NPD: Online Represented 61% of Consumer Electronics Sales During Pandemic

Accelerated by temporary store closures and consumer hesitancy to shop in-store during the pandemic, online U.S. consumer technology hardware revenue share rose to 61% during the 12 months through March — up from 48% in the previous-year period, according to new data from The NPD Group.

The Port Washington, N.Y.-based research company said online revenue grew 62%, up more than $36 billion. Online technology revenue share peaked at 68% in Q2 2020, during the height of lockdowns, and despite declining since then, remained above the long-term trend at 57% in Q1 2021. This was 7% above Q1 2020, and 14% above the pre-pandemic share in Q1 2019.

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Notebooks, TVs, tablets and headphones made up 43% of in-store sales, the same as the previous 12 months. Online sales of those categories saw a revenue share increase from 33% to 37%. NPD said online sales of notebooks, tablets, and headphones saw a dramatic shift from in-store, resulting in higher category e-commerce sales than in-store. TVs were the outlier, with the majority of revenue remaining in-store despite lockdowns and growth in online sales.

“While technology hardware sales have moved online at a more rapid pace than other general merchandise categories, the acceleration of this change, and the passing of the 50% milestone as a consequence of the pandemic, represents an important shift,” Stephen Baker, VP and industry advisor for the NPD Group, said in a statement.

The analyst said there remains substantial opportunity for in-store retailing and growth in buy-online-pick-up-in-store activities that need to be fulfilled by retailers at the local level.

“As evidenced by the continued dominance of TV buying in-store, physical presence benefits categories where product features cannot be demonstrated as effectively online,” Baker said in a statement.

While the growth in online sales presents challenges to physical retailers, much of the online revenue increase was actually a result of retailers selling through online channels or using their stores for e-commerce transactions.

In-store pick-ups accounted for 12% of all online consumer tech revenue through March, an increase of two percentage points from the previous period. In fact, NPD reported that when combining in-store pick-up transactions and normal product deliveries, sellers with a retail store presence saw their overall share of online sales increase 10% during the pandemic.

Report: Global E-commerce Reached $4 Trillion in 2020

Despite a challenging 2020 for retail during the pandemic, new data from eMarketer suggests that worldwide retail e-commerce sales posted a 27.6% growth rate for the year, with sales reaching well over $4 trillion. That tally is projected to reach $5 trillion in 2022.

This represents a substantial uptick from the research firm’s mid-pandemic assessment that global e-commerce would decelerate to 16.5% growth and demonstrates the remarkable extent to which consumers have transitioned to e-commerce.

Even as total worldwide retail sales declined by 3% and recessionary conditions set in around the world, e-commerce managed to perform above pre-pandemic expectations in 2020.

eMarketer forecasts that worldwide growth in 2021 will be 14.3%, which is a relatively low number compared with 20.2% growth in 2019 and last year’s 27.6%, but it still represents $611 billion in additional e-commerce sales. Even as total worldwide retail sales declined and recessionary conditions set in around the world, e-commerce managed to perform above pre-pandemic expectations in 2020.

As recently as 2018, worldwide e-commerce sales had not yet topped $3 trillion. The report estimates that $4 trillion was easily breached in 2020, $5 trillion will be achieved by 2022, and $6 trillion will be reached by 2024. In 2020, 18% of all retail sales took place via e-commerce. In 2024, that figure will reach 21.8%.

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“We anticipate that consumers will maintain many of their newfound digital behaviors in 2021,” Ethan Cramer-Flood, analyst at Insider Intelligence, said in a statement.

Cramer-Flood contends that with so much e-commerce growth fast-tracked in 2020 — and with a full year of relatively normalized brick-and-mortar commerce — 2021’s e-commerce growth rate will decelerate to some degree, despite enduring consumer enthusiasm.

 

Report: Online Shopping, Curbside Pickup Boomed in 2020

Merchants that offered the “buy online, pick up in store” delivery channel pre-pandemic experienced 70% increase in volume in 2020 compared to 2019, according to new data from ACI Worldwide.

The data revealed a 24% increase in ecommerce transactions globally in December 2020 compared to December 2019. In particular, online transactions in the retail sector increased 31% and the gaming sector increased 90%, comparing December 2020 with December 2019.

While many merchants initially implemented the buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) delivery channel during the pandemic, those that already had this option available pre-COVID-19 experienced an increase of 70% by volume and 58% by value in 2020. However, BOPIS fraud has also seen a significant increase, with a 7% fraud attempt rate compared to 4.6% with other delivery channels.

