Somewhere between opening gifts and eating their holiday meals, consumers in the United Kingdom are expected to spend 805 million pounds ($1.00 billion) online on Christmas Day, up about 10.6% from 728 million pounds a year ago.
Online sales gains are projected to jump about 15% to 984 million pounds ($1.23 billion) from 856 million pounds for Boxing Day (the day after Christmas and a national holiday) in the U.K., according to IMRG, the U.K. e-retail association Interactive Media in Retail Group, which bases its estimate on its online sales data and retail site traffic volume data from SimilarWeb.
“It might not seem an obvious fixture in the retail calendar, but Christmas Day has actually become a fairly significant online shopping day in the U.K.,” says Justin Opie, managing director at IMRG. “Many people now receive gift cards which they can instantly redeem on the day to download the kinds of items that have become highly virtual—games, music, in-play app upgrades, etc. Many retailers will also have set their post-Christmas sales campaigns live on their sites by then, which are very easy to browse using the kinds of devices many people have access to—smartphones, tablets etc.—during a quiet digestive moment post-Christmas dinner perhaps,” he says.
The Christmas and Boxing Day estimates are in line with online sales increases of about 12% on Black Friday in the U.K., which does not celebrate Thanksgiving. The relatively new British shopping holiday of Black Friday, which gained traction about three years ago in the U.K., generated an estimated 1.23 billion pounds ($1.54 billion) in online sales on Nov. 25 compared with 1.10 billion pounds on Black Friday 2015, according to IMRG. That 12% increase fell short of projected 16% year-over-year growth for Black Friday.
Though Black Friday revenue missed projections by about 25%, each of the four days leading up to it generated online sales growth ranging from 23.4% to 33.7%, with a higher conversion rate than on Black Friday, IMRG says. Consumers spent an estimated 6.45 million pounds ($8.05 billion) on U.K. online retail sites during the Monday-to-Cyber-Monday week of Nov. 21-28, IMRG says, which was almost 5% lower than the projected 6.77 billion pounds ($8.45 billion) for that seven-day period.
E-commerce digital agency Salmon Ltd. had predicted U.K. consumers would spend 5 billion pounds ($6.24 billion) online during the five days of Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday.
“Over the past few years Black Friday has consistently demonstrated a remarkable capacity for shifting in terms of size and scale,” Opie says. “In 2014 the volume of orders exceeded forecast by over 30%, in 2015 we had empty shops and this year it seems to have become a genuinely extended period of heightened sales activity—taking place over a week (and more in some cases), which is not entirely dissimilar to the way that Christmas peak used to be online before Black Friday disrupted the established pattern in 2014.”
Salmon says several e-retailers, including two of the country’s largest, Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Europe 500, and Argos (now part of Sainsbury’s, No. 21), started promoting Black Friday deals more than a week in advance. Though promotions started earlier, the majority of them started Nov. 24, and 19% of sales across the five-day period (Thursday-Cyber Monday) occurred on that Thursday. Peak online sales during that five-day stretch occurred on Black Friday, when 35% of the period’s sales occurred, according to Salmon.
Mobile devices—smartphones and tablets—accounted for 68% of traffic and 51.2% of orders during the five-day sales period, Salmon says. On Saturday, Nov. 26, 73% of site visitors came from mobile devices.
Salmon also notes:
- There was an 86% increase in the percentage of visitors adding items to their cart over the five-day shopping period compared to the previous week, indicating consumers were ready to shop online during that period.
- Conversion rates were double the normal weekly rate, up 106%, and the conversion rate was up 10% compared with the year-over-year period.
- “Basket bandit” shoppers made their mark. These shoppers identify items ahead of Black Friday weekend and place them in their online shopping baskets, ready to click Buy as soon as items are discounted.