4 Key Trends That will Shape Holiday E-Commerce this Year

While I was pumpkin-picking and cider-drinking this past weekend, my thoughts naturally turned to holiday e-commerce shopping. Fall is the time of year when retail marketers are putting the last ornaments on their holiday marketing plan, while the rest of the world turns to imbibing pumpkin spice latte the greatest trick capitalism ever pulled.

And so in the spirit of fall and holiday e-commerce prep, we took a look at holiday insights gleaned from The Custora E-Commerce Pulse: Custora’s free dashboard for US e-commerce stats, based on data analysis from over 100 retailers, 70 million anonymized shoppers, and $10B in transaction data. This post highlights some of the most interesting holiday shopping trends, and implications for e-commerce marketers.

All e-commerce holiday stats below (unless otherwise specified) are from the The Custora Holiday 2013 Recap Report and The Custora Holiday Snapshot (click the links to download the full reports).

Stay up to date with holiday e-commerce stats: The Custora E-Commerce Pulse, a free dashboard for US e-commerce stats, will track and report on holiday shopping trends during the 2014 holiday season. Sign up to the Pulse to get notified when we release new holiday updates and reports.


4 Key Trends for the 2014 Holiday E-Commerce Shopping Season


1) E-Commerce continues to take share from brick & mortar retail.

Last year (November – December 2013), e-commerce was the shining star in a ho-hum holiday retail season. While overall (online and offline) US retail growth during the holiday season was estimated to be 3.7% over 2012 according to the US Department of Commerce, e-commerce sales grew 12% year over year. Note – this figure is average growth across the US e-commerce industry as a whole. Leading e-commerce retailers grew 2.5X as much – 30% year over year compared to holiday 2012.

Key e-commerce shopping days exhibited even stronger growth: Black Friday sales were up 16% vs 2012, and Cyber Monday was up 18%, making it the biggest online shopping day in US history. (Download the full 2013 holiday recap report)


2) Two “hidden gems” in December earn as much revenue as Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two peak revenue days for many retailers during the holiday season, amounting to 8.6% of all holiday shopping revenue. However, the four days of December 1-4 (in 2012) brought in 9% of total holiday revenue, and December 10-13 account for 8.5%. In other words, each of these 4-day periods in early and mid-December are worth just as much in revenue as Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

Early and mid-December are pockets of opportunity within the holiday period with much less competition for consumers’ attention and share of wallet. Marketing campaigns during this time are likely to get a higher bang for their buck, so prudent marketers should save some of their holiday budget for post-Black Friday / Cyber Monday. As eloquently put by a digital marketer at one of Custora’s e-commerce customers, “We do really well on ‘oh-crap day’ – the day when people realize that ‘oh crap, it’s 10 days till Christmas and I haven’t bought anything yet.’” (Download the full Holiday Snapshot report)


3) Search and email are the key to e-commerce success during the holiday season. Social media is (still?) not driving orders.

Search (free and paid) is still the primary driver of online shopping, with over 40% of e-commerce orders originating on Organic Search (26%) and Paid Search / SEM (15%). Email Marketing accounted for 16% of e-commerce orders, up from 13% in 2012.

Social Networks (including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram) generated less than 2% of e-commerce sales during the holidays shopping season, same as in 2012. (Download the full 2013 holiday recap report)


4) Black Friday is Mobile Friday.

In holiday 2013, mobile devices (phones and tablets) accounted for 16.2% of online orders: Phones accounted for 6.4% of online purchases, and tablets accounted for 9.8%.
Black Friday was “Mobile Friday”, with almost 40% of purchases made on mobile devices, compared to only 25% in 2012.
In 2014, the mobile shopping trend continues, with mobiles devices accounting for 20.6% of all orders as of August 2014. It is likely that Black Friday 2014 is going to see the majority of online orders done on mobile devices, for the first time in history. Hence, Black Friday can be a great time to target mobile customers with special promotions and exclusive sales; the flip side, however, is increased competition on share of mind and wallet. (Download the full Mobile E-Commerce Report)

More Holidata
Download the full 2013 Holiday Recap Report below to get a proper handle on Holiday 2013 before Holiday 2014 comes to overwhelm us all.

Get the 2013 Holiday Recap Report

2 thoughts on “4 Key Trends That will Shape Holiday E-Commerce this Year

  1. Hello there, I’d like to comment on ‘Social not driving orders’. A recently released benchmark (Google) regarding the impact of marketing channels on the customer journey states that social media’s influence is undervalued due to the use of last-click attribution model.

    Social, as a marketing channel, has more than twice the impact on the assistance process (Awareness, Consideration and Intent) than on the decision one (purchase).

    The work suggests that by making a minor adjustment on how we measure conversion we are very likely to see Social as one of the top performers. The impact of this finding can change the way marketers prioritize investments in their marketing budgets and how they allocate spend across digital channels.

    I do agree that Social still has a long way before becoming a sales-generating driver. I do also believe that there are some ‘hidden benefits’ of investing in Social though.

  2. Thanks a lot for the thoughtful comment, João. We’re assuming you’re referring to this Google research, which is indeed thought-provoking:


    We certainly agree that social media is an important tool in the e-commerce marketing toolbox. Like you said, social media drives awareness, brand affinity, and brand conversations. However, it does not directly drive purchases – at least not right now. We performed the analysis mentioned in the post using both Last Click and other attribution methods (including First Click), and the results didn’t significantly change. One thing we’re working on that might have the ability to change social media’s perceived impact is CLV (customer lifetime value) attribution: The idea that social media might be driving acquisition of new members, that end up making purchases as a result of other channels, like email marketing or search.

    Stay tuned, and thanks again for taking the time to comment!


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