The 2019 Holiday Season Saw Digital Sales Grow to $723 Billion

But it's not all positive news for retailers

During Cyber Week, digital revenue increased 15% year-over-year to $143 billion. - Credit by Getty Images
Headshot of Ann-Marie Alcántara

The Christmas trees are gone, the holiday music’s shut off ’til next December, but how the season played out for retailers is just coming to light.

The shorter holiday shopping season (by six days) sent retailers into a tizzy this past year, though record sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday quickly put worries at ease. A new Salesforce report shows digital sales grew by 8% between Nov. 26 and Dec. 26, generating $723 billion globally. Other notable figures include online sales on Thanksgiving growing 24% to $20 billion, Black Friday up 25% to $40 billion, and Cyber Monday rising 13% to $30 billion.

During Cyber Week, Salesforce reports total digital revenue increased 15% from 2018 to $143 billion. The anticipation of a shorter holiday season played in favor of retailers, as digital traffic grew 13% the week before Cyber Week. However, consumers were largely window shopping, as digital orders only increased 9% before Cyber Week. Once Cyber Week kicked off, retailers began reaching out to consumers wherever they were, which is why text messages sent to mobile phones increased by 134%. Cyber Week also stayed true to its name, with consumers grabbing digital deals on Giving Tuesday.

However, the early and frenzied shopping season meant the week leading up to Christmas wasn’t as positive for retailers, with digital revenue deceasing 27% year-over-year. But retailers offering buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) saw 56% “more active digital shoppers,” and an 18% increase in digital revenue share after the shipping cutoff to guarantee delivery in time for Christmas. Throughout the season, 10% of digital orders were powered by AI and on peak days, more than 10% of mobile traffic and 7% of mobile orders came from a “social referring channel.”

Thanksgiving isn’t the only holiday that’s becoming less about family and more about shopping. Salesforce noted digital traffic increasing by 80%, with 65% of online orders happening on a mobile device. It’s an ongoing trend Salesforce has been tracking for years, as Christmas becomes a day people shop online to spend gift cards or buy additional products to supplement their gifts.

While the 2019 holiday season showed gains this year, retailers still struggled. In its latest earnings report, JCPenney reported revenues and same-store sales decreased during the holiday season. Kohl’s and Macy’s also reported a downturn in holiday sales, with Kohl’s stating in its earnings report that same-store sales dropped 0.2% year-over-year for November and December. Macy’s same-store sales for the same time period also fell 0.6%—the first time in two years.


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@itstheannmarie annmarie.alcantara@adweek.com Ann-Marie Alcántara is a tech reporter for Adweek, focusing on direct-to-consumer brands and ecommerce.
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