“In 2020, we saw the pandemic drive the highest number of merchants implementing the BOPIS delivery channel for the first time in one year,” Debbie Guerra, EVP of ACI Worldwide, said in a statement. “We expect this channel to increase as more consumers get used to the convenience of shopping at home and the speed of in-store pickup. However, this is also a channel to watch closely for fraud, as these same benefits appeal to fraudsters.”

ACI’s data also showed that non-fraud chargebacks increased 26% in December 2020 compared to December 2019, driven by shipment delays over the holiday period. Non-fraud chargebacks include product received was not what the customer ordered, not delivered on time, damaged upon delivery, poor customer service, etc.

“Non-fraud chargebacks continue to rise since the low that was experienced in April 2020,” Guerra said.

She added that “porch pirates” were active in 2020, which impacted the increase in non-fraud chargebacks as fraudsters follow delivery trucks. In addition, shipment delays consumers experienced over the holiday period as well as a backlog of returns processing and product back orders have also contributed to the increase in non-fraud chargebacks.

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Online purchasing trends December 2020: Travel and ticketing continued to see a significant dip in December due to the pandemic, declining 27% and 76%, respectively. Transactions in the gaming sector increased 90%.

In Q4 2020, global eCommerce transactions increased 22% compared to Q4 2019. Through January to December 2020, global e-commerce transactions increased by 19% compared to 2019. The U.K. saw an increase in transactions of 28% and the U.S. of 14% from January through December 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

The gaming sector increased 84% January to December 2020 compared with 2019. The retail sector increased 48% January to December 2020 compared with 2019.

Fraudulent attempt purchase value decreased by $10 in 2020 compared with 2019; this was the impact of airline, sporting event and concert ticket purchase declines, which have a high average ticket price. Average value of genuine purchases decreased by $18​.

Fraud attempt rates by value increased slightly by 0.2% to 3.4%, similar to prior holiday seasons, as a result of increased genuine consumer spending outpacing fraud.

 

Mastercard CEO: Pandemic Spiked E-commerce 20% in 2020

E-commerce isn’t new. Shopping online has been in vogue with the arrival of Amazon and free second-day shipping. But with a pandemic leading consumers to question crowded malls and in-store transactions, the e-commerce alternative with curbside pickup helped spike online revenue 20% in 2020 from 2019, according to Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach.

Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach

Pre-pandemic industry estimates had pegged e-commerce to grow by about 16.5%. Mastercard said that from Oct. 11 through Dec. 24 online sales grew 49% compared with 2019.

Speaking Jan. 12 on the virtual CES 2021, Miebach said he doubted consumer in-store retail patterns would return to pre-pandemic trends even with a vaccine.

“Years of digital acceleration have been kind of compressed into months,” Miebach said. “That’s a seismic shift.”

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The executive said that going forward consumers would likely continue purchasing online due to the steps taken by retailers and Amazon, among others, to make purchasing as easy as a few clicks — with free shipping. Miebach said consumers would return to stores for product advice before making a purchase.

“If you want to go to a shop and you’re going to talk, you get great advice from the guy that you know in your — in your local town,” he said. “But repeatable purchases where you don’t really have any advantage by being in a shop, why wouldn’t you do what you just started to learn throughout the crisis? So about two-thirds will retain. That’s our view.”

2020 Retail Winners: E-Commerce, Consumer Electronics

To say online shopping boomed in 2020 would be an understatement,, especially during a pandemic. The trend toward e-commerce isn’t new. It’s been a reality of retail for awhile as stores big and small embrace transacting over the Internet as a means of dealing direct with the consumer and better competing against Amazon.

New data from eMarketer suggests that lost pre-pandemic spending on restaurants, bars, salons, travel, live events, movie theaters, etc., contributed to a $100 billion uptick in e-commerce spending, notably on consumer electronics.

In January, eMarketer forecast total e-commerce sales would reach $675 billion in 2020. Now, that estimate is closer to $795 billion.

Consumer electronics were particularly well suited to serve the needs of a population suddenly stuck at home managing unexpected work, school and leisure time. Online CE sales are tracking toward $179.3 billion, up from pre-pandemic estimate of $150.1 billion.

