Gearing up for summer: 9 ecommerce seasonality stats

Seasonality has always played a huge part in retail and ecommerce strategy. And for online retailers looking to maximise revenues, it has become essential to observe not only the effects that major events such as Christmas, Black Friday or Singles Day have on consumer behaviour, but also more subtle fluctuations that result from weather, day of the week and time of the month. In this list, we’ve compiled some interesting stats on ecommerce seasonality in Europe and the United States.

1. The worst times of the year for ecommerce are sunny Saturdays in summer

Weather directly affects online sales – and this effect is modified by the time of the week and season. A 2017 study published in Production and Operations Management found that good weather has a significant negative effect on demand (i.e. fewer sales were made). Conversely, the opposite – bad weather entailing more sales – was also true, though it seemed to be much weaker in effect.

The findings also suggested that these fluctuations are more pronounced on weekends, as well as during the summer months.

2. Factoring in weather data can improve sales forecasting accuracy by up to 50%

The same study as above also took the time to integrate weather data into the sales forecasting of a large European fashion etailer, comparing the accuracy with normal forecasting. They found that the forecasts that accounted for weather fluctuations were up to 50% more accurate. Per the study:

“We find that including weather data in the sales forecast model can lead to fewer sales forecast errors, reducing them by, on average, 8.6% to 12.2% and up to 50.6% on summer weekends.”

3. Online sales velocity varies wildly between seasonal events

Digital Commerce 360’s 2018 Online Peak Seasons Report quantifies the sales velocity of several holidays throughout the year, revealing some significant differences between seasonal shopping behaviours. For example, while two major online flower retailers unsurprisingly generated 69.4% of their Mother’s Day flower sales in the week immediately preceding the day itself, online shopping for the back-to-school season lasted fairly dependably for over two months.

4. Online consumers shop most on Sunday evenings

What day of the week do consumers prefer to shop online? A new report from EmpathyBroker indicates that Sunday evening is the most popular time among online shoppers to surf for items, closely followed by Monday.

5. The ‘Blue Monday’ effect is getting more and more apparent

Blue Monday – the third Monday of January, often touted as the most depressing day of the year – is fast becoming a real opportunity for ecommerce brands, many of whom have leveraged the day’s poor press to present spirit-cheering deals to customers.

The play is clearly working. The same EmpathyBroker report showed that the number of online product searches on Blue Monday rose by 26% in 2017 and 32% in 2018 when compared to an average Monday, indicating growing consumer awareness of this ‘holiday’.

6. Singles are a significant market on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day marketing may centre primarily on couples, but many single people are also buying into the holiday hype by purchasing caring gifts – for themselves.

In a recent survey from the National Retail Federation, half of all 25-34-year-olds who claimed not to be celebrating Valentine’s said that they would self-gift for the occasion. This increasing number of self-gifters may represent a reflection of China’s wildly popular Singles Day, which continues to grow year on year.

7. Valentine’s is returns hell for retailers

Reducing return rates is a priority for most online retailers, but fashion vendors are particularly challenged in the aftermath of February 14th. A 2017 study from Worldpay revealed that return rates rocketed by 95% in the three days after Valentine’s Day, with clothing constituting 99% of refunds.

8. Ecommerce booms big around Halloween

Retailers hoping to court the trick-or-treat audience should lean particularly into their digital channels around October. According to analysis from Internet Retailer, ecommerce currently accounts for a growing 14.3% of total retail sales in the US. However, the 2018 Online Peak Seasons Report reveals that over a third of total spending related to Halloween products now takes place online – coming in at over double this channel’s normal share.

9. The fourth quarter continues to grow

Last but not least, we can’t ignore the selling power of the fourth quarter of the year, with its combination of Halloween, Black Friday/Cyber Monday and Christmas. The months of October through December – the ‘holiday period’ – remain powerhouses for online retail. Per Statista, UK ecommerce revenues in November and December 2018 spiked 50% higher than that of the September just two months before. And this late-year effect only continues to grow: December 2018 was up 13% on December 2017.

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