Analysis: The Disruption of the Holiday Shopping Season

Pattern Data Science

November 4, 2021

There’s a chill in the air, the leaves are falling, and the days are growing shorter, so you know what that means: the holiday shopping season is upon us once again.

It’s no surprise that November and December are enormous months for online shopping. It’s not all about Cyber Monday anymore. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, “Panic Week” — the holiday shopping season has been moving online more and more each year.

Of course, the past year and a half has seen online shopping become even more ubiquitous in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This got us wondering how the pandemic shaped online holiday shopping behaviors last year, and if early indications suggest that 2021 will be more like 2020, or if we’re seeing a return to pre-pandemic holiday shopping habits.

What were the most popular categories during the holiday shopping season last year? Which items got the biggest holiday bump? Which are the hottest items heading into this year’s shopping season?

We dove deep into our data to answer these questions and more.

What were the most popular items during the holidays in 2020?

We started by taking a broad look at which categories received the biggest increase in demand during the holiday shopping season compared to the rest of the year.

No big surprise here. Online demand for toys and games was up 60% during November and December compared to the rest of the year, more than any other major category in our analysis. Electronics weren’t far behind, with a 55% boost in average demand.

Hiking and camping relies heavily on summertime sales to drive demand, but the category still performed 2% better during the holidays than the average during the rest of the year.

In 2020, only kitchen and dining and home appliances actually saw demand drop below the average for the rest of the year. These may simply be categories where people still prefer to do in-person shopping as opposed to shopping online, or it could be that 2020 was simply a down year for these categories.

We’ll dig a little deeper to answer this question in a moment, but first let’s take a closer look at some popular individual items from our top two categories:

The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X topped the list of items we analyzed. This comes as no surprise, as both of these brand-new consoles launched in November, making them the hottest holiday gift on millions of shopping lists.

Laptop computers and tablets both saw significant bumps in demand, as did graphics cards and TVs.

Only 2 in 1 laptop and tablet devices saw demand drop during the holiday shopping season compared to the rest of the year.

Finally, let’s examine some major search terms to see which ones got the biggest holiday bump last year:

Crockpots were an incredibly popular holiday gift last year, as the term leapt by 80% in November and December when compared to the average during the rest of the year.

Two major graphics cards and the Nintendo Switch saw the next biggest increases in search volume, reinforcing video games as a holiday shopping behemoth.

Smaller kitchen appliances like waffle makers and coffee makers all saw major boosts in search volume, in contrast to larger appliances like freezers, washing machines, and dishwashers which all saw search volume drop significantly.

While these views show us which items were the hottest during last year’s holiday season, it doesn’t give us much insight into what kind of impact COVID-19 had (if any) on the holiday shopping season.

So let’s now compare the holiday shopping season last year with 2019.

Did COVID-19 change online demand for popular categories last year?

To better understand how COVID-19 may have impacted online holiday shopping habits last year, we compared online demand during the months of November and December 2020 to the same months in 2019.

First, let’s examine the change in demand for our major categories:

All major categories saw demand increase in 2020 compared to 2019. Kitchen and Dining actually saw the largest increase in holiday demand last year, followed by clothing, shoes and jewelry.

Electronics, one of the categories that received the biggest holiday season boost in 2020 compared to the rest of the year, actually saw the smallest year-over-year increase in demand.

This suggests that categories that were already extremely linked to online shopping before the pandemic were far less impacted than some categories where shoppers may have preferred to shop in-person during a normal year.

We can see even more evidence of this when we examine our list of holiday search terms:

Some items like USB-C monitors and graphics cards received big year-over-year increases associated with the release of a new generation of hardware. But major appliances like clothes dryers, freezers, and fridges received huge boosts that we can more safely assume were the result of shoppers being more willing to purchase big ticket items online and less willing to brave brick and mortar locations in the midst of a global pandemic.

Naturally, this had us wondering how these trends have looked through 2021, and if we can see signs of a more permanent shift in how people shop online during the holidays.

