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Christmas 2016: A round-up of UK ecommerce stats and insight

We have an updated version of this blog to reflect stats and insights from Christmas 2018. See here.

Further to our popular Black Friday stats round up blog – Black Friday 2016: What really happened. A round up of UK ecommerce stats – we’ve collated the key predictions, data and insight you need to know about the Christmas period, a critical period in every Ecommerce Director’s calendar.

What were people predicting?

1. Record spending

IMRG, supported by SimilarWeb data, estimated that Christmas Day 2016 would be a significant online shopping day with online retail spend totalling £805m, a 10.1% year on year increase. Whilst total online retail spend on Boxing Day would see a 15% year on year increase reaching £984m.

Refering to this prediction, Dom Joseph, chief executive and co-founder of Captify, said: “Shopping online on Christmas Day is now as traditional as a ham and turkey dinner in the UK. Consumers no longer want to wait for the ‘sales’ to officially start on Boxing Day.”

Another contributing factor is the transition from physical, to virtual, gifts:

  • Justin Opie, managing director of IMRG was quoted as saying “Many people now receive gift cards which they can instantly redeem on the day to download the kinds of items that have become highly virtual.”
  • Amazon, who have seen Christmas Day sales more than double over the last five years, were expecting another busy day, made up primarily of:
    • Last minute purchases of printable and email-able gift cards between midnight and 11am
    • Digital downloads, Kindle books and steaming of music, TV and films from noon
    • Bargain hunters shopping for Christmas sale items 9pm

2. Mobile and tablet traffic continuing to dominate

In 2015, and for the first time ever, over half of online sales were made through mobile devices. This Christmas, Captify, as reported in Internet Retailing, predicted we would see record levels of shoppers using their mobiles as their preferred device for shopping.

Neil Stewart, CEO of Salmon, said: “As consumers turn more towards digital solutions to satiate their shopping needs and wants, we fully expect online orders – including mobile – to continue to increase over the festive period. We predicted correctly that 2016 would be the first year where mobile overtook desktop during the ‘Black Fiveday’ period and we’re already seeing the same thing happening at Christmas this year.”

A UK-wide ICM consumer study exploring consumer buying behaviour between Black Friday and Christmas in the UK and Criteo data from November to December 2015 found that nearly two thirds (62%) of online purchases made on Christmas Day are carried out using a smartphone, with just 28% of shoppers opting to buy on a desktop, making it the busiest day for mobile shopping in the UK.

What actually happened?

Online sales did rise, boosting festive spending

Individual, daily data for Christmas and Boxing Day is hard to come by, with most retailers announcing results for December, or Q4 as a whole. But the data available is still indicative of many predictions coming true.

  • Nearly a quarter of all December purchases were made online – the channel’s greatest share of sales to date with the British Retail Consortium reporting the penetration rate for online sales remaining above 20 per cent for the fifteenth consecutive month.
  • Better than expected trading figures released on ‘Super Thursday’ suggested a strong online showing for UK retailers given that Ipsos Retail Performance indicator results showed retail footfall down 9.3% in December 2016 compared with 2015 – the lowest level ever recorded for the month of December.
  • Visa reported consumer spending in the UK was up 2.6 per cent year-on-year in December, largely driven by online sales as face-to-face expenditure rose only slightly (0.7% year-on-year).
  • According to BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker, (which takes weekly sales figures from 70 participating high street retailers)
    • Online sales in December made up about 15% of all retail spending and were 19% higher than 2015.
    • For the week to 25 December, online orders saw an even steeper rise, up 51.1%.
  • Worldpay found that Boxing Day online sales jumped 15% year on year on.
  • In the United States, on Christmas day, 46.1%. of all online sales were made on Amazon

And mobile did rule

  • NetElixir analysed 90 million visits to retailer client websites between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year and reported:
    • Mobile accounted for 54% of traffic compared with about 51% in 2015.
    • Mobile purchases accounted for 31.3% of e-commerce sales, compared with just under 30% in 2015
    • Mobile device conversion rate increased from 1.15% in 2015 to to 1.45% in 2016
    • Average Order Value decreased 5.4% due to consumers typically spending more on desktops than on smartphones and tablets
  • Nearly half (47.1%) of all John Lewis’ Christmas Day traffic came from mobile phones and they saw a record volume of customers buying on their mobile phones.

And there’s more

Online shopping habits are changing…

PCA Predict’s Monthly Ecommerce Traffic Volumes shows an interesting new shape. Whilst December traffic was up 4% year on year, it was down 4% month on month. Could this signal that November, thanks to Black Friday’s recent dominance, will be the new peak online traffic month in the UK? And if so, why weren’t more people predicting this trend? Especially given that December 2015 traffic was 0.1% lower than November 2015 (down from the 5% year on year increase seen in 2014 and 13% increase seen in 2013.

…and online shoppers showed increased savviness when it comes to Christmas shopping

JDA & Centiro Christmas Customer Pulse 2017 reports:

  • 12% bought from an alternative retailer because their preferred retailer did not have items available online
  • 7% shopped with an alternative retailer because delivery times failed to meet their requirements
  • 39% of online Christmas shoppers used click & collect services in 2016 compared to 41% (2015) and 39% (2014). This percentage is expected to increase again in 2017 with 20% of those that used click & collect this year saying they would use click & collect more next Christmas

How was Christmas trading for you?

This digest collates country-wide trends. But what did your numbers look like? Did they conform what others saw or did your trading go against the grain? We’d love to hear from you, leave a comment below sharing your findings.

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