December Sales Data Demonstrates Online First Mentality

December sales demonstrate an ‘online first’ mentality is now the norm for UK consumers

  • Strong Pre-Christmas orders in 2020 continue into 2021, with a 27% increase in orders year-on-year across Rakuten Advertising’s UK affiliate network
  • Sales via content publishers grow indicating a shift in consumer shopping behaviour
  • Travel makes a comeback following a year of further restrictions

LONDON, 18 January 2022 – Data from Rakuten Advertising has revealed that pandemic-related UK online shopping behaviours established in 2020 have become cemented in 2021. Sales across Rakuten Advertising’s affiliate network showed a 26% growth year-on-year (YoY) between 1st – 24th December 2021, following a strong 2020 sales performance of nearly 50% growth YoY for the same period. Data from 25th – 31st December also reflects this trend; 2021 results show continued momentum from 2020 (62% growth YoY in 2020 followed by 26% growth YoY in 2021).

Online shopping is here to stay

The effects of lockdown during Q4 in 2020 meant that shoppers keen to buy gifts for loved ones – and snag a bargain for themselves – were wholly limited to ecommerce sites. However, even with fewer restrictions in December 2021 – though with some concern over the emergence of new Covid 19 variants – this trend continued, revealing that an ‘online first’ mindset is now embedded for UK shoppers.

Across the Rakuten Advertising UK affiliate network, apparel and accessories continued to perform well, with a 31% YoY growth in orders in 2021 (after a 60% YoY growth in 2020). This perhaps highlights an increased trust in the quality of returns and delivery services provided by fashion retailers. This performance could also be driven by the return of travel bookings, which were up a whopping 100% YoY, highlighting the eagerness of UK consumers to book vacations during the winter season.

Customers take a more considered approach

Content publishers continue to be a valuable channel for retailers, as sales showed strong growth in 2021, even after a bumper year in 2020 (45% growth YoY in 2021 after 80% growth in 2020). This indicates that customer behaviour online has fundamentally changed, as more time is being spent visiting trusted publisher sites or channels to discover new brands, read recommendations and compare prices before making the final purchase.

Regarding the findings, Nick Fletcher, Senior Vice President, Northern Europe at Rakuten Advertising, commented: “Ecommerce has been on the rise for years and the wholesale shift to online shopping is inevitable. The pandemic accelerated this, and brands have responded by adopting sophisticated delivery and returns processes to cater to the ‘at home’ consumer. As a result, we’re seeing the entire customer journey now happens online more and more frequently.

“This trend will continue into 2022 and brands must ensure that they’re optimising their online presence, focusing on their USPs and delivering value for customers. The competition to capture the attention of online shoppers and build customer loyalty will be fierce and those brands which smartly leverage publishers and adopt a full funnel approach for their affiliate marketing strategies will reap the benefits.”