Online holiday sales projected to reach $129B this year, up 12% over 2016 [Forrester]

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With eight weeks to go before Black Friday, online retailers are well into mapping their strategy for pulling as much of 2017’s holiday e-commerce spend as possible. This year, Forrester Research Inc. reports two out of five consumers plan on spending more online during this year’s holiday season than in 2016.

According to Forrester’s 2017 Online Holiday Outlook report for the US, the total number of online holiday shoppers will increase 3 percent compared to last year, with consumers spending an average of $689 online — up 8 percent over 2016.

Forrester says this upward swing in online holiday shoppers, and the amount of money they plan to spend, will deliver a 12 percent year-over-year increase in online holiday retail sales.

While not as big a jump as what happened between 2015 and 2016 (11 percent to 14 percent), it still represents a double-digit increase for holiday e-commerce sales, with online shoppers spending a total of $129 billion this year, compared to the $115 billion spent in 2016.

Forrester Data: US online holiday retail spending (in billions)

“In the US, retailers are carefully planning for maximum return throughout the scant four and a half weeks between Thanksgiving and December 25 this year,” writes Forrester analyst Fiona Swerdlow in the company’s US Holiday 2017 Outlook report. “We’ll see marketing crescendos around Black Friday and Cyber Week again — but, as in recent years, retailers will start rolling out holiday campaigns much earlier in November.”

In a release announcing its Holiday Insights Data Center, Salesforce said this year’s Black Friday will be the busiest digital shopping day in US history.

“Last year was the first holiday where Black Friday surpassed Cyber Monday as the year’s biggest digital shopping day; we expect even more shoppers to go online on Black Friday this year,” writes Rob Graff on the Salesforce blog.

Salesforce’s holiday shopping data is a combination of analytics pulled from its Commerce Cloud and Marketing Cloud Social Studio, in addition to its 2017 Connected Shoppers Report — a survey of more than 2,000 US consumers.

Other Salesforce predictions for this holiday season include consumers completing 50 percent of their holiday shopping by Sunday, December 3, and 80 percent by Friday, December 15. The company also said that this year’s Cyber Week — the days between Thursday, November 23 and Monday, November 27 — will include the deepest discounts and the highest rate of free shipping, two primary motivators for consumers when deciding whether or not to buy online.

Forrester predicts this year’s in-store holiday sales will remain flat, with brick-and-mortar retailers pulling in $549 billion, up less than a full percentage point from 2017 (0.3 percent).

“Retailers that still think online and offline don’t influence each other are deluding themselves,” says Euclid Analytics CEO Brent Franson.

Euclid surveyed 1,500 consumers in September to get insights into online and offline shopping behavior around the 2017 holiday season. Their findings revealed that 55 percent of consumers often visit a store to check out a product in person but purchase the product online at a later date.

The Forrester report also noted the need for retailers to deliver a “flawless omnichannel fulfillment” experience.

“US online shoppers research and shop interchangeably between digital touch points and stores, underscoring the importance (and complexity) of delivering great experiences across a growing constellation of touch points,” writes Swerdlow in the Forrester 2017 Holiday Outlook report, “The option to buy online and pick up in the store later was the reason that 33 percent of consumers decided to make a particular purchase last holiday season.”

About The Author

Amy Gesenhues is Third Door Media’s General Assignment Reporter, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land and Search Engine Land. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including,, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy’s articles.


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