The Adobe Digital Index team has reviewed billions of visits to nearly 500 retail websites this past holiday season and the following is a summary of what we’ve found. When appropriate we’ve provided the data’s distribution to help retailers benchmark their performance against the industry.

As we predicted, nearly $2 billion was spent online on Cyber Monday in the United States. The biggest surprise in 2012 was huge online sales volumes on both Thanksgiving ($1.34 billion) and Black Friday ($1.57 billion). The data suggests that mobile shopping helped drive an unusually high amount of sales these days as consumers were able to shop from the couch while visiting with relatives on Thanksgiving and take advantage of deals while waiting in long lines at stores on Black Friday. In fact, effective mobile optimization finally allowed Brick-and-Click retailers to really take advantage of their showrooms to drive sales through their own websites rather than to competitors.

However, not all retailers fared equally on these special shopping days. On Cyber Monday, for example, the average retailer sold four times their normal daily online sales, but the top-performing quartile of retailers sold in excess of six times their normal daily online sales. Not bad for one day!

Although expected holiday online sales does differ by retailer category and type (see interactive graph), this data should help retailers understand the effect of special holiday shopping days regardless of their own marketing efforts. It can be argued that the typical retailer could have made 3X more than normal on Cyber Monday simply because natural propensity to consume increases on that day.

Traffic Sources

Social traffic has doubled since 2011, but continues to represent only a small share of total traffic to retailers when measured by last click referrals (last click vs first click). Retailers should think beyond first and last click attribution when they want to understand the influence of social marketing. Look for an upcoming post summarizing social engagement metrics.


Retailers are also seeing a significant increase in direct traffic relative to the 2011 holiday season. Rather than search for the retailer or click through display ads on affiliate websites, consumers seem to prefer navigating directly to the retailer’s website more and more. The extent to which encrypted search is masking search to appear as direct traffic is still be investigated. Increased direct traffic is generally good news for retailers as these visitors who know the website well enough to bookmark the site or navigate directly to it tend to be the most loyal and are the most likely to convert. Follow me @tyrwhite for an upcoming blog post regarding conversion by traffic source.

Mobile Traffic

The rise of mobile traffic should not be a surprising trend to any retailers, but some aren’t taking advantage of this trend nearly as well as others. Those retailers who have optimized for mobile visitors are seeing upwards of 25% of traffic from mobile devices, while those who haven’t or are just getting started are getting less that 10%. The graphs below show the rise in total mobile traffic for all retailers and the breakdown of that traffic between device types during the past holiday shopping season.

During the past holiday season smartphone visitors continued to make up a slight majority of all mobile traffic. Tablet traffic, however, is increasing at a faster rate than smartphone traffic to retail websites. And because visits from tablets are more likely to convert, tablets drove the majority of mobile sales during November – December 2012. 2.4% of tablet visits converted and 0.8% of smartphone visits converted.

eCommerce Funnel

The average retailer earned about $3.23 per visit to their website during the holiday season. Both conversion rate and average order value effect revenue per visit, but AOV remained relatively flat through 2012 at about $150 per order while conversion ticked up during the holiday season driving the seasonal pattern seen below.

Over the last five years we have seen a similar pattern of increased RPV during the holiday season as shopper propensity to purchase increases. Follow me @tyrwhite for an upcoming post regarding conversion funnel benchmarks.

Does this line up with what you saw with the visits to your retail website over the holiday season? Let us know!