Online Holiday Sales Skyrocket 50%

Salesforce’s latest holiday shopping report revealed a whopping 50 percent year-over-year gain in global online sales to $1.1 trillion, with digital sales swelling 58 percent in the five-day run-up to Christmas.

Globally, the company expects online returns to reach $330 billion, which is about 30 percent of all purchases made during the shopping season. But many retailers, according to media reports, are quietly telling shoppers that they can keep the returns.

The company said its data research not only showed what consumers spent during the holiday, but also revealed trends that will influence retail this year.

For example, the authors of the report said shoppers “embraced financing options” with many looking to “pay for big-ticket holiday gifts in installments, buy now, pay later usage saw a year-over-year increase of 109 percent, with the biggest increase taking place the week before Christmas.”

The data also showed retailers offering curbside and other pickup options “grew almost twice as fast as those that didn’t.” Salesforce said that with strained “shipping systems and consumers prioritizing safety, retailers with curbside, drive-through and in-store pickup options outperformed those without these services.”

In the U.S., retailers and brands that offered these services were able to boost their online sales by 49 percent on average compared to the 2019 holiday shopping season. “Retailers offering curbside, drive-through and in-store pickup options also experienced 54 percent digital revenue growth year-over-year in the five days leading up to Christmas, compared to 34 percent growth for those that didn’t,” Salesforce noted.

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Globally, shoppers spent $1.1 trillion online this past holiday season, which compares to $723 billion in 2019. In the U.S., total online sales reached $236 billion versus $165 billion in 2019.

Looking at sales momentum during the season, authors of the report said online sales “surged later in the year, despite an earlier start to the holiday season.” They said while retailers dangled promotions as early as October, the lion’s share of online sales occurred during Cyber Week as well as during the Christmas run-up period.

By category, home goods and sporting goods were tops, seeing year-over-year online sales gains of 89 and 108 percent, respectively. Activewear and footwear were up 35 and 39 percent, respectively, while “general apparel” was up 40 percent.

Rob Garf, vice president and industry strategy for retail at Salesforce, said the holiday season “was defined by the pandemic and forced retailers and brands to innovate quickly with the introduction of services like curbside pickup, virtual concierges and a focus on social, messaging and livestreaming to reach shoppers in new ways.”

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

Salesforce’s suite of CRM solutions include products such as Commerce Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud and Einstein, an artificial intelligence platform that “continued to play a role in how consumers shopped this holiday season,” Salesforce said adding that Einstein accounted “for 11 percent of digital orders, growing 25 percent year-over-year.”


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