Consumers spent a lot less money online in early November than they normally do as they absorbed the surprising result of the U.S. presidential election. The question is: Will that result in lower overall holiday e-retail sales, or will shoppers get past Donald Trump’s win and make up for lost time between now and Christmas?
Adobe Inc. cast its vote today, lowering its forecast for e-retail growth during the holiday season to a single-digit percentage increase from an 11% increase. In the shoppers-may-bounce-back camp are comScore Inc., which measures consumer web activity, and digital marketing firm HookLogic Inc.
All three agree that consumers had other things on their minds besides shopping online around Election Day. The Adobe Digital Insights unit, which bases its estimates on transactions on e-commerce sites using Adobe’s analytics and marketing technology, says online retail sales on Election Day, Nov. 8, were down 3.8% from the same day a year ago, and down 17.0% on the following day, as Trump’s upset victory sunk in. For the two-week period from Nov. 1-14, online sales totaled $15.5 billion, Adobe says, an increase of only 1.35% over last year and $800 million short of Adobe’s pre-election prediction.
“Given the latest data, we are revising down our sales predictions for retailers,” says Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst for Adobe Digital Insights. She says that just as consumer spending on durable goods in the United Kingdom dipped after the country’s surprise vote in June to leave the European Union, U.S. consumers seem to be shopping less online post-election. But, Gaffney adds, “Sales on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday next week will be an important indicator of how much sales expectations need to be adjusted this shopping season.”
Andrew Lipsman, vice president of marketing and insights at comScore, isn’t convinced the election dip will last but agrees the Thanksgiving weekend will be telling. “We did see a very noticeable dip in spending on the day after the election, but it looks to be mostly isolated to that one day,” Lipsman says. “So, [we are] cautiously optimistic that post-election malaise will not have too significant an impact, but we won’t really have a full grasp on that till after Thanksgiving.” ComScore has predicted online retail sales will increase 16-19% this November and December over the same two months last year. It has not yet released any data on online sales for this holiday season.
As for HookLogic, its client data suggests online retail sales increased only 1% year over year on Nov. 6, the Sunday before the election, then dipped 5% on the day before the election, 16% on Election Day itself and 23% the following day. But HookLogic, now a division of ad technology vendor Criteo S.A., says e-retail sales were up 24% year over year on the Thursday after the election “as consumer confidence rebounded and Americans were ready to get back to their holiday shopping.”
Meanwhile, another precinct was heard from on holiday online shopping, as Forrester Research Inc. released today its projection of a 13% increase in online retail sales during this year’s gift-giving season. Forrester analysts Susan Wu and Fiona Swerdlow did not comment on the impact of the election, but they anticipate e-retail sales growth will be driven by growing consumer confidence and a predicted return to more normal temperatures compared with the unusually warm December of 2015 that cut into sales of cold-weather apparel.
Adobe noted last week the drop in online retail sales in the wake of the election, and said at that time that consumer reaction to retailers’ Veterans’ Day sales on Nov. 11 would give a better idea of whether the election impact would be long-lasting. Adobe said today that online sales on Nov. 11 grew only 1% to $1.16 billion compared with the holiday last year.
Adobe says its marketing software tracks 80% of online transactions at the top 100 U.S. retailers and 75% of spend with the 500 leading e-retailers. Adobe provides web analytics technology to 216 of the retailers in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide, which ranks retailers by their North American online sales, according to Top500Guide.com.
ComScore, which bases its estimates on web activity of some 1 million consumers who agree to be tracked, predicts Cyber Monday—the Monday after Thanksgiving—will be the biggest online shopping day ever in the United States, with e-retail sales totaling $3.5 billion and $1 billion of those purchases coming from mobile devices. The company also predicts that online sales will top $1 billion every weekday from Cyber Monday through Friday, Dec. 16, which has been designated “Free Shipping Day.” So far, 509 retailers have signed up to offer free shipping with no minimum purchase, according to FreeShippingDay.com.