“That’s $29.3 billion in unanticipated online spending on devices to help us work, learn, [entertain] and play from home,” analyst Ethan Cramer-Flood wrote in a Dec. 29 note.

Indeed, tech spending on hardware and services during the 2020 holiday season (October-December) is projected to reach $135 billion in revenue in the United States — a 10% increase from a year ago, according to the Consumer Technology Association.

Projected top-selling CE devices over the holidays include smartphones, laptops, next-generation video game consoles, TVs and wearables.

“The 2020 holiday season will bring economic, safety and political unknowns — but the consumer desire to give and receive technology gifts is certain,” said Lesley Rohrbaugh, director of market research at CTA. “With consumers forgoing budgets for travel and experiences this year, more dollars will go towards technology gifts that support connection, productivity, health and home entertainment, as technology has been a critical asset to so many during the ongoing pandemic.”

Perhaps no CE retailer has better adapted to the pandemic than Best Buy, which saw a near 174% increase in e-commerce revenue and entertainment in the most-recent fiscal quarter. The nation’s largest CE retailer was quick to offer online purchases with curbside pick-up during the early days of the pandemic.

The chain’s entertainment segment, which includes products such as DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies, video game hardware and software, books, music CDs and computer software, saw same-store sales increase 17.5% compared with a 20.8% decline during the previous-year period. The division generated 5% of domestic revenue, or $542.5 million, compared with $448.2 million last year.

Domestic online revenue of $3.82 billion increased 173.7% on a comparable basis, and as a percentage of total domestic revenue, online revenue increased to approximately 35.2% versus 15.6% in 2019.

CEO Corie Barry said the pandemic has underscored Best Buy’s purpose to “enrich lives through technology,” and the capabilities the chain is “flexing and strengthening” to benefit sales going forward.

Report: 30% Increase in Global Thanksgiving Weekend E-commerce Transactions

Online sales of products continue to resonate globally. ACI Worldwide Dec. 4 revealed a 21% increase in e-commerce transactions worldwide in November compared to November 2019. This was driven by strong consumer demand for household items and services, especially those providing shipment, remote education and training, and insurance for consumer electronics.

According to the data, based on hundreds of millions of online transactions from global merchants, the retail sector saw a 30% increase over the five-day period from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday in 2020 compared to 2019.

The Saturday after Black Friday experienced the biggest increase at 47% compared to 2019. However, the average ticket price on these peak days declined by 3% compared to 2019, down from $136 to $132, as consumers are attracted to free shipment and sales.

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“This year’s holiday season is looking very different from previous years with many merchants starting sales much earlier, as well as continuing promotions beyond the traditional peak days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” Debbie Guerra, EVP, ACI Worldwide, said in a statement.

Guerra said many merchants expanded their buy-online-pick-up-in-store and free next-day delivery options, which attracted many consumers.

“The result is a substantial increase in e-commerce transaction volumes prior to Black Friday,” she said.

Fraud attempt rates by volume increased slightly to 1.7% by volume and 3.4% by value, similarly to prior holiday seasons, as a result of increased genuine consumer spending outpacing fraud. Non-fraud chargebacks increased by 15% in October 2020 compared with 2019, a lower percentage than that of April and May of 2020, mainly due to more people being back at work and call centers being better staffed to deal with consumer calls.

Guerra said consumers should avoid leaving packages on their doorsteps for long periods of time to avoid porch piracy, as this has been an area of growing concern over the years.

“As the buy-online-pick-up-in-store channel continues to experience fast growth driven by the pandemic, it is providing greater opportunity for fraudsters,​” she said.

E-commerce purchasing trends:

  • In 2020 to-date (January to November), global e-commerce transactions increased by 20% compared with the same period last year.
  • Travel and ticketing continued to see a significant dip in November due to the pandemic, declining 60% and 85% respectively.
  • Transactions in the gaming sector increased 50%; this increase was less than previous months, potentially due to market saturation as well as consumers potentially awaiting holiday gift cards for gaming purchases.
  • The U.S. saw an increase in transactions of 20% and the U.K. of 19% percent from January through November 2020 compared with the same period in 2019.

 

Fraud trends:

  • ​Fraudulent attempt purchase value decreased by $11 in 2020 compared to 2019; this was the impact of airline, sporting event and concert ticket purchase declines, which have a high average ticket price; genuine purchases value decreased by $18​.
  • Fraud attempt rates by volume increased slightly by 1.7% and 3.4% by value, similar to prior holiday seasons, as a result of increased genuine consumer spending outpacing fraud.

