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Salesforce has released its 2021 Holiday Shopping Report, which analyzes shopping data from over one billion shoppers on the Salesforce Customer 360 platform and activity across commerce, marketing, and service.
The report shares that while Cyber Week saw muted digital growth in 2021, early November and late December surges helped retailers break new sales records. Consumers spent $1.14 trillion online globally and $257 billion in the U.S., compared to $1.1 trillion and $236 billion in 2020.
Top Salesforce 2021 holiday shopping insights
Salesforce data highlights trends that shaped the holiday season, including:
Shoppers splurged early and late this holiday season: Shoppers were eager to secure their gifts ahead of the retail rush to avoid issues with shipping delays and out-of-stock products, with 30% of global holiday sales completed by November 22. Cyber Week accounted for 23% of global sales (from 24% in 2020). As consumers missed online shipping cut-off dates and concerns grew around new COVID-19 variants, 23% of global digital sales were placed between December 18 and 31. Stores that offered curbside or in-store pickup options over the same period captured 62% of these final global sales.
Digital-first consumers embraced flexible payment methods: With high holiday prices and discounts in the U.S. down 10% year-over-year (YoY), overall use of Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) services in the U.S. during the holiday season increased 40% compared to 2020. Throughout the holiday season, consumers turned to these offerings to offset the higher price tags. Alternative payment forms, including PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay, also increased by 15% YoY in the U.S.
Luxury handbags and home furniture were the fastest-growing categories online: As consumers shifted their spending from needs to wants this holiday season, luxury handbags had the highest YoY global growth with an increase of 45% in online sales. Home furniture and general footwear trailed closely behind at +34% and +32% growth, respectively.
Social commerce continues to influence consumer buying behavior: A survey of 1,600 global shoppers from Salesforce's 4th edition of the Connected Shoppers Report found that by 2023, 25% of shopping is projected to happen beyond a retailer or brand's website, app, or physical store. Over the 2021 holiday season, 4% of global digital sales on a mobile device were made through a social media app and 10% of mobile traffic originated from consumers browsing through social networks. As retailers begin to build in the metaverse, it's clear that shoppers are ready to purchase across new channels.
Stores played a critical role this holiday: While consumers continued to embrace digital this holiday, physical stores proved to be key throughout the shopping season. In fact, 60% of global digital sales were influenced by brick-and-mortar – from generating to fulfilling demand. The evolving role of the store – and associates – helped to break down friction across digital and physical touchpoints.
"Despite the lingering pandemic and countless obstacles such as supply chain logistics, low inventory, and fewer discounts, consumers flocked online to close out this holiday shopping season with a bang," said Rob Garf, VP and GM of Retail, Salesforce. "As we move into a new year, retailers must push their brands to platforms such as social, gaming, messaging, and the metaverse to engage shoppers where they are discovering and buying products. They must also double down on efforts to reimagine physical stores to support continually changing digital experiences."
Salesforce powered the 2021 holiday season
As consumers both turned to digital this year and returned to the store, Salesforce helped brands and retailers around the world serve customers no matter where they shopped. Between November 1 and December 31, 2021, Salesforce customers:
Commerce Cloud: Drove more than 283 million online orders on Commerce Cloud, while delivering fast, easy, and personalized digital experiences to shoppers. Digital sales powered by Commerce Cloud grew 21% YoY this holiday season.
Marketing Cloud: Global marketing communications made through Marketing Cloud overall surged with 39 billion push notifications (+146% YoY), 6.5 billion SMS messages (+56% YoY), and 223 billion total emails sent (+27% YoY), as marketers engaged consistently throughout the season.
Einstein: Artificial intelligence played a large role in driving revenue with 19% of all orders including a product that had been recommended to the shopper.
Service Cloud: Agents viewed or worked on cases more than 26 billion times (a 38% YoY increase) and received more than 1.19 billion customer service calls (a 27% YoY increase) this holiday season.
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