Online retail sales at the holidays last year rose 14.7% year over year to $108 billion, with Amazon grabbing most of that. Some 38% of online holiday sales went to Amazon in 2016, and that rose to 50% last year, according to Gartner L2's Intelligence Report: Omnichannel 2018.
Still, holiday sales mostly take place in stores, according to the report. Nearly 85% of holiday sales last year were in brick-and-mortar stores, and that can give retailers an edge online, Gartner L2 said.
That means tying together online and offline, as more legacy retailers are doing. Over 60% of retailers in Gartner L2's index last year showcased their in-store inventory on their online product pages, up from 35% in 2016, while 56% posted their holiday shipping guide online last year.
Black Friday through Christmas serves as a gantlet for retailers to run, a period that tests their ability to capture growing e-commerce sales.
That increasingly depends on meeting shopper expectations for fulfillment, being transparent about holiday shipping and transacting on mobile, according to L2. "To compete against the leading players in digital retail, [direct-to-consumer] brands must provide a series of baseline and advanced omnichannel features and functionalities, including real-time inventory on product pages and expedited shippings, in time for the holidays, all while communicating offerings," according to the report.
Legacy retailers can't escape that, either, according to L2. Although e-commerce holiday sales appear to be growing and online retail continues to be in flux, last year provides some clues to consumer trends. For now, the retailers with the most advanced omnichannel operations (and Amazon) appear to be outpacing other players.
Amazon, eBay and Walmart last year each had holiday online traffic gains in the 3% to 4% range, according to SimilarWeb. Best Buy, whose site finished fifth in overall traffic for the fourth quarter, also saw a gain of about 4%. But, outside of the top 10, where site traffic rose an average of 1.6%, traffic was down in every other grouping of 10 sites (11-20, 21-30, etc.) for the rest of the top 50, according to that report. (Even the top 10 had some big losers, with Macy's website traffic declining 17% year over year, Target's dropping about 14% and Kohls sliding about 13%. Even online-only seller Etsy experienced an 11% drop.)
Shoppers don't appear to be easing up on their expectations, either. On-time delivery of gifts, for example, is a concern for 91% of consumers this year, up 6% from 2017, according to delivery service Dropoff's annual holiday survey. While retailers are facing more delivery demands, they could also be entertaining more last-minute shoppers: 77% say they plan to shop at the last minute in 2018, a 15% rise over last year.