2021: Even more online shopping than before, or a return to pre-pandemic levels?

While there’s no way to predict this year’s online holiday shopping season, we can certainly examine 2021 so far to see how things are trending as we head into the holiday shopping months.

Let’s start by examining demand at some of our major categories in 2021 so far compared to the same timeframe last year:

Online demand for clothing, shoes, and jewelry has been up big in 2021 so far compared to 2020. Toys and games, home appliances, and electronics have also had a strong 2021, with demand up about 10% for each category.

Two categories that have seen online demand drop in 2021: Video and computer games, and kitchen and dining.

Now, this obviously only paints a part of the picture, so let’s take a month-by-month look at these categories for a clearer view.

Online demand for clothes, shoes, and jewelry dropped significantly early in the pandemic, as people were sheltering in place and far less concerned with a new outfit or set of jewelry. Things rebounded quickly, though, and we’ve seen nothing but continued growth in online demand for this category.

If this trend holds true, we could see holiday 2021 end up being enormous for buying clothes, shoes, and jewelry online.

Here we see just how important the holidays are for toys and games. We also see that in 2020, online demand jumped in the first months of the pandemic, signaling a shift to online shopping for these items in general.

2021 so far has shown online demand for toys and games trending above 2020’s already increased levels, suggesting this year’s holiday season will likely bring all-time highs for this already popular category.

As for electronics, another category practically synonymous with online shopping, the impact of COVID-19 is a little less straightforward.

Here we see that the early months of the pandemic actually had a negative impact on online demand for the category. We can also see the massive impact that Amazon Prime Day has on demand for this category. The spikes you see in July 2019, October 2020, and June 2021 all correspond with the online shopping holiday.

With that in mind, we expect to see demand in 2021 lag behind 2020 during the month of October, but November and December could be another story entirely.

Home appliances’ strong 2021 is due almost entirely to this year’s Prime Day, which made for an enormous year-over-year increase in June. Interestingly, Prime Day didn’t make much of an impact in 2020 or 2019. This could signal a general increase in willingness to make big appliance purchases online in 2021, or maybe there were simply a couple killer Prime Day deals this year.

If the former is true, then this year’s holiday shopping season may bring a big bounce for home appliances for the first time in our analysis.

Video and computer games started 2021 ahead of both 2020 and 2019, but things have slowed significantly over the summer. This is likely the result of fewer major titles being released this past summer as compared to previous years, so it will be interesting to see if some major fall releases will bring a significant rebound for this category going into the holidays.

Online demand for kitching and dining items was up big in all of 2020 compared to 2019, experiencing a big bump early in the pandemic. 2021, meanwhile, saw its trendline mirror 2019’s pre-pandemic line with a strong January and slower spring. August of this year, however, was absolutely massive for kitching and dining supplies.

Last year saw a relatively weak holiday season for this category compared to 2019, when the holidays were the biggest months of that year. So it will be interesting to see if that strong August signals a big holiday season this year or not.

As we’ve written about previously, online demand for camping and hiking gear exploded in 2020 as more and more people turned to more remote summer vacation options as a result of the pandemic.

Demand has remained consistently high this year, and even though it didn’t quite match 2020’s summertime highs, we still might see demand hit an all time high in this category this Christmas.

Finally, let’s take a quick look at the change in search volume for 2021 so far:

The Nvidia GeForce, a massively popular graphics card that released a new model late last year, has seen the largest increase in search volume in 2021 so far. The AMD Radeon, another graphics card, saw the third largest increase in search volume, meanwhile.

Clothes dryers have also had a really strong 2021 so far, with demand up 69% compared to 2020. Fridges, another big ticket appliance, have also had a strong 2021.

To paint a clearer picture of the trend we’re seeing when it comes to buying big ticket appliances online, let’s take a closer look at monthly search volume for clothes dryers:

Prior to COVID-19, we saw search volume for clothes dryers stay relatively consistent throughout the year, only to drop during the holidays as most shoppers likely went to buy these items in-person.

Last year, meanwhile, we saw that trend reverse, with demand climbing slowly and peaking in November.

