Holiday season e-commerce in the United States - Statistics & Facts

In the United States, Christmas shopping season traditionally begins on Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving Day, but in reality, retailers already start promoting holiday season sales at the beginning of November. In 2018, holiday season retail e-commerce spending in the United States amounted to 119.54 billion U.S. dollars, with the most money being spent online on Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday 2019 became the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history, hitting record online sales of over 9.4 billion U.S. dollars. That year, total holiday season e-commerce spending was projected to surpass 135 billion U.S. dollars. As the main contributor to the soaring sales figures, the five-day period from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, also known as Cyber 5, saw an estimated sales revenue of 28.5 billion U.S. dollars during the 2019 holiday season.

Like several other industries, the U.S. retail sector has witnessed a significant digital transformation over the last decade. This gradual shift is particularly visible during the holiday season, as a growing number of Americans are now frequenting online shops to find the perfect gift for themselves or their loved ones. While big-box stores remained the main channel for holiday gift research and purchase in 2019, e-commerce retailers were the second most popular destination for shoppers that year, according to a recent consumer survey. When asked about their preferred online shop for Christmas gifts, around 91 percent of polled internet users listed Amazon as their number one platform. The e-commerce giant has been one of the most-visited digital marketplaces in the United States for several years and accounted for over 40 percent of online visits during the holiday season 2018. Besides, Amazon has overtaken in-store as the starting point for gift research, while other digital channels such as Google search have also significantly gained relevance during the gift shopping process.

One other e-commerce trend that is becoming increasingly visible during the U.S. holiday season is the early promotion of online offers among retailers. As the last quarter of the year usually counts as the most profitable time period for U.S. retailers, early digital advertising is one of the key strategies to leverage shoppers’ buying potential. In 2019, a majority of U.S. buyers reportedly started their Christmas gift shopping before December, finding inspiration from online sources like Facebook or other social media platforms. So, what is it that consumers fill their virtual shopping carts with? In 2019, event tickets, travel, and books were some of the categories that customers preferred to buy online rather than in store, citing convenience, less stress, and the multiple payment options as their main incentives to do their holiday shopping from home.

But not only desktop computers and laptops are popular purchase channels. As U.S. consumers are increasingly moving towards mobile shopping, holiday season mobile e-commerce sales totaled 51.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2018 and were forecast to exceed 64.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2019. While desktop devices accounted for the lion’s share of holiday season e-commerce spending that year, revenue from smartphones rose to an impressive 34.5 percent share. In fact, mobile has overtaken desktop in relevance during the 2019 holiday shopping season in terms of online traffic and order share. During Cyber Week 2019, over 73 percent of online traffic was generated via mobile devices, and as smartphones enable not only convenient browsing, but also buying, and tracking orders on the go, they are steadily progressing into a prime shopping tool for consumers across the United States – during the holiday season and beyond.

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Holiday season e-commerce in the United States

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Online retail

Consumer behavior

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