Holiday 2021 Online Traffic and Sales Recap

Now that the 2021 holiday season is in the rearview mirror, we wanted to share some information regarding consumer online shopping trends that were observed for the holidays.

According to TechCrunch,

  • While Black Friday’s online sales topped $8.9 billion, overall spend was down 1.3% over last year.
  • While Cyber Monday shoppers spent $10.7 billion, that spend number was down 1.4% from last year.

There are multiple possible reasons for these declines:

  • Shoppers began their shopping earlier than ever this year due to supply chain issue awareness and more companies starting their holiday sales earlier.
  • The ability to shop in stores this year, as opposed to last year’s Covid restrictions that put a big damper in brick-and-mortar traffic.

Several of our clients definitely saw an earlier surge in their online traffic and sales compared to prior years. Some had increases in the week prior to Black Friday, while a few even saw some higher volumes in the weeks leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Supply chain issues were the problem children of this holiday season. Practically every single e-commerce client had some supply chain issues of one sort or another they had to deal with, whether it be products that were simply flat out of stock with no hope of holiday replenishment or dealing with shipping crate charges that were as much as ten times what they had paid in the past.

Anecdotally, even our clients were telling us how either they or someone in their family was going to shop earlier in the holiday season because they were well aware of their own supply chain issues and had heard of so many other businesses dealing with the same supply chain headaches.

According to Earnest Research, online sales share during the holiday season was below 2020 levels but above pre-pandemic. The holidays are the biggest online shopping period of the year, with preliminary mid-November holiday data showing many categories with higher online sales penetration in 2021 than any year prior. However, online sales eased up after Cyber Monday. 

Most categories wrapped up the 2021 holiday season with lower online sales penetration than in 2020. Still, the shift to online in the last three years is noteworthy. Consumers spent more than half of their Apparel & Accessories and Electronics dollars online during the holiday shopping period. Even the online share of sales in large ticket categories like Home was closer to 2020 levels than 2019 levels, suggesting 2021 was the first glimpse of the new normal holiday season.

Despite some decreased traffic in 2021 compared to a perhaps once-in-a-lifetime surge in online sales in 2020, the number of people now getting more and more comfortable to order just about anything online bodes very well for increased growth in the online sales space.

It does make one wonder, with a renewed surge in positive coronavirus tests blanketing the news, will 2022 see a more-than-expected increase in online shopping traffic? Time will tell, but in our household, we are ordering more and more items directly online than ever before, and I don’t see that trend changing much over the next three months, if not for the entire year.

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