And in 2021, we’ve seen demand remain consistently higher all year long. So, as we’ve returned to more in-person shopping this year, it will be interesting to see if the holiday season 2021 will look more like 2019 or 2020 when it comes to demand for major appliances.

While we don’t have time to closely examine each of the search terms above, let’s take a quick look at one of the poorer performers in 2021 so far—the instapot:

Here we see the opposite trend as we saw for clothes dryers, with 2019 being a big holiday season for the instapot, and holiday 2020 being much slower.

If anything, this shows that the instapot is simply waning in overall popularity. A theory backed up when we compare it to the latest hit small kitchen appliance, the air fryer:

Here we see consistent year-over-year growth throughout the year for air fryers, although there are some early signs that it might also be slowing somewhat this year.

A lesson for brands

Our data suggests that this year’s holiday shopping season is shaping up to be the most “online” yet.

Understanding the factors that influence consumer behavior can help brands better understand how to forecast demand for their products on online marketplaces, and even inform product design and marketing strategy.

For example, categories and items that were already popular for online purchases like toys and electronics, we expect to see that trend only continue to grow this year.

Other categories appeared to receive a major boost in online demand last year as the result of the pandemic. Shoppers appeared to be far more likely to purchase clothing and jewelry or big ticket items like major appliances online than they had in pre-pandemic years.

Either way, we’ll be keeping a close eye on these trends and more in the coming weeks and months.

To stay up to date on consumer behavior and ecommerce news, info, and trend analyses, be sure to subscribe to Pattern Insights.

And, if you’d like to learn more about how you can best leverage our data to help your brand win online, holiday or not, schedule a demo today.

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Amazon's Sponsored Product ads
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What Are Amazon’s Advertising Products? Sponsored Product, Brand, & Display Ads

What Are Amazon’s Advertising Products? Sponsored Product, Brand, & Display Ads

Utilizing Amazon sponsored ads can be a smart way for a brand to drive greater traffic to a product listing and start increasing sales. While many brands still struggle to manage their advertising strategies, 30% of Amazon brand sellers increased their advertising budgets in 2022. As ecommerce executives (or even on the nose with VPs of ecommerce?)  approve their 2023 advertising budgets, it may be worth it to take a look at Amazon’s advertising products and the benefit they may have on increasing conversions. 

​​Pattern is the premier ecommerce accelerator with all of the expertise, data-driven insights, and technology brands need to gain control on Amazon and maintain their competitive niche. We know the high value of and how to utilize Amazon’s advertising products to drive the most traffic and conversions to benefit and accelerate your brand.

Here are Amazon’s three main advertising products you should know about in order to drive listing traffic to your products and increase conversions: 

For a brand executive who is selling their product on Amazon, you may not already know the differences between campaign type, so we will walk you through the differences and uses for each of these three ad campaigns.

Sponsored Product Ads

Sponsored Products are a mid-funnel advertising strategy that gives visibility to products above the top organic listings (see example below). This strategy uses custom keywords to get products in front of the consumers who are searching for them, however it can be used to capture new audiences as well.These cost-per-click (CPC) ads require no additional copy or images, but usually receive the most interaction of the campaigns and need to be monitored closely.

As you can see, these ads look just like an organic listing, however they say, “Sponsored,” on them. These types of ads can be especially effective forms of advertising because they tend to blend in with the organic results around them. With Sponsored Products, you can get your products in front of qualified customers who are searching for your product in such a way that doesn’t make them feel like they are being served an advertisement.

Sponsored Brand Ads

Sponsored Brand Ads are a top-of-funnel brand awareness tool and function on keywords. This ad format helps show a customer what they may be in need of and where to get it.  Commonly used to promote product lines or best sellers, a Sponsored Brand ad shows up as a banner above the search results (see example below). This type of ad requires that the brand showcase at least three separate products.

