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.