Holiday Digital Shopping Dominated 2017: Here’s Why

This year, consumers pulled their holiday digital shopping earlier than ever, marking a massive shift in the peak shopping season. Instead of waiting for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals to hit, shoppers started turning to their phones and computers the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to get a jump start on holiday shopping, and that momentum carried on throughout the weekend.

For the second year in a row, Black Friday surpassed Cyber Monday as the busiest holiday digital shopping day of the year. Black Friday ecommerce revenue grew by 32% this year and Thanksgiving Day revenue grew by 30%, while Cyber Monday only saw an increase of 15%. Additionally, the combined 26% revenue growth of the three days is nearly double the 15% growth rate in Q3 of this year, revealing not only are consumers shopping earlier, they are spending more.

What’s causing this shift in consumer behavior? A recent report from Salesforce revealed digital commerce, mobile and personalization single-handedly led to retailers’ success not only during these two big shopping days but all of Cyber Week (11/21-11/27).

AI Makes an Impressive Impact

For starters, this year we saw the direct impact of AI on retailer’s success this holiday season. On Black Friday alone, only 6% of consumers engaged with product recommendations but accounted for 30% of all digital revenue, an incredible 5x return on each shopper. This trend continued on Cyber Monday, with 5% of consumers engaging with product recommendations, which accounted for 24% of digital revenue that day.

The role of AI in the shopper’s path to purchase becomes even more clear as when we look at how shoppers continue to research products across all digital channels before making a purchase. This year, shoppers used the expected channels, such as websites (74%), email (43%), social media (38%) and mobile apps (36%) to research products. However, what’s surprising is the rapid embrace of voice-enabled digital assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, used by 40% of millennials as they research merchandise before buying online.

Mcommerce Surpassed Desktop for Retail Traffic

In addition to AI, mobile was another standout in terms of holiday digital shopping. For the first time, this season mobile commerce surpassed computers for retail traffic. Mobile phones accounted for an unprecedented 60% of traffic to retail sites and 41% of orders during this year’s Cyber Week. What’s more is that for the first time ever, computers accounted for less than half of all orders, proving that mobile has become a platform for all areas of shopping, from browsing through purchase.

Online and In-Store Personalization is Key

As shoppers continue to make new channels a part of their shopping journey, one trend remains clear: whether online or in-person, consumers expect their brand experiences to be personalized and seamless. It’s no surprise that 59% of millennials feel it would help if physical stores knew about their online research before arriving at a store. However, 60% agree that retail experiences are disconnected. It is crucial to a brand’s success that they leverage technology to connect and individualize experiences across all customer channels.

Just like watching television, this holiday season proved holiday shopping has moved from an appointment based activity to an on-demand activity, and retailers are making the necessary adjustments such as leveraging artificial intelligence and emerging voice platforms, to deliver the seamless, connected and personalized brand experiences that meet consumer expectations.

As consumer behavior continues to evolve over throughout future holiday seasons, we look forward to seeing technology’s role in shifting shopping habits.

Rick Kenney is Head of Consumer Insights for Salesforce Commerce Cloud

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