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!