The 2017 holiday season was predicted to be bigger and better than ever before and e-commerce was in position to take a large part of the holiday pie.
Now that we’ve rung in the New Year, it’s time to reflect on the wins and losses of the 2017 e-commerce holiday shopping season.
1. Overall Holiday Retail Sales Exceeded Expectations
USA Today called this year “One of the best holiday shopping seasons in years” in an article chronicling the last days of shopping before Christmas.
2. Online Shopping Increased Too
According to Mastercard’s data, online retail sales increased 18.1% over 2016. This should come as no surprise—nearly half of survey respondents mentioned e-commerce as their go-to holiday shopping venue according to a BI Intelligence briefing published prior to the start of the season.
3. Couriers Delivered On Time
In tangent to the increase in online sales, couriers also delivered more packages than ever before. According to Bloomberg, UPS delivered its packages on time 99.1% of the time and FedEx 98.7% of the time. This means that a few people didn’t have their presents under the tree in Christmas morning, but overall performance was good.
In past years, USPS, UPS, and FedEx have struggled to meet demand. In some years, couriers on-time delivery rate suffered. In other years, overestimations caused couriers to have idle and wasted resources.
One challenge this year was the increased volume of 2-day and same-day shipping.
The Washington Post reported on Amazon’s final on-time delivery:
“The last order to make it in time for Christmas through Prime Now — Amazon’s same-day, intracity delivery service — was delivered in Baltimore at 11:58 p.m. on Christmas Eve. The order included a remote-control car, a 28-pack of crayons and a mock remote control for toddlers, the company noted.”
4. Amazon Did What Amazon Does Best
The CNBC All-America Economic Survey showed that 76% of online shoppers expected to do most of their shopping on Amazon. Walmart was the next most popular choice with just 8% of respondents expecting to do most of their shopping there.
Amazon didn’t disclose performance numbers, but did publish many related facts in press release on December 26th. The giant’s fulfillment centers “picked, packed, and shipped more than one million customer packages in a single day.”
5. Mobile Traffic Made a Name for Itself
We’ve been hearing “Mobile First” for a long time, but few retailers have made it a top priority of their e-commerce strategy. After the 2017 holiday shopping season, this will probably change.
Mobile traffic exceeded desktop on Black Friday for the first time ever. According to Adobe Insights, smartphone and tablet traffic throughout the season comprised of 55% of retail traffic where desktop was 45%. Smartphone and tablet traffic led to 38% of online purchases and desktop brought in 62%.
Even though the conversion rate for desktop is higher, the volume of mobile traffic is reason enough to optimize m-web and native app e-commerce experiences.
Speaking of mobile, of all the mobile devices activated during the holiday season, MacRumors reported that 44% were Apple devices.
6. Black Friday Remains Relevant
More and more people are shopping online, especially on Cyber Monday, and retailers are offering deals earlier and later throughout the shopping season. This made many wonder if Black Friday would still be the landmark day of the holiday shopping season.
The short answer: yes. According to Retail Dive:
“A record $5.03 billion was spent online by the end of the day on Black Friday, a 16.9% increase over the $4.3 billion spent on the day last year, according to Adobe Analytics, which fell in line with expectations for the day.”
7. New Year, New Goals: Returns and Gift Cards
Post-holiday shopping, spending, and gifting, retailers now will shift gears to handle returns and gift card spending.
Returns are set to be yet another money-maker and logistical challenge for couriers. The LA Times reported:
“About 8% of items bought in the U.S. end up being returned, according to the National Retail Federation. In 2015, this translated to $260.5 billion in goods returned, not including the cost of processing and shipping. In online retail, the retail federation estimates that the figure for returns is 15% to 30%. For some online clothing retailers, it can be as high as 40%.”
An article from CBS news noted that when looking at the $598 billion spent on holiday shopping this year, there’s additional spending from gift cards that retailers won’t count until redeemed. This is an opportunity for retailers to make incremental gains on top of the gift card amount.
So even though the biggest shopping season of the year has ended, there’s still more work to be done and more money to be made.