Economy Watch: E-Commerce Makes Inroads in Holiday Sales

A recent Custora report gives a wake up call to retailers as shoppers are increasingly making their purchases online, including during the holiday season.

The postmortems of the holiday sales season aren’t quite done yet, with one of the more recent reports based on Custora E-Commerce Pulse, an online dashboard tracking online transactions from more than 200 U.S. retailers, 500 million shoppers, and $100 billion in transaction revenue during November and December 2015. Its conclusion—and one that standard retailers should pay attention to—is yet more evidence that for many commodities, shoppers are buying without a physical intermediary (a store, that is).

U.S. e-commerce revenue was up 12.1 percent this holiday season compared with 2014, keeping with the trend of double-digit growth over the past five years, Custora noted. Moreover, nearly a third of online purchases (30.4 percent) were made on a mobile device this holiday season, driven mostly by smartphone shopping.

Thanksgiving itself hasn’t caught on as a physical shopping day, though retailers are still trying. E-commerce is edging into the day, however. The trend toward mobile shopping was especially pronounced on Thanksgiving Day, when orders on phones and tablets constituted about 40 percent of all e-commerce transactions. Shopping thus seems to be another after- (or pre-) meal activity on that particular holiday.

Black Friday was “Mobile Friday” again with 36.1 percent of sales made on phones and tablets, the report said. Outside the world of e-commerce, there are also hints that Black Friday isn’t the major sales event it once was, though for shopping on mobile devices, it’s still one of the top-two sales days for the season. The other is Cyber Monday, though sales on that day are stretching out into the week afterward.