Digital retail explodes in 2018 holiday period, especially from mobile

Shoppers were out early and in force, buying strongly through digital means, with mobile leading the way, according to Salesforce monitoring.

Top five retailers, brands and products this holiday season according to Salesforce. [Credit: Salesforce]

Retailers working within the Salesforce Commerce Cloud saw strong digital growth this holiday season, indicating an excellent year when looking at digital retail. Customers saw a record amount of orders this season (November 20 through December 26), with 18% growth in digital orders and a 12% increase in digital revenue year-over-year. Between November 20 and December 3, 25% of shoppers displayed a buying signal, such as completing a purchase, adding a product to cart, starting a checkout, or using site search – the highest rate ever recorded – indicating early it would be a strong holiday season. Fifty per cent of holiday shopping was completed by Monday, December 3. By December 15, 80% of shopping was complete, just in time for the USPS Christmas shipping deadline on December 14.

For the report, Salesforce combined insights on the activities of hundreds of millions of global shoppers across more than 30 countries powered by Commerce Cloud, billions of consumer engagements powered by Marketing Cloud, and millions of customer service cases viewed in Service Cloud to give retailers the data and insights they need to prepare for the 2019 holiday shopping season. The season's top retail highlights and trends include:

For the first time, mobile shopping eclipsed desktop: 48% of orders came from mobile devices, compared to 44% from computers (mobile orders were up 19% over 2017). Sixty-six percent of traffic came from mobile devices, an increase of 11% over 2017. A resounding 74% of shoppers browsed from mobile phones on Christmas Day.

Artificial intelligence boosted holiday shopping revenues: 16% of Cyber Week buyers engaged with AI-powered product recommendations and spent 14% more than those that did not. AI-driven product recommendations saw peak engagement on Cyber Monday, with 18% of buyers engaging and averaged 15% for the season.

Significant increase in digital wallets made checkout seamless: 28% of mobile shoppers used wallets like Apple Pay or PayPal and 29% of mobile orders came from mobile wallets on peak days including Black Friday and Cyber Monday. With reduced friction between discovery and purchase, shoppers using mobile wallets checked out 90 seconds faster than those that did not.

Social media was the breakout channel for holiday traffic. Social traffic grew 34% year-over-year for the entire holiday season, with Facebook and Instagram accounting for 93% of social-referred visits. Nike, Amazon and the iPhone were the most talked about companies and products on social media this holiday season.

"Retailers saw strong digital growth this holiday season," said Rob Garf, VP, Industry Strategy for Retail, Salesforce. "Rather than the retail apocalypse that many have proclaimed, we saw signs of a massive digital transformation. Enhancements in artificial intelligence, mobile, and social triggered a fundamental shift in the way shoppers will browse and buy into the future."

Commerce Cloud customers saw more than 18% growth in digital orders placed year-over-year and global brands and retailers saw more than 12% overall digital revenue growth during the season. Brands and retailers saw a 10% overall traffic increase, with the biggest gains on December 23.

Marketing Cloud sent over 88 billion emails, mobile SMS and push notifications this holiday season. That is a 23% year-over-year increase in email sends and 25% year-over-year increase in messages (emails, sms and push) sent during the entire holiday season.

2018 Salesforce Holiday Insights and Predictions Methodology

Salesforce combined data-based insights on the activity of hundreds of millions of global shoppers across more than 30 countries powered by Commerce Cloud, billions of consumer engagements and millions of public social media conversations through Marketing Cloud and customer service data from 200 million service cases powered by Service Cloud. This is in addition to survey data from more than 6,000 consumers across six countries in Salesforce's "Shopper-First Retailing" report with research partner Publicis.Sapient.

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