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Digital-First Holiday Weekend Off To Hot Start

The digital-first Holiday shopping weekend got off to a hot start as Thanksgiving looked more like Cyber Monday. Reports from Adobe, Salesforce and Shopify showed that retail sales on Thursday Nov. 26 were well ahead of expectations as the pandemic kept stores closed and online connections decidedly open.

Salesforce, which tracks retail orders through its data analytics capabilities, projected a 27 percent increase over 2019 and warned that the hot start to the season could further strain fulfillment and delivery capabilities for eCommerce.

“We are seeing a shopping surge during Cyber Week that will challenge logistical capabilities of many retailers. The winners and losers this holiday season will be defined by shipping and their ability to get gifts to the doorstep for the remainder of the holiday season,” said Rob Garf, the VP of Strategy and Insights at Salesforce. “Mobile devices have become the remote controls of our daily lives since the start of the pandemic, and it’s no different this holiday season. Retailers are forced to meet shoppers at the edge — on TikTok, Animal Crossing, Instagram and other emerging commerce platforms.”

Garf and his team said today, Black Friday, is on track to be the biggest digital shopping holiday globally for the fourth consecutive year, with online sales expected to reach $56.5B (18 percent YoY growth) globally and $11.9B (up 15 percent) in the U.S. This comes on the heels of record digital sales on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of Cyber Week. Digital sales on Tuesday grew 70 percent globally and 72 percent in the U.S., while Wednesday grew 51 percent globally and 48 percent in the U.S.

Retailers were winning with creative messaging and technology, according to Salesforce. On Thanksgiving Day, push notifications increased by 147 percent over 2019, and SMS increased by 138 percent. Curbside also helped retailers. “Retailers that offered curbside, drive-through and in-store pickup options in the U.S. increased digital sales at a 26 percent higher rate versus retailers that didn’t provide this service during the first days of Cyber Week,” the Salesforce report said. “Retailers made sure shoppers were aware of imminent shipping constraints. Shipping and delivery were prominent on 61 percent of emails. Potential delays and pickup options were specifically featured on more than 10 percent of emails.”

The Salesforce findings are consistent with PYMNTS research that shows consumers are more often starting their shopping journeys online and that a growing share are choosing to finish their journeys there and having products shipped to their homes. The portion of consumers who prefer wholly digital shopping journeys has increased 22 percent since the pandemic began, to the point that these digital natives now make up more than one-quarter of U.S. consumers.

According to PYMNTS, that digital shift stems from stores operating with limited hours and other restrictions, while consumers want to minimize the risk of exposure to the coronavirus and avoid other stresses at a time when many already face their fair share. This does not mean that consumers are ready to forsake brick-and-mortar stores, but they are looking for ways to make shopping trips as efficient and safe as possible. Our research shows that many consumers have shifted to cross-channel commerce, such as buying food and products online and retrieving them in stores or curbside. The share of cross-channel shoppers has grown by 28.2 percent since the pandemic began, and it now represents 12 percent of all consumers.

Adobe reported that states that had tighter restrictions on Thanksgiving Day gatherings saw higher online sales. “At a state level, online sales growth was 47% higher in states where gatherings of people from outside immediate households are prohibited compared to states with fewer COVID restrictions,” the Adobe report said. Adobe expected Thanksgiving Day sales to total about $6 billion, an all-time high. About half of all transactions were on mobile devices. For Shopify merchants, the amount of mobile shopping was higher, with 71 percent of sales on mobile and 29 percent on desktop.

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