2011 Holiday Shopping Research and Trends

Highlights from 29 research reports, industry predictions and expert ecommerce guides to help you get ready for this year’s online holiday shopping season.

Keeping track of holiday shopping trends, research and statistics gives small business ecommerce site owners a solid foundation to plan a retail strategy to optimize for holiday shopping. The following 2011 holiday ecommerce research and statistics are from trusted industry sources and experts in the field of retail and electronic commerce. 

11 Ecommerce Holiday Revenue Forecasts for 2011

Industry analysts are predicting a good -- but not great -- 2011 holiday shopping season for retailers. Overall spending is down and consumers are expected to be more conservative and controlled when it comes to spending on gifts and seasonal goods this year. Here are the top industry research reports and ecommerce revenue forecasts so you know what to expect in ecommerce sales this year.

  • U.S. online retail reached $175 billion in 2007 and is projected to grow to $335 billion by 2012. Despite strength in overall online retail numbers, there is no denying that ecommerce is beyond its earlier years of unbridled growth. (Source: Forrester Research; U.S. Ecommerce Forecast: 2008 To 2012)
  • According to the survey, 212 million shoppers visited stores and websites over Black Friday weekend, up from 195 million last year. People also spent more, with the average shopper this weekend spending $365.34, up from last year’s $343.31. Total spending reached an estimated $45.0 billion. (Source: NRF; Black Friday weekend 2011)
  • The report forecasts that ecommerce revenue will grow to $680 billion worldwide up 18.9 percent from 2010 revenue. Online retail commerce in the U.S. alone will grow 13.2 percent to $187 billion. J.P. Morgan anticipates that global ecommerce revenue will hit a whopping $963 billion by 2013. (Source: J.P. Morgan via TechCrunch; Global E-Commerce Revenue To Grow By 19 Percent In 2011 To $680B by Leena Rao)
  • Eighty-four percent of consumers intend to spend less or the same amount while shopping as compared to last year. Breaking down the data, GfK reports that a stunning 40 percent of American households will spend less this year, while 44 percent will mirror their spending from 2010. Only 11 percent plan to spend more. (Source: 2011 Holiday Shopping Survey; GfK Custom Research North America)
  • Consumers will spend less on gifts and seasonal goods this Christmas, according to the NRF's 2011 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey. The average spend is forecast to be $14 less than last year at $704.18. (Source: National Retail Federation via BizReport; NRF decreases festive season consumer spending forecast by Helen Leggatt)
  • Fifty-two percent of consumers plan to spend $500 or more on gifts this season. Thirty-six percent said they will spend less than $500, and 12 percent indicated that they do not have a budget. Conducted from Sept. 7-15, 2011, the survey includes responses from 3,070 U.S. online shopping consumers (Source: Pricegrabber; Winter Holiday Shopping Survey)
  • Deloitte’s retail and distribution practice expects total holiday sales to reach between $873 and $877 billion, representing a 2.5 to 3 percent increase in November through January holiday sales, excluding motor vehicles and gasoline, over last season. (Source: Deloitte; Deloitte Forecasts a 2.5 to 3 Percent Increase in Holiday Sales)
  • Seventy two percent of U.S. consumers expect their holiday spending to be "careful" or "controlled" in 2011. While 88 percent of shoppers intend to spend the same or less than last year, 71 percent of those respondents earning more than $100,000 expect to spend more than $500 on gifts this holiday season. (Accenture; Annual Consumer Holiday Shopping Study)
  • A whopping 71 percent of consumers earning less than $100,000 per year are planning to trim back their spending this holiday season. In addition, 74 percent of consumers will be spending less than $800 in total on the holidays and 73 percent will begin shopping before Dec. 1. (Source: SymphonyIRI Group; Holiday Shopping 2011)
  • 2010 Research: The 2010 online holiday shopping season was a memorable one in which we saw spending rebound strongly from the recession of 2008 and 2009. Retail ecommerce spending for the entire November – December 2010 holiday season reached $32.6 billion, marking a 12-percent increase versus last year and an all-time record for the season. (Source: comScore; Ecommerce spending for November – December 2010)
  • 2010 Research:  As the 2011 holiday season approaches, data from comScore's Q2 2011 found that ecommerce sales in 2010 reached $43 billion. Looking back at last year’s trends, these are the top holiday spending days, with Cyber Monday coming in at number one. (Source: GoDataFeed; Stand Out this Holiday Season)

7 Ecommerce Holiday Shopping Trends for 2011

From smartphone shoppers to categories of gifts and the dollar amounts consumer are expected to spend on holiday shopping, the following ecommerce research reports can help you get ready for this year’s trends.