Unlike other campaigns used on the Amazon platform, Sponsored Brand ads require ad copy and a unique logo. These ads also can take customers to a custom landing page, or a page on the brand store, that way they get a clear and overall picture about who your brand is, what other products you sell, and why they can trust your brand

Sponsored Display Ads

Sponsored Display ads can be a tactic for top, middle, or bottom of the advertising funnel due to its varying targeting abilities. Although most commonly found under the bullet points of a detail page, these ads can also show in emails, newsletters, and even more locations off platform.

Unlike the previous ad campaigns discussed, sponsored display ads can target shopping behaviors, like repeat purchasers, similar product purchasers, and even people who viewed the detail page but did not buy. Sponsored Display ads help customers discover your brand, drive awareness, and create loyalty. 

The example above shows just one of the many placements Sponsored Display has.

Accelerate Your Sponsored Products With Pattern 

Rather than competing with each other, each of the three sponsored ad products focus on a different section of the sales funnel, allowing you to target your customers and hit your sales numbers, all while edging out possible competitors. When brands use these advertising campaigns, they can better optimize their ad budget to improve ROAS and build revenue. 

At Pattern, we have all the resources to help your brand build successful advertising and digital marketing campaigns on Amazon so you can increase traffic and conversions, which will in turn increase your revenue

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 27th September 2022
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Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 27th September 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon drives renewable energy push with 71 new projects Amazon is planning to add 2.7 gigawatts of clean energy capacity through a couple of new projects as the company attempts to use 100% renewable energy by 2025. The ecommerce business will soon have a total of 329 renewable energy projects, generating 50,000 gigawatt hours of clean energy, which is equivalent to powering 4.6 million US homes every year. [Read more on Reuters](https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/amazon-drives-renewable-energy-push-with-71-new-projects-2022-09-21/) Amazon launches Prime Early Access Sale Amazon is launching a new 2-day shopping event for its Prime members only, beginning on the 11th of October. Across 15 countries, Prime customers will have access to the shopping event, with thousands of deals on offer globall, ranging from fashion to electronics to essentials. The event has the purpose of giving Prime users the chance to spread the cost of items over the winter months, 6 weeks ahead of Black Friday. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/26/prime-early-access-sale/) --- Other Marketplace News --- Shopify unveils new localisation tool Shopify is launching a new localisation tool, called Translate & Adapt, which works with Shopify Markets to offer localisation for sellers who are looking to expand into new markets. The tool translates a user’s online store into different languages, including product pages and information pages. Merchants are also able to create different shipping terms for each market using the new tool, which allows international expansion and offers a more localised consumer experience, unveiling new potential. [Read more on Ecommerce News](https://ecommercenews.eu/shopify-launches-new-localisation-tool/) Etsy is set to invest hundreds of millions into its marketing platform Etsy CEO claims that the company is on route to spend more than $570 million USD on marketing this year. Even during a time of macroeconomic pressure, inflation and rising interest rates, the company is preparing itself and its sellers for the upcoming holiday season and is focused on retaining interest from buyers. [Read more on Yahoo News](https://uk.news.yahoo.com/etsy-600-million-on-marketing-ceo-154054219.html) --- Other Ecommerce News --- Meta looks to cut costs by 10% in the coming months Meta employees are facing job redundancies as the company plans to cut its costs by 10% over the next few months. Meta reported a 22% YoY increase in costs and expenses, totalling over $20 billion USD. The cuts are expected to come in the form of job redundancies as a result of department reorganisations rather than formal layoffs. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/22/meta-to-slash-costs-by-10-over-coming-months/) DHL teams up with Quadient to offer smart locker deliveries in the UK DHL and tech company, Quadient, have partnered to offer smart lockers parcel pick-up throughout the UK. The new contactless, secure locker stations will give recipients more choice and flexibility to receive their parcels at a time and location best suited to them. The partnership plans to install 500 locker stations across the country by the end of 2022. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/21/dhl-partners-with-quadient-to-offer-smart-locker-delivery/) The online fashion market is set to be worth nearly $170 billion USD in 2025 The European online fashion retail market is set to grow 50% by 2025, with an online turnover of $170 billion USD, which is 33% of the retail branch’s total. Cross-border marketplaces prove to be the largest drivers of this growth, with online websites and apps like Vinted largely pushing the market’s online growth. Zalando recently became the largest cross-border fashion retailer/marketplace, responsible for 11.7% of the online market’s share. [Read more on Ecommerce News](https://ecommercenews.eu/online-fashion-market-worth-e175-billion-in-2025/)

