The 2013 hol­i­day shop­ping sea­son blew by at a record pace. With six fewer days between Thanks­giv­ing and Christ­mas than 2012, Adobe Dig­i­tal Index spec­u­lated that retail­ers may lose up to $1.5 bil­lion in poten­tial rev­enue if mar­ket­ing pro­grams failed to cap­ture even greater daily sales than the Dig­i­tal Index model pre­dicted. Now that the sea­son is com­plete, Dig­i­tal Index has just released its 2013 eCom­merce Bench­mark and Hol­i­day Shop­ping Report which offers more than 25 eCom­merce bench­marks — and points to some hol­i­day shop­ping surprises.

Online Sales Grew by 18% over last year

Despite the short­ened sea­son, online sales grew at a rate equiv­a­lent to 2012. Most days mir­rored our pre­dic­tive model but Black Fri­day was much big­ger than expected. Black Fri­day online sales started ear­lier, peaked higher and lasted longer than expected and grew 39% year over year, led by mass mer­chant online retail­ers, toys, and sport­ing goods. This strong growth sends a clear sig­nal that retail­ers were able to get con­sumers to click and buy via strong mar­ket­ing acqui­si­tion pro­grams in dig­i­tal media, opti­mized user expe­ri­ences and improved mobile accessibility.

by hour

Huge Sales on Black Fri­day Added to Sea­sonal Revenue

Imme­di­ately fol­low­ing Thanks­giv­ing weekend’s results, many won­dered if consumer’s were actu­ally spend­ing more or were just chang­ing the tim­ing of their pur­chases? As it turned out, they did spend more on Thanks­giv­ing week­end but ulti­mately, not enough to make up for the loss of six shop­ping days.

Online sales

What’s more, US retail­ers are becom­ing more depen­dent on hol­i­day shop­ping. Novem­ber plus Decem­ber accounted for 27% of total annual online sales for the aver­age US retailer. Com­pared with other coun­tries, the US is most depen­dent upon these two months. Other coun­tries who receive more than one quar­ter of their years’ online sales include Aus­tralia and Spain. Switzer­land is least depen­dent at just over 12%.

annual holiday

Mobile Shop­ping Was Even Big­ger Than Expected

Dig­i­tal Index reported a surge in mobile shop­ping in 2012. This year, we pre­dicted that mobile would account for nearly 20% of all rev­enue on Black Fri­day, while con­sumers waited in check­out lines or vis­ited fam­ily over the Thanks­giv­ing week­end. Con­sumers said they would shop 40% more from their mobile device than last year but appar­ently shopped even more than they expected. Black Fri­day actual mobile shop­ping came in 25% above expec­ta­tions with one in four online shop­ping dol­lars trans­acted through a smart­phone or tablet device.  Dig­i­tal Index pre­vi­ously pointed out that mobile strate­gies would become crit­i­cally impor­tant dur­ing the Thanks­giv­ing week­end and appar­ently retail­ers were well pre­pared to con­duct those transactions.

sales by day

Con­sumers in the UK, fol­lowed closely by Aus­tralia, proved to be the most mobile shop­pers dur­ing the last hol­i­day sea­son. Japan con­tin­ues to see more smart­phone shop­ping with more than dou­ble the share of pur­chases com­ing from smart­phones than any other coun­try. Tablets are dis­pro­por­tion­ately less impor­tant in Japan but that won’t be true for long.


Impact from 2013 on Retail­ers This Year

Online retail shop­ping is sup­ported by an ecosys­tem which includes prod­uct avail­abil­ity, pack­ag­ing, cus­tomer ser­vice as well as ship­ping and logis­tics. Orches­tra­tion across the ecosys­tem also relies on pre­dic­tive mod­els to build capac­ity dur­ing peak sea­sonal demands. Any out­age that results in a gift not arrv­ing on time could cause con­sumers to lose the trust built in online shop­ping over the past 7 years. This sea­son Adobe Dig­i­tal Index’s over­all pred­i­ca­tion came within one per­cent of our pro­jec­tion, with the excep­tion of Black Fri­day. Its pos­si­ble that retail­ers and ship­pers also under­es­ti­mated the surge in online shop­ping on Black Fri­day dri­ven by mobile shop­ping. The abun­dance of online shop­ping Thanks­giv­ing Week­end is likely to have insti­gated ship­ping delays and capac­ity over­load which lead to some irri­tated retail­ers and dis­ap­pointed cus­tomers. In 2014, larger retail­ers will seek more con­trol of the ecosytem to insure cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion. Growth in 2014 will depend on rebuild­ing some trust lost this sea­son due to ship­ping delays. 

For addi­tional insight fol­low Adobe Dig­i­tal Index on Twit­ter, and get the full 2013 Hol­i­day Shop­ping and eCom­merce Bench­mark report here.