Festive season online shoppers spent $1.1tn globally

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The COVID-19 pandemic led to explosive growth in online sales between 1 November and 31 December 2020, with consumers across the globe spending $1.1 trillion, compared to $723 billion in the same period in 2019.

This is according to the 2020 Holiday Shopping Report compiled by global customer relationship management company Salesforce. It consolidates insights from over one billion global shoppers across more than 40 markets, combined with additional e-commerce data from between 1 November and 31 December 2020.

According to Salesforce, the report shows there was a more than 50% increase in digital spending when compared to the 2019 shopping season, making 2020 one of the biggest digital holiday shopping seasons to date.

"The 2020 holiday season was defined by the pandemic, and forced retailers and brands to innovate quickly with the introduction of services like kerb pickup, virtual concierges and a focus on social messaging and live-streaming to reach shoppers in new ways,” says Rob Garf, VP, industry strategy for retail, Salesforce.

“We expect to see these new innovations remain in 2021, with holiday strategies becoming the new standard that consumers expect from their favourite retailers and brands.”

The report notes the pandemic changed consumers’ shopping behaviour more in one year than in the last decade combined. From how they shop, to what they buy and what keeps them coming back – shoppers now expect seamless digital-first experiences.

“While consumers stayed indoors to minimise the spread of COVID-19, retailers went all out to deliver digital-first holiday shopping experiences around the world. The result has been extraordinary industry transformation and holiday trends that forecast the future of retail,” says Salesforce.

A Mastercard study on consumer spending, released in November, found 68% of South African consumers are shopping more online since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key 2020 holiday shopping insights from the Salesforce report include:

  • Digital commerce surged later in the year, despite an earlier start to the holiday season:

Although retailers kicked off holiday discounts and promotions earlier in October, the bulk of digital sales were still generated during traditional shopping holidays. Total Cyber Week online sales reached $270 billion globally, while the first two weeks of December accounted for $181 billion in global sales.

  • Retailers offering curbside and other pickup options grew almost twice as fast as those that didn’t:

With strained shipping systems and consumers prioritising safety, retailers with curbside, drive-through and in-store pickup options outperformed those without these services.

US retailers which offered these options increased digital revenue by 49% on average year-on-year, while retailers which didn't only saw 28% average growth year-on-year.

Retailers offering curbside, drive-through and in-store pickup options also experienced 54% digital revenue growth year-on-year in the five days leading up to Christmas, compared to 34% growth for those who didn’t.

  • Consumers embraced financing options:

With consumers looking to pay for big ticket holiday gifts in instalments, buy-now-pay-later usage saw a year-on-year increase of 109%, with the biggest increase taking place the week before Christmas.

  • Sporting goods and home goods were the hottest product categories:

Revenue for sporting goods grew 108% compared to the previous year, home goods grew 89%, and food and beverage kept pace with 80% growth. Active apparel (35%), footwear (39%) and general apparel (40%) experienced the least growth in revenue this holiday season.

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