 

Black Friday Online Sales Soar; Retail Traffic Plummets

As expected, ongoing consumer trends toward e-commerce and away from shopping malls magnified during a pandemic. New data from Adobe Analytics saw a 22% year-over-year increase in online sales on Black Friday (Nov. 27), the official start to the winter retail season.

The research firm, citing data from 80 of the top 100 online retail sites, said e-commerce revenue reached $9 billion the day after Thanksgiving, compared with $7.4 billion during the previous-year period. Adobe said it was the second-highest online revenue day since Cyber Monday 2019 when revenue reached $9.4 billion. This year’s Cyber Monday (Nov. 30) is projected to top $10.8 billion, up 15% from last year.

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Meanwhile, e-commerce’s gain was brick-and-mortar’s drain. Preliminary data from Sensormatic Solutions indicated consumer visits to retail stores on Black Friday dropped 51.2% compared with 2019. Shopper traffic also decreased 45.2% week-to-date (Sunday, Nov. 22 to Friday, Nov. 27) compared with the same period last year.

“Due to COVID-19 and social distancing requirements, shoppers were more purposeful in their in-person Black Friday shopping, causing significantly less crowds than we’ve seen in the past,” Brian Field, senior director of global retail consulting at Sensormatic Solutions, said in a statement. “This was compounded by retailers not offering as many in-store doorbusters and the increasing adoption of e-commerce.”

While many retailers limited their Black Friday hours compared to non-pandemic years, the peak time for shopping remained the same, with the busiest influx of footfall around 2 p.m., according to Sensormatic.

“As we approach ‘Super Saturday’ (Dec. 19), and corresponding shipping deadlines, we expect to see some of the in-store traffic that didn’t materialize on Black Friday appear as consumers wrap up their holiday shopping and make last-minute purchases,” Field said.

The research firm expects the 10 busiest shopping days of 2020 to account for 34.2% of all holiday traffic as compared to 46.5% in 2019. The days include:

  1. Friday, Nov. 27 — Black Friday
  2. Saturday, Dec. 19 — Super Saturday
  3. Saturday, Dec. 26 — Day after Christmas, aka “Boxing Day,” in some global regions
  4. Wednesday, Dec. 23 — Wednesday before Christmas
  5. Saturday, Dec. 12 — Second Saturday in December
  6. Monday, Dec. 21 — Monday before Christmas
  7. Saturday, Nov. 28 — Saturday after Thanksgiving
  8. Tuesday, Dec. 22 — Tuesday before Christmas
  9. Saturday, Dec. 5 — First Saturday in December
  10. Sunday, Dec. 20 — Sunday before Christmas

NRF: 2020 Winter Holiday Sales to Grow 5%

The National Retail Federation Nov. 23 forecast that holiday sales during November and December will increase from 3.6% to 5.2% over the same period last year, generating $755.3 billion to $766.7 billion in revenue. The data, which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, compares with a 4% increase to $729.1 billion in 2019, and an average holiday sales increase of 3.5% over the past five years.

“We know this holiday season will be unlike any other, and retailers have planned ahead by investing billions of dollars to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers,” Matthew Shay, CEO of the retail trade group, said in a statement. “Consumers have shown they are excited about the holidays and are willing to spend on gifts that lift the spirits of family and friends after such a challenging year.”

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NRF expects that online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, will increase between 20% and 30% to between $202.5 billion and $218.4 billion, up from $168.7 billion last year.

“Given the pandemic, there is uncertainty about consumers’ willingness to spend, but with the economy improving most have the ability to spend,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.

Kleinhenz said households have strong balance sheets supported by a strong stock market, rising home values and record savings boosted by government stimulus payments issued earlier this year. Jobs and wages are growing, energy costs are low and reduced spending on personal services, travel and entertainment because of the virus has freed up money for retail spending.

As a result of store shutdowns and stay-at-home orders last spring, not all retailers and categories have rebounded as quickly, including small and mid-sized retailers. However, in the aggregate retail sales have been growing month-over-month and year-over-year since June. As calculated by NRF, sales were up 10.6% in October versus October 2019, likely driven in part by early holiday shopping. For the first 10 months of this year, retail sales were up 6.4% versus the first 10 months of 2019.

