Salesforce has released its 2021 Holiday Shopping Report. The report suggests retail shopping returned to somewhat regular operations last year as consumers emerged from COVID-19 lockdowns. However, the holiday season shopping results were anything but normal. The biggest concern was the supply chain, which was stretched beyond its limit in the last months of the year. Salesforce data shows an acceleration in digital shopping adoption, cementing the stronghold that digital established over retail during 2020. In 2021, online holiday sales across November and December rose 5% year over year worldwide to $1.14 trillion and 9% in the U.S. to $257 billion. While this growth seems relatively modest, remember that it was on top of the massive growth witnessed in 2020.
Salesforce’s report shopping data from over one billion shoppers on the Salesforce Customer 360 platform. The report highlights activity across commerce, marketing, and service (including 24 of the top 30 US online retailers).
Top Salesforce 2021 holiday shopping insights
Salesforce data highlights trends that shaped the holiday season, including:
- Last-mile shipping challenges radically shifted the 2020 holiday season’s roadmap. Then, in 2021, first-mile challenges significantly impacted the ability to move containers into ports and through the supply chain. With consumers recognising the impact on product availability, Salesforce predicted that shopping would commence earlier in the holiday season. The data confirms that considering inventory challenges, global early-bird shopping delivered a 16% year-over-year increase in online sales during the first week of November.
- Shoppers splurged early and late this holiday season. Shoppers were eager to secure gifts ahead of the retail rush to avoid issues with shipping delays and out-of-stock products. 30% of global holiday sales completed by November 22. Cyber Week accounted for 23% of global sales (down from 24% in 2020). As consumers missed online shipping cut-off dates and concerns grew around new COVID-19 variants. 23% of global digital sales were placed between December 18 and December 31. Stores that offered curbside or in-store pickup options over the same time period captured 62% of these final global sales.
- Digital-first consumers embraced flexible payment methods. High holiday prices and discounts in the US fell 10% year-over-year (YoY). The use of Buy Now, Pay Later services in the US during the holiday season increased 40% compared to 2020. Consumers turned to these offerings throughout the holiday season to offset the higher price tags. Alternative payment forms, including PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay, also increased by 15% YoY in the US.
Luxury sector and social commerce
- Luxury handbags and home furniture were the fastest-growing categories online. As consumers shifted their spending from needs to wants this holiday season. As a result, luxury handbags had the highest YoY global growth with an increase of 45% in online sales. Home furniture and general footwear trailed closely behind at +34% and +32% growth respectively.
- Social commerce continues to influence consumer buying behaviour. A survey of 1,600 global shoppers from Salesforce’s 4th edition of the Connected Shoppers Report found that by 2023, 25% of shopping is projected to happen beyond a retailer or brand’s website, app, or physical store. In the 2021 holiday season, 4% of global digital sales on a mobile device were made through a social media app. 10% of mobile traffic originated from consumers browsing through social networks. As retailers begin to build in the metaverse, it’s clear that shoppers are ready to purchase across new channels.
- Stores played a critical role this holiday. While consumers continued to embrace digital this holiday, physical stores proved to be key throughout the shopping season. In fact, 60% of global digital sales were influenced by brick-and-mortar – from generating to fulfilling demand. The evolving role of the store – and associates – helped to break down friction across digital and physical touchpoints.
Brands must engage with shoppers
According to Rob Garf, VP and GM of Retail at Salesforce, “Despite the lingering pandemic and countless obstacles such as supply chain logistics, low inventory, and fewer discounts. Consumers flocked online to close out this holiday shopping season with a bang,” said Rob Garf, VP and GM of Retail, Salesforce. “As we move into a new year, retailers must push brands to platforms including social, gaming, messaging, and the metaverse. Brands must engage shoppers where they are discovering and buying products. They must also double down on efforts to reimagine physical stores to support continually changing digital experiences.”
Enterprise Times: What this means for business.
Salesforce’s figures indicate Cyber Week saw muted digital growth in 2021. However, consumers worried about getting presents for the holiday season caused early November and late December surges in revenues. This helped retailers break sales records. However, retailers cannot afford to get complacent in 2022. However, it is the macro-economic issues, beyond the control of brands and retailers that can mess up the upward movement. The range of issues are varied and complex and threatens the inexorable emergence of eCommerce. The rise of inflation, labour shortage, the various new strains of the coronavirus pandemic all threaten to dampen this trend. Retailers and brands have to keep an eye on the economic news, as well as the technology trends.