  • According to the survey, half (52.6 percent) of those who own a smartphone said they will use their device to research products, redeem coupons, use apps to assist in their purchase, and purchase holiday gifts and items. (Source: NRF; The NRF 2011 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey)
  • Cross-border holiday sales have flowed in remarkably similar patterns during the past three years. If consumers follow the same cycles in 2011, daily sales peaks will be highly predictable – with one key exception: Gift buyers around the world may have an extra week to shop this year. (Source: FiftyOne; Will Faster Shipping Extend Holiday 2011?)
  • While many traditional categories like clothing (48.2 percent) and books (47.3 percent) will appear on a majority of wish lists this year, one item will appear more often than a year ago: jewelry. As a potential sign that discretionary gifts may become more popular, 23.0 percent of people will ask for jewelry this year, a significant 10 percent jump from last year’s 20.8 percent. (Source: NRF; 2010 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey)
  • The largest portion of a consumer’s holiday budget will go toward gifts for family members, with the average person expected to shell out $403.26 on kids, parents and other family members. Friends, co-workers and even the family pet can expect something nice this year as well; holiday celebrants will spend an average of $68.23 on friends, $21.06 on co-workers, and $23.39 on other gifts. (Source: NRF; The NRF 2011 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey)
  • Retailers that integrate the power of the sensory experience in-store with relevant, timely information via their websites and mobile applications are well-positioned to lead the way this holiday season. (Source: Deloitte; Deloitte Forecasts a 2.5 to 3 Percent Increase in Holiday Sales)
  • Online shopping scored higher in almost every respect than did shopping at walk-in stores in Consumer Reports' Annual Electronics Buying Survey. Respondents made 34 percent of electronics purchases online, which is more than double the percentage from just five years ago. (Source: Consumer Reports; Annual Consumer Reports Electronics Issue)
  • The allure of the holiday sweater appears to have returned in 2011. When asked what items they plan to purchase as holiday gifts this season (respondents could select as many choices as they liked), consumers overwhelmingly chose clothing (66 percent). This was followed by 52 percent of consumers who said they would purchase gift cards; 46 percent opting for books, CDs, DVDs or video games; 43 percent choosing toys; and 31 percent planning to buy hobby-related items. (Source: Pricegrabber; Winter Holiday Shopping Survey)

5 Global and Cross-Border Holiday Ecommerce Research

With U.S. customers expected to spend less during the 2011 holiday shopping season, more businesses are looking at global sales and cross-border shopping to increase profits. The following research reports provide a look at some of the facts, figures and issues surrounding cross-border ecommerce.

  • Ninety-three percent of consumers polled have purchased products online, with 49 percent doing so during the last 30 days. Consumers in Germany, South Korea and the U.K. were the highest for making online product purchases (98 percent) followed closely by Japan (96 percent). In Canada, where online shopping is least prevalent, more than four out of five (82 percent) reported having bought goods online. (Source: Pitney Bowes; Pitney Bowes Global Online Shopping Survey, 2011)
  • International orders just don’t come back very often. Canadians led the world with a return rate of 8 percent across all merchandise categories. Australians and Asians were the least likely customers to return their purchases, sending back only 3 percent of what they bought during the past three years. Overall Europeans wound up in the middle, returning 5 percent of their purchases. (Source: FiftyOne; Cross-border Returns: Few and Far Between)
  • As the U.S. dollar’s continued weakness attracts droves of Canadian and European consumers to American ecommerce sites, their numbers include thousands of power shoppers. Canadian power shoppers more than compensated for their relatively low average order values (AOVs) by ordering far more frequently than other power shoppers. As a result the value of Canadians’ total orders over 12 months actually exceeds the worldwide average. (Source: FiftyOne; Cross-border Power Shoppers: Where They Live, How They Buy)
  • Brazilian shoppers significantly increased their AOVs during the holiday selling season. While AOV worldwide and in every other major market remained more or less constant compared to the rest of 2010, Brazil's AOV climbed more than 30 percent to $303USD during the holiday selling season. (Source: FiftyOne; Brazilian Shoppers Led Global Holiday Charge)
  • According to the Consumer scoreboard, consumers' perceptions seem to be a major barrier to cross-border ecommerce. Among consumers who have already shopped cross-border, 61 percent were equally confident in cross-border and domestic online shopping compared to only 33 percent of the general population. (Source: European Commissio; The spring Consumer Scoreboard)

6 Expert Advice Guides to Get Ready for 2011 Holiday Sales

  • 3dcart: Shopping Cart offers 7 tips to prepare for the 2011 holiday season.
  • Shipwire: Ten ECommerce Sales Tips for Holiday 2011 by Aurora David.
  • GoDataFeed: Top Holiday Strategies for Q4 2011 (Month-by-Month Tactics).
  • IDS: Last-minute inventory and fulfillment planning tips from IDS.
  • Marin Software: Online Marketer’s Guide for the Holiday.
  • Stamps.com: 8 Tips for Holiday Shipping

Recommended Reading: Is mobile commerce on your holiday 2011 list? Check out the highlights from 27 expert mobile commerce research reports to help you plan your strategy.

Vangie Beal is a veteran online seller and frequent contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com. She is also managing editor of Webopedia.com. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

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