1/02/13

Last-minute Christmas shoppers turn to Amazon

One e-retailer says using Amazon to fulfill orders enabled later deliveries.

Katie Evans , Managing Editor, International Research

It was a good holiday season for many businesses that sell on Amazon.com. The number of items sold on Amazon between Nov. 1 and Dec. 19 by companies that market their wares on the retailer’s marketplace increased 40% over last year, Amazon says.

Amazing Deals Online, an electronics retailer based in Edison, NJ, says its sales through Amazon over the holidays increased 70% over last year. Contributing to the increase was the retailer’s ability to ship orders closer to Christmas and still have them arrive on time by using Fulfillment By Amazon, or FBA, a program that enables sellers in the retailer’s marketplace to send their inventory to Amazon to pick, pack and ship packages on the seller’s behalf.

“We attribute the boost in orders to our confidence, and customer trust, in Amazon’s FBA program,” says Eli Silver, president of Amazing Deals Online. “Without FBA, our current infrastructure would not have allowed us to fulfill the orders we generated on Amazon throughout the holiday season. Our typical holiday season selling period ends on Dec. 15 due to the time needed for processing and shipping orders, but with the FBA program, we were able to extend our selling period until Dec. 21 and still have our customers receive their packages in time for Christmas.”

Over the entire holiday season, Amazon says its resellers sold enough Santa hats for Santa to wear a new hat every day for the next 137 years (more than 50,000 caps), enough smartphone and tablet screen protectors to cover the field of every NFL stadium four times over, and enough tea lights to keep a votive illuminated for more than 200 years. Amazon.com, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, says more than 2 million businesses sell through its site.

Sales on Amazon for clients of ChannelAdvisor Corp., a company that helps retailers sell online through marketplaces and comparison shopping engines, increased 38.1% for the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas compared with the same period last year, Scot Wingo, CEO of ChannelAdvisor, noted on his blog Dec. 26. Part of the increase is likely because there were two extra shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Wingo says.

Wingo also observed that Amazon’s sales ramped up later in the holiday shopping season. Sales on the marketplace for ChannelAdvisor’s clients increased 25.7% from Dec. 1 to Dec. 15 compared with the same period a year earlier and 36.1% from Dec. 16 to Dec. 22. For the five days from Thanksgiving through the Monday after, sales on Amazon increased 37.7% and sales for the month of November rose 43.7% compared to November 2011.

EBay also performed well, Wingo says, although it did not generate the same late-month sales spike. Sales for ChannelAdvisor clients on eBay were up 22.3% between Dec. 16 and Dec. 22 compared to a year earlier and 23.4% for Dec. 1 to Dec. 15. EBay sales for ChannelAdvisor clients increased 33.2% for the for the entire holiday shopping period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Sales via comparison shopping engines also were strong late in the season, with sales between Dec. 16 and Dec. 22 up 20.6% year over year, largely driven by the new Google Shopping product listing ads, Wingo says. That’s compared to 10.6% for Dec. 1 to Dec. 15. Comparison shopping engine sales growth for the entire holiday season was 15.6%, also driven by Google, he adds.  “As the holiday went on you had Google showing more Google Shopping ads and more advertisers participating,” Wingo wrote.  Google Inc. converted last fall from showing free product listings in natural search results when consumers enter shopping-related queries to paid ads, with the new program labeled Google Shopping.

The switch to paid ads meant fewer sales from unpaid organic results in Google. As a result, sales stemming from search (excluding Google Shopping ads) fell 20.4% between Dec. 16 and Dec. 22 and 18.8% for Dec. 1 to Dec. 15, largely because of cannibalization from Google Shopping, Wingo says.  Sales from search for ChannelAdvisor clients for the entire holiday season fell 15.1%.

Amazon sellers’ late-season sales growth did not describe the sales trend for all online retailers. Just-released data from e-commerce platform provider ShopVisible show shoppers hit the web for deals early on in the season. Sales for ShopVisible retailer clients in the five-day period from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) accounted for 26% of total holiday sales and were nearly double any other five-day period in the remainder of the holiday sales season through Christmas. 

After that, the first three weeks of December each accounted for between 12% to 16% of holiday sales, with a sharp falloff in transactions the last week before Christmas, ShopVisible says. The biggest online sales days for ShopVisible clients were Nov. 23 and Nov. 26, the Monday after Thanksgiving.

“People do seem to be a little fatigued with some of the really early promotions, and softer December sales indicated that retailers were too promotional to their own detriment in November,” says Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc. “The crazy promotions will probably slow down for the same time next year.”

Topics:

Amazing Deals Online, Amazon, ChannelAdvisor, comparison shopping engine, consumer electronics, e-commerce, eBay, Eli Silver, Forrester, fulfillment and delivery, Fulfillment by Amazon, Google Shopping, holiday shopping, industry statistics, last-minute shoppers, online marketplaces, Scot Wingo, ShopVisible, Sucharita Mulpuru, Top 500

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