British shoppers made 129 million visits to retail websites on Boxing Day (26 December 2013) setting a new retail record for the sixth year in a row. Visit figures were up by 15% compared to Boxing Day last year and followed an impressive retail performance online across Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
With consumers hunting for the best bargains around, the UK spent 17 million hours browsing and shopping online yesterday. Shopping activity accounted for 17% of all online visits on Boxing Day which meant 1 in every 6 visits online in the UK went to a retail website.
Breaking online retail records
Retail records have already been broken five times this festive season which was kick-started on Black Friday (29 November) after the American Thanksgiving holiday. Middle Cyber Monday (9 December) held the previous record with 120 million visits in a single day, but that was topped on Boxing Day with an astonishing 129 million visits, making it 8% bigger than any day in UK retail history online.
Boxing Day has consistently been the biggest online shopping day of the year since 2008, but with consumer trends changing and people spreading their shopping across December, Boxing Day 2013 faced a stiff challenge to outperform Monday 9 December 2013. However, just as in previous years, consumers went online in their millions to shop and made it the biggest online retail day ever seen in the UK.
Accessories, sales and returns driving growth
The three main drivers for growth this year on Boxing Day were purchasing accessories, planning for sales and arranging returns of unwanted gifts.
Many of the most popular gifts this year were consumer electronics goods and in particular smartphones, tablets and video games consoles. With many people receiving money and gift vouchers over Christmas, a lot of Boxing Day shopping was focussed on buying accessories for these electronics products.
The sales are always a big driver for online retail visits. What sets 2013 apart from last year is that retailers were not under the same kind of pressure this year to start discounting early in order to boost their revenue numbers. With more shoppers electing to do their Christmas shopping early this year, fewer retailers felt the need to offer sales discounts on Christmas Eve, which in turn meant that sales shopping really took off on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. In fact, on Christmas Day 1 in every 88 searches online included the word ‘sale’ or ‘sales’ as consumers sought to plan their high street sales shopping on Boxing Day or take advantage of early online discounts.
Finally, Boxing Day is always an opportunity for people to shop online in order to exchange unwanted gifts received on Christmas Day. What we’ve seen over 2013 is that many of the multi-channel retailers (i.e. retailers with a high street and online presence) have put effort into making their returns policy as seamless and convenient as possible. One thing that really irritates customers is trying to return a product in store which they bought online only to be refused because the retailer cannot accept returns for gifts bought online. As the integration between online and offline channels has strengthened, we’ve seen more of this cross-channel behaviour.
What does this mean for Christmas overall?
Christmas 2013 is still on course to be the biggest ever, and the strength of the Boxing Day results means that December 2013 should hit the expected benchmark of 3 billion retail visits in one month. Every day of December 2013 so far has outperformed the corresponding day from 2012. UK consumers made 90 million visits to retail sites on Christmas Eve (24 December 2013), some 6 million more visits than were made on Christmas Eve 2012, whilst Christmas Day saw 114 million visits, up 6% from last year’s 107 million.
Although we’ve seen some interesting new trends emerge this Christmas, particularly with the new “Middle Cyber Monday” some trends remain the same, and Boxing Day has once again been the star performer of the festive calendar.