $138.4 billion that the National Retail Federation (NRF) reported, The NRF numbers represent an increase of 11.5 percent year over year.
Why the gap? While Adobe’s numbers are based on 80 percent of online transactions for the largest 100 online US retailers, NRF’s Craig Shearman, vice president for government affairs public relations, says his organization uses official government data from the Census Bureau.
“Census only reports online sales as such on a quarterly basis. On a monthly basis they report non-store sales,” says Shearman, “The bulk of non-store sales are online sales. The rest are channels such as mail-order catalogs, telephone sales, kiosks at the mall and vending machines.”
The NRF’s final sales numbers also came ahead of its earlier projection of $137.7 — by nearly $700 million.
NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay says that 2017’s booming holiday e-commerce results prove retail is the most nimble industry in the economy.
“Retail today doesn’t look like retail 10 years ago, and it certainly won’t look the same in another 10 years,” says Shay, noting how the retail industry continues to transform and reinvent itself to meet consumer demands.
Search marketing agency NetElixir also released 2017 holiday e-commerce findings, focusing on growth rates versus final sales numbers. Analyzing 400 million e-commerce visits from holiday traffic across its client base, NetElixir says e-commerce sales were up 13 percent year over year, falling in the middle of Adobe’s and NRF’s reported growth rates.
Mobile holiday activity continues to rise
In addition to overall growth, NetElixir reports mobile visits jumped across most retail categories, with apparel seeing the largest growth at 32 percent.
“All other categories saw single-digit increases for mobile visits, indicating that shoppers were using mobile devices more for browsing and product research this holiday season than before,” says NetElixir.
Adobe’s digital insights managing analyst, Siddharth Kukami, says consumers spent more time and money on their mobile device this holiday season than ever before. According to Adobe’s findings, mobile accounted for 33.1 percent of the total $108.2 billion generated, bringing in $35.9 billion.
Salesforce also teased it saw a surge in holiday mobile purchases. The company isn’t releasing its full 2017 holiday e-commerce report until later this month but did share a few bullet points around its holiday e-commerce results with Marketing Land.
According to Salesforce, 46 percent of all online orders on Thanksgiving Day 2017 happened on a mobile device. Christmas Day experienced the biggest jump in mobile shopping, with 50 percent of all online orders happening on mobile devices.
2017’s biggest revenue drivers during the holidays: paid search & email campaigns
Adobe says organic and paid search brought in the most revenue during the 2017 holiday season, with search driving 44.8 percent of all online holiday visits — paid search at 23.5 percent and organic at 21.3 percent.
Email was also a big driver of holiday revenue, accounting for 20 percent of online holiday site visits.
NetElixir says search marketers saw a 19.4 percent increase in average order values (AOV) during the 2017 holiday season, with conversions up 15.6 percent and impressions up 12.8 percent. The average cost per click also increased by 14.2 percent.
Udayan Bose, NetElixir’s CEO, says retailers should be paying special attention to the nearly 20 percent increase in AOVs it tracked.
“This dramatic increase implies that consumers are growing more comfortable making expensive purchases online,” says Bose, “The overall positive trend of other search marketing metrics indicate[s] that digital marketing is growing in effectiveness, leading consumers to the brands and products they are interested to purchase.”
Looking at 2017 online holiday AOVs for large retailers versus small retailers, Adobe says larger retailers’ AOV was two times higher than small retailers’ overall. For desktop holiday purchases, large retailers’ AOV was $176 compared to small retailers’ AOV of $86. On tablets, large retailers saw AOVs of $169 versus small retailers’ AOV of $79.
On mobile phones, small retailers’ AOVs were still less than large retailers’, but the margin was narrower at $149 versus $75.
Adobe found small retailers had the advantage when it came to converting online holiday visits to purchases, outperforming large retailers across the board on desktops, tablets and mobile phones.
Adobe: Average Conversion Over 5-day Holiday Weekend by Retailer Size
What about Amazon?
Amazon says it experienced its biggest holiday season in 2017, with more than a billion items ordered from small businesses around the world. The e-commerce giant also reported a nearly 70 percent increase in the number of global shoppers using the Amazon app this holiday season.
“Prime membership continued to grow this holiday,” said Amazon announcing its 2017 holiday results. “In one week alone, more than four million people started Prime free trials or began paid memberships.”
Slice Intelligence, a digital commerce analytics agency, says Amazon’s holiday sales were 25 percent compared to overall channel growth of 24 percent.
“November is actually Amazon’s weakest point of the year in terms of market share,” wrote Slice Intelligence principle analyst, Ken Cassar. “Amazon’s share January through October of 2017 was 37 percent, compared with 32 percent during November.”
Cassar says aggressive promotions and advertising initiatives from brick-and-mortar stores like Target, Walmart and other Amazon competitors helped these retailers take back market share during the holiday season.
If you’re curious about how search marketing strategies impacted this year’s holiday retail season, be sure to register for the SMX-sponsored webinar, “Holiday Retail Search Strategies 2017: What worked, what didn’t” on January 18. Marketing Land associate editor Ginny Marvin will join Brad Geddes, co-founder of Adalysis, Elite SEM’s Aaron Levy and CommerceHub’s Elizabeth Marsten to discuss how search marketing strategies performed during the 2017 holiday season and share results from SMX’s year-end Holiday Retail Search Marketing Survey.
You can register for the webinar at Holiday Retail Search Strategies 2017: What worked, what didn’t.