Boxing Day online shopping to hit £1bn for first time

Online shopping on Boxing Day will exceed £1 billion for the first time, according to e-tail association IMRG.

This year will see a total of £1.03bn spent – a 7.9 per cent increase on a year ago.

However, Boxing Day online retail spend won’t outstrip Black Friday, said IMRG.

In 2017, it recorded a total of £1.39bn spent online for Black Friday, which was an 11.7 per cent increase on 2016.

IMRG also predicted that spending on Christmas day is expected to reach £844 million. This would represent a 6.3 per cent uplift on Christmas Day 2016, when spending hit £794m.

Justin Opie, IMRG managing director, said: “Boxing day sales remain a fixture of retail and an important day in the calendar, but Black Friday has altered sales patterns over the full peak period and is now the primary discounting event of the season. And perhaps, as with Black Friday, we’re seeing Boxing Day spend become more online-focused.

“Although going out to the shops on that day has long been a British tradition, footfall was reportedly down 7.3 per cent on Boxing Day last year. It’s likely that spend on Christmas Day is pulling some of that order volume forward as well, as shoppers have the ability to browse and buy from the sofa on mobile devices during quiet moments at home and visiting family, redeeming the huge numbers of gift cards and coupons that they receive in place of presents each year.”

Justin Opie
Justin Opie

Despite more consumers spending online, commercial insurer NFU Mutual has claimed that consumers prefer a mix of shopping online and in-store.

According to research from the company, 46 per cent of consumers said they planned to use a mixture of browsing and buying online and in physical shops.

In a survey of more than 2,000 shoppers, it revealed that women are more likely to opt for a multi-channel approach than men, at 53 per cent and 39 per cent respectively, with men 20 per cent more likely than women to shop online.

The choice to shop in-store is led by the ability to ‘try before you buy’ (63 per cent) as well as the convenience of buying on the spot (52 per cent).

However, people said they were put off shopping in store by overcrowded shops (44 per cent), the cost of parking (31 per cent) and lengthy queues (31 per cent).

Online shoppers said they most enjoy the convenience and accessibility (60 per cent), and cheaper product costs (56 per cent).

While main barriers included worries about deliveries arriving on time (24 per cent), concerns around payment security (19 per cent), and damages during delivery (17 per cent).

Frank Woods, retail and wholesale specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “It’s fantastic to see consumers still love the high street, but it is imperative that retailers address the concerns of shoppers such as overcrowding or car parking costs and also consider whether a multi-channel or omni-channel retail strategy would help them to appeal to more customers next year, which also brings fresh challenges such as tackling delivery expectations and online security.”

Backing up the claims that the Black Friday period isn’t taking away Christmas sales, data from ecommerce consultancy Salmon found that consumers are still spending more in the lead-up to Christmas than they did in 2016.

Frank Woods
Frank Woods

Online traffic in the first two weeks of December was up 17 per cent compared with the same period last year, with the total number of orders up by a fifth (20 per cent).

Conversion rates were also up by seven per cent in the same period, according to the data.

It also showed that orders had increased by “a massive” 64 per cent year-on-year, while traffic was up by 50 per cent and conversion rates increasing by 31 per cent.

Salmon also claimed a “record high” of 66 per cent of traffic coming from mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

This Christmas could see a new type of shopping, claimed Salmon, where consumers order gifts through voice-led Zero-UI (user interface) devices such as Google Home or Amazon Echo.

According to data, 45 per cent of consumers are already using or planning to use digital assistants in the near future.

A further 41 per cent said they would love to be able to shop using voice-activation devices.

Patrick Munden, global head of retail and marketing at Salmon, commented: “In what has been a bumper year for many retailers during the Black Friday period, a fresh opportunity awaits in the run-up to Christmas. While some have legitimate concerns over whether Black Friday has hijacked their December profits, what we’re seeing in our operations room is a strong upsurge in number of orders and traffic compared to this time last year.

“With voice-enabled devices currently the biggest craze – and lots more of these devices purchased around Black Friday – retailers need to be prepared for this new channel for customers to purchase goods. As we head towards the end of December, every retailer will need to ensure they have all their back- and front-end systems in place to cope with the increase in demand if they are to really reap the rewards of seemingly indulgent consumers.”

Patrick Munden

However, where retailers could fall short is on deliveries, ecommerce and digital, agency Visualsoft has argued.

Research from Visualsoft found that 30 per cent of dealers could be jeopardising their Christmas sales due to limited delivery options.

It found that 17 per cent of the UK’s top 240 retailers don’t offer premium delivery options, despite shoppers expecting them to.

Of consumers, 30 per cent said they would choose to shop with retailers that offer a premium delivery choice.

What’s more, 46 per cent of abandoned online shopping baskets are a result of frustration with limited shipping options.

The flexibility to mix online with bricks-and-mortar shopping was also found to be a key factor, with 32 per cent of shoppers expecting ‘click and collect’ to be available.

According to Visualsoft, only 62 per cent of retailers currently offer collection in-store.