11 Surprising eCommerce Statistics About the 2021 Holidays

11 Surprising eCommerce Statistics About the 2021 Holidays

The 2021 holiday season hasn’t quite ended, but we can already see the direction it’s headed in. Many of this year’s eCommerce statistics for this year show a cheerful and bright outcome, though not quite a full return to normal.

It’s true that in many ways, the year 2021 has been a return to the norm after a year defined by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet 2021 has brought its own issues, many of which can be traced back to supply chain disruptions exacerbated by, but not entirely caused by, the still ongoing pandemic.

But even amid rotten supply chain news, the overall growth of eCommerce remains a bright spot. Many of the trends that started last year – earlier holiday sales, increased adoption of online shopping by new users, and overall higher spending – have continued. And thus, we have every reason to believe that the 2021 holidays will be brighter than ever for eCommerce. 

Check out some of these statistics, and you can start to see a coherent picture emerge.

11 Surprising eCommerce Statistics About the 2021 Holidays

1. Black Friday 2021 was the first year EVER to show a decline in year-over-year Black Friday sales.

Let’s go ahead and address the elephant in the room. It’s true that Black Friday 2021 was the first year where Black Friday sales were lower than the year previous.

Online Black Friday sales totalled $8.9 billion this year, compared to $9.0 billion last year. That’s still an enormous amount of money, but it is nevertheless a decline from last year.

That’s only half the story, though.

2. Holiday sales overall have been higher than ever so far.

If you look at holiday sales to date, as of Cyber Monday (November 29), the year 2021 has been much, much kinder to eCommerce than the year 2020.

Online holiday sales in 2021 reached $89 billion by November 29. In 2020, sales only reached $71 billion by November 29. When you look at it this way, 2021 is clearly outperforming 2020.

It’s clear that a lot of shoppers are taking action early this year.

3. As many as 66% of consumers planned to start their holiday shipping early.

More than ever before, consumers plan to shop early. As many as 66% plan to complete holiday shipping as early as possible, with 51% of shoppers starting before Thanksgiving.

Among the shoppers looking to start early, 45% are concerned about products being out-of-stock. Another 38% are worried about delivery delays. In other words, shoppers are concerned about supply chain issues just as much as businesses are this year!

4. Only 40% of shipping vessels are expected to arrive on time this year.

According to global logistics firm, C.H. Robinson, about 40% of shipping vessels are expected to arrive on time. In 2020, 80% of shipping vessels were expected to arrive on time. Much of this is due to the major delays in the freight shipping system which are causing ripple effects throughout the supply chain.

Consumers may not have a deep understanding of why the supply chain is experiencing disruptions, but a large percentage know something is wrong. This awareness all traces back to the root problem of the freight delays which are causing stockouts.

5. Retail sales are expected to be 7% higher than last year.

According to consulting firm, KPMG, 2021 holiday sales for retailers in general – not just eCommerce – are expected to be 7% higher than 2020. This is about double the level of growth that retail typically sees year-over-year. So not only is this expected to be a growth year for eCommerce, it’s expected to be a strong growth year for retail overall. 

6. In-store sales are expected to rebound by 6.6% compared to 2020.

While eCommerce is expected to see a growth rate of 14.4% this year, in-store sales are expected to do better than last year as well. In-store sales are expected to rebound by 6.6%, which is likely connected to the fact that widespread vaccine availability has made consumers less concerned about catching COVID-19 while shopping.

7. Sales are expected to reach $1.2 trillion globally

Online sales overall are expected to reach $1.2 trillion worldwide in 2021, which is a record high! Of that, $259 billion is expected to be from US customers.

What’s interesting is that Salesforce predicts there will be a slight drop in the number of orders to be placed – 2% worldwide and 4% in the US. However, that implies that each individual order will be worth a lot more!

8. Apparel and accessories is expected to see 25.5% growth, followed by computer and consumer electronics at 12.5%.

When you break down eCommerce sales into different categories, different growth patterns emerge.

The breakout success among everything else is apparel and accessories, with a growth rate of 25.5%. This is followed by:

  • Computer and consumer electronics at 12.5%.
  • Health and personal care at 12.1%.
  • Toys and hobby at 12.0%.
  • Books, music, and video at 11.8%.
  • Furniture and home furnishings at 11.3%.
  • Auto and parts at 9.8%.
  • Food and beverage at 5.3%.
  • Office equipment and supplies at 4.1%.
  • Other at 17.9%.

It seems likely that apparel and accessories saw some rebound success after 2020, as more people were going out to in-person events.

9. Ecommerce is expected to account for 18.4% of overall holiday retail sales, up from 17.6% last year.

At the beginning of 2021, it was an open question whether or not the massive growth rate of eCommerce during the year 2020 was going to last. After all, the pandemic drove eCommerce sales up 32.0% even during a recession. It seemed likely that eCommerce sales would go back down.

But that’s not what’s expected to happen this year. The growth rate of eCommerce for 2021 is expected to be 14.4%. For comparison, that’s almost the exact same growth seen between 2014 and 2015 and again between 2015 and 2016.

In short, the surge in eCommerce sales that we saw in 2020 is here to stay.

10. As many as 87% of US consumers plan to make at least some purchases online.

According to research collected by PYMNTS, more than five in six – 87% – of consumers plan to make at least one purchase online. This is 13% more people than in 2020.

It is likely that the pandemic forced a large amount of people to buy online for the first time. With health concerns on the line, late adopters were given a compelling reason to try new technology. Evidently, a lot of them liked shopping online for the first time enough to keep doing it!

11. Retailers see an average of 26.8% of total retail sales in the fourth quarter.

With all these holiday shopping statistics in mind, it’s important to remember that retail selling is a year-long game. The holiday quarter makes up 25% of the year, and 26.8% of its sales. That is a little more than average, but that means that the other three quarters of the year matter too!

So what does this mean if you run an eCommerce store? Focus on acquiring new customers during the holiday season. Retaining customers is more profitable during the long run, as you can sell to loyal customers year-round.

Final Thoughts

Even amid supply chain disruptions, 2021 looks like it will be a very favorable year for eCommerce. Statistics from 2021 show that the eCommerce growth seen in 2020 is here to stay. All of which means it’s an excellent time to be selling online!