With e-commerce sales up 36.7% year-over-year during the third quarter, many households are expected to depend on digital shopping to make many of their holiday purchases, just as they have for much of their everyday spending this year. The online spending includes websites operated by bricks-and-mortar retailers, which have become major players in the online market as retail channels have merged.

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The NRF forecast is based on an economic model that takes into consideration a variety of indicators, including employment, wages, consumer confidence, disposable income, consumer credit, previous retail sales and weather. NRF defines the holiday season as Nov. 1 through Dec. 31.

The forecast comes as NRF’s latest research shows 42% of consumers started their holiday shopping earlier than usual this year. NRF’s “New Holiday Traditions” campaign has urged consumers to shop safe and shop early amidst the pandemic, and 59% had begun by early November, up from 49% at that point a decade ago.

 

Verizon: Online Holiday Shopping Traffic Up 82%

With the annual post-Thanksgiving Black Friday retail event a week away, new research data suggests consumers have already begun their winter holiday shopping — online, with e-commerce traffic up 82% in November compared with the previous-year period.

The seventh annual edition of the Verizon Business Retail Trends Report finds holiday shopping surging early this year and confirms how COVID-19 restrictions and related health concerns could be linked to an increase in online shopping this holiday season.

Verizon says mobility traffic to and around the U.S.’s largest malls — as evidenced by their cell phones — has decreased dramatically from last year. According to the telecom, people are moving to and around malls 20% less than they did last year during early November. There’s also a 28% increase in use on payment sites versus last year.

“Our report confirms what we expected to be true, significant shifts continue from in-person, brick and mortar shopping to online shopping,” Michele Dupre, VP of sales vertical markets, retail and hospitality for Verizon Business, said in a statement. “What’s surprising and promising for retail stores is while mobility around U.S. malls is down from last year, it’s up significantly at 59% since the height of the pandemic. Online retailers will need to continue to invest in creative and innovative customer experiences, to capture revenue and offset lost sales from in-person shopping.”

Big Retail Looks to Counter Amazon Prime Days With Steep Discounts

When Amazon pushed back its annual Prime Days e-commerce sales event from the summer to Oct. 13-14, big box competitors were faced with a decision: counter the online behemoth’s signature event that generated more than $7 billion in sales last year with competing discounts, or wait until November’s Black Friday, the industry’s traditional retail event the day after Thanksgiving.

They’re doing both.

Big box chains such as Target, Walmart and Best Best Buy are launching Black Friday-type discounts this week on select big-ticket consumer electronics, toys, clothing and gaming items in an effort to lure consumers with contactless retail, including curbside delivery of both in-store and e-commerce transactions in the COVID-19 era.

Target is bowing “Deal Days,” and Best Buy is offering early access to select Black Friday deals during the same Prime Days period. Walmart, which recently launched its own retail subscription program to compete with the Prime membership, began its “Big Save Event” on Oct. 11 (at 7 p.m. ET) through Oct. 15.

Walmart is offering 21% Off JVC 32-inch class HD Roku Smart LED televisions, 32% of Samsung Smart Watches, $100 Off Beats Solo Pro Wireless headsets, 24% Off Roku Streaming Stick.

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Best Buy is marketing a 70-inch Samsung 4K HD Smart TV for $529.99. It will also sell laptop computers priced at $119.99 as part of the early sale.

“This will be a holiday season like no other, and we want to help our customers shop how, where and when they want,” Best Buy spokesman Keegan Shoutz told USA Today. “This year, that means helping them start their shopping early, by starting our Black Friday deals earlier than ever before.”

Target said it would offer deals on “hundreds of thousands of items across its electronics, toys, beauty, and home departments,” including offering contactless drive-up and order pickup on many items. Indeed, fast-forwarding Black Friday discounts enables chains to promote their enhanced safety protocols while minimizing the traditional long lines and crowded malls in November.

“There are so many unknown variables this year,” Tyson Cornell, head of the U.S. consumer markets group at PwC, told The Washington Post. “By kicking off sales in October, [retailers] are hoping to spread consumer traffic and demand over the next few months, helping them maintain social distancing in stores, consistently move inventory and adjust their strategies based on early consumer demand.”

James Zahn, senior editor of trade magazine Toy Insider, said the stampede mentality of the past, with doorbusters sales and Black Friday deals every weekend, is being replaced by earlier, season-long discounts.

“We’re in a health crisis, so retailers are having to rethink how they get products into families’ hands,” Zahn said.