Tracking consumer inflow during Peak Season in November: online purchase volumes are lower this year, but loyalty to online shopping remains stable in 2021

As we arrive in December, with the holiday and Peak Season still in full swing, we are very excited to dive into the development of online purchase volumes. What have the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale activities delivered? Stick with us and find out.

“We see that overall volumes are lower this year compared to 2020 [during Peak Season so far]. You would guess that Black Friday and Cyber Monday would crank up the volumes in November. But one sales week will not impact the whole Peak Season.”

Interesting and mixed findings come to our surface. Our multi-country survey, among 4000 shoppers every month, reveals that loyalty to online (consumers’ online share of total spend) is still at the same level compared to last November.

This positive stat is composed by consumers who are now experienced with shopping online vs the last year. These are Medium- and Heavy Online Shoppers and they have increased their share of online total spending since last year.

Another upside is the comparison between online vs. offline spending. The overall share of online spending is not losing any ground vs offline spending. We see the same figures for November 2021 and November 2020.

But it’s not all positive numbers: The online penetration is a little bit lower in November 2021 compared to last year.

The average drops about 4 percent-point with the Netherlands, Norway and Germany combined. The frequency of purchases made among existing shoppers sees a decline, too. This suggest that existing Online Shoppers buy less online. That lower frequency of making purchases is something that also seeps through to the Heavy Shopper segment and is now smaller.

Whereas before we talk about the Medium- and Heavy Shoppers increasing their online share of total spend, there is a double-edged sword. The consumers who started shopping online last year, now go back to offline shopping. We see this in the overall Online Shopper Base when we compare 2021 to 2020.

The convenience and flexibility aspects are what drive Medium- and Heavy Shoppers. Add positive merchant experiences to the mix, and these Medium- and Heavy Shoppers will continue to be loyal to online shopping.

An important caveat, however, is that these shoppers are loyal to buying online, but not necessarily loyal to specific to web shops or merchants. The flexibility of online shopping and trying new stores is a positive for shoppers but makes it difficult for merchants to maintain consumers. Retaining these shoppers will be a more long-term challenge for web shops.

Regardless of lockdown measures, consumers are less worried about their personal health this November compared to last November. We also see that the share of consumers stating they ‘prefer buying online to avoid meeting people in physical stores’ is dropping tremendously, too. The shops are open again this year, and consumers make their way to offline retail locations to get their shopping done.

The Netherlands: Dutch consumers make 4.2 purchases in November, with a 5% increase in the Toys product category share

Our survey results show that Dutch consumers shop on average 4.2 times online in November. When we look at the graph, we see that the purchase development is almost a flatline: October also had an average of 4.2 and the numbers of the months before that are not that different either.

The so-called hockey stick is not present in our graph this year when we are comparing the current Peak Season months to 2020’s Peak Season. 2020 had an increase from 4 online purchases in August to 5.1 purchases in November. The increase can be explained by the bigger online shopper base of 2020 (78%). As we mention earlier, people no longer avoid crowds in physical stores and buy offline. That shrinks the current online shopper base (74%). That is why this year we stay put around 4 to 4.2 online purchases in the Netherlands.

Although the Dutch may make fewer online purchases this year, the online spend is the same compared to last year at 46%. In all those online purchases we see a big rise in the share of consumers buying online in the Toys category. Every year we see an increase for the Toys product category due to the holiday season. This year Toys’ share goes up from 7% in October to 12% in November, making it the third most shopped for category after Fashion and Food.

Germany: German consumers make 5 online purchases in November, with a significant increase in the Toys and Electronics Product Category share

Our survey results show that German consumers shop on average 5.0 times online in November. When we look at the graph, we see that the purchase development is almost a flatline with just a tiny increase: October also had an average of 4.9 and the numbers of the months before that are not that different either.

The so-called hockey stick is not present in our graph this year when we are comparing the current Peak Season months to 2020’s Peak Season. 2020 had an increase from 4 online purchases in August to 5.4 purchases in November. The increase can be explained by the bigger online shopper base of 2020 (82%). As we mention earlier, people no longer avoid crowds in physical stores and buy offline. That shrinks the current online shopper base (78%). That is why this year we stay put around 4.7 to 5 online purchases in Germany.

Although the Germans may make fewer online purchases this year, the online spend is the same at 43% compared to last year at 45%. In all those online purchases we see a big rise in the share of consumers buying online in the Electronics and Toys categories. Every year we see an increase for the Electronics and Toys product category due to the holiday season. This year Toys share goes up from 9% in October to 14% in November. For Electronics the share goes up from 10% in October to 15% in November.

Norway: Norwegian consumers make 3.2 online purchases in November, with a no significant increase in the shares of Product Categories

Our survey results show that Norwegian consumers shop on average 3.2 times online in November. When we look at the graph, we see that the purchase development is almost a flatline with just a marginal increase: October also had an average of 3.1 and the numbers of the months before that are not that different either.

The so-called hockey stick is not present in our graph this year when we are comparing the current Peak Season months to 2020’s Peak Season. 2020 had an increase from 2.9 online purchases in August to 4.7 purchases in November. The increase can be explained by the bigger online shopper base of 2020 (71%). As we mention earlier, people no longer avoid crowds in physical stores and buy offline. That shrinks the current online shopper base (67%). That is why this year we stay put around 3 to 3.2 online purchases in Norway.

Although the Norwegians may make fewer online purchases this year, the online spend is the same compared to last year at 36%. Unlike The Netherlands and Germany, we do not see any significant changes in the shares of the Product Categories in Norway.

United Kingdom: UK consumers make 6.2 online purchases online in November, with a significant increase in the Toys and Fashion Product Category share

Our survey results show that UK consumers shop on average 6.2 times online in November. When we look at the graph, we see that the purchase development is increasing big time: October had an average of 5.3 online purchases and September 4.9 respectively.

The so-called hockey stick development we see in our graph this year (as we only started to measure in the UK since September) is similar to what we saw across the Netherlands, Germany and Norway in 2020.

The increase can be explained by the bigger online shopper base. In September 80% of the UK population made at least 1 online purchase vs 80% in November’s share of 85%. That makes the UK the leader in our survey about Online Shopping. The UK also takes the lead in the online share of total spend. We see an increase from Sep to Nov, from 51% to 55% respectively, indicating that brick-and-mortar stores take a hit during this period.

In all those online purchases we see a rise in the share of consumers buying online in the Toys and Fashion categories. This year Toys share goes up from 11% in October to 16% in November. For Fashion the share goes up from 24% in October to 29% in November.

What is next?

Mid December, what could our next post be about? The coming updates are all about our Christmas gifts! With the third and final update in our Santa Gift-O-Meter coming up around the 15th, and a surprise infographic on celebrating the Holidays (shhhh..!), our insights blog comes to an end for this year.

We will be back in January with new blogs, topics, and insights. Until then we will revise the survey, update our questions, and make a flying start into 2022.

Happy holiday shopping!