How an Amazon SEO Agency Should Be Serving Your Brand
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How an Amazon SEO Agency Should Be Serving Your Brand

If you’re in the global ecommerce space, you are most likely aware of Amazon, and probably selling your products on the marketplace. With over $470 billion in sales in 2021 alone, Amazon stands as the third largest company in the world based on revenue. The ecommerce giant is a household name in the U.S. and working hard to grow its market share across five continents worldwide.

Having your products available on Amazon and being competitive there, though, are definitely two different things. If you want to really succeed on Amazon, you’ll need specialized insight into how Amazon works and how to make it work for you. So, for many brands, it’s a great idea to work with an Amazon Search Engine Optimization (SEO) agency.

At Pattern, Amazon SEO optimization service is one of our key competencies. We understand that technology, data-driven insights and expertise  are the most important tools brands can leverage to win top listing spots on digital marketplaces. With expert teams and years of experience, we help brands conquer the Profitability Death Spiral as they compete with other products and sellers online. We offer Amazon SEO agency services as a core solution to brands that need more resources to get ahead. 

What is an Amazon SEO Agency?

An Amazon SEO agency serves brands by improving their products’ rank and listing performance on Amazon. They make strategic decisions about ad spending and placement that lead to higher traffic, conversions, and revenue for ecommerce brands.

A great Amazon SEO Agency partner will:

Prioritize Your Success

Unfortunately, many Amazon SEO agencies profit in unfair ways from your brands’ perceived success based on the ROAS numbers they provide. This is done through including branded search terms in ROAS reports, which naturally skew listing performance

Let’s say, for instance, your brand is called “Annie’s” and you sell lollipops. Your brand has a very high likelihood of winning the top listing spots on Amazon for lollipop search terms that are paired with “Annie’s,” your brand name. So, SEO agencies will spend your ad money on those terms and report a very high ROAS. 

To avoid scenarios like these, it’s best to look for an agency that either calculates their profits on metrics other than your ROAS scores or weighs branded search terms differently in the performance metrics reports. Regardless of your Amazon SEO agency’s cost structure, you should align onbranded search terms before committing to a scope of work.

Provide Detailed Competitive Insight

A great indicator of a high-quality Amazon SEO agency is the level of insight they can provide into your competitors’ listing positioning and how it compares to yours. Data fanaticism is so important at Pattern that we’ve developed proprietary technology to display this exact information with precise detail for every brand we work with. In fact, you can find our free version here to see how you compare to some of your top competitors based on ASIN.

It’s certainly possible to improve your Amazon search performance with blind spending strategies. But a truly great solution will help you to know where your dollars are at their most powerful and competitive.

Reduce Your Ad Spend Over Time

Amazon’s A10 algorithm prioritizes customer satisfaction—it wants to show consumers the best products that align with their search intent to improve conversions and sales. So, the best way to gain momentum on Amazon is to work on incremental wins. 

Improving your performance on more obscure search terms that align with your customers’ search intent is a great way to increase ROAS for the long term. A10 will reward your success with better rankings on higher-volume search terms and the virtuous cycle can help you conquer your most-coveted listing spots. And the best part? This process of gaining momentum, if done right, will naturally decrease your ad spend over time as Amazon recognizes your value and works with you to keep your products at the top of consumers’ search results.

Amazon SEO Optimization and More

As an Amazon SEO specialist, Pattern knows how to help your brand win better success for long-term profitability on Amazon. With our data-driven tools and brilliant teams of ecommerce experts, we help brands with listing management, content optimization, Amazon ad strategies, and more.

Contact us to learn more about our SEO optimization services.