Online and mobile sales drove the 2016 holiday season

February 2, 2017
3 min read

While many traditional brick and mortar retailers, like JCPenney’s and Macy’s, struggled to entice customers and drive sales through the 2016 holiday season, online and mobile sales in total had a very different holiday. According to Adobe Inc., US online sales totaled $91.7 billion for the 2016 holiday season, a 10.5% increase from 2015. While store sales and traffic declined during the five days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, compared to 2015, online sales were up about 15%, suggesting that more consumers are choosing the convenience of online/mobile shopping for their holiday needs rather than heading to the mall.

43% of US consumers
say they do more online shopping
than they used to
Several factors appear to have impacted these positive online results, including the fact that more shoppers opened both Black Friday and Cyber Monday email campaigns in 2016 than in 2015, according to Adobe Inc. Consumers were also browsing and buying on their smartphones more than they have in the past, with online visits occurring on a smartphone increasing in the past year as mobile retail sales more than doubled from 2014-16. Indeed, 43% of US consumers say they do more online shopping than they used to, according to Mintel’s Online and Mobile Shopping US 2016 report. One thing is certain, more shoppers are moving past just browsing on their phones.

Unsurprisingly, Amazon dominated the online sales throughout the season, owning Thanksgiving weekend sales and finishing strong at the top during the last week of Christmas. While Amazon was the clear winner of online sales, other retailers such as Walmart, Target and Best Buy were the next in line for top online traffic and sales during the holidays. Many retailers used different approaches to winning customers, such as changing shipping deadlines, changing prices and implementing earlier Black Friday deals. What’s more, Amazon’s Digital Day on December 30 included discounts on some of its electronics and digital content, providing shoppers a reason to utilize any gift cards they may have received for Christmas and keep the shopping season going.

What we think

While most shoppers already participate in online shopping, traditional holiday shopping had always been dominated by brick and mortar, fueled by the excitement of events like Thanksgiving Day store openings and Black Friday sales. The most recent holiday results show just how many shoppers are becoming comfortable doing more shopping online, and not just on their desktops. Running out to the mall early Black Friday morning may become less appealing when consumers can shop the deals from the comfort of their homes and on-the-go with their smartphones.

The digital platform shouldn’t be ignored during the holidays. Ample merchandise should be available both online and in-store and relevant deals should be available on both platforms, increasing the chances of attracting shoppers however they’re shopping. Retailers need to have a valid online presence, but can still look for ways to drive the online shopper in-store and vice versa. Offering services such as buy online/ship to store or online ordering while in-store will appeal to all consumers, regardless of how they shop.

Alexis joined Mintel in December 2016 as Retail and Apparel Analyst. Alexis has a background in corporate retail merchandising, with specific knowledge of the grocery and apparel categories. She has previously held merchant and analyst roles and has experience in both building strategic and innovative assortments and providing the insight to assist in merchandising decisions. She brings product knowledge, analytical perspective and genuine passion for retail to her current role on the Reports team. Alexis received her B.A. in Communications from LaSalle University in Philadelphia.

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