Retail Sees Record-Breaking Back-To-School Online Shopping Season

The 2018 back-to-school shopping period raked in $58.1 billion in online sales this year, according to new data from Adobe Digital Insights (ADI).

By analyzing anonymous and aggregated real-time online consumer spending data through Adobe Analytics, ADI found that the majority of online sales, from July 23 to Sept. 5, came from desktops ($38.5 billion). An impressive 25% of online sales ($14.5 billion) were spent through a smartphone device, with the remaining $5.1 billion in online purchases being made from tablets.

Back-to-school online shopping trends also showed a 3.37% conversion rate on the desktop, with an average basket size of $142. Conversely, conversion on smartphones was at about 1.24%, with an average basket size of $111. Interestingly, tablets saw a 2.34% conversion and $125 average basket size.

“There’s very strong consumer confidence and sentiment in the U.S., driven by the fact that the economy is in good shape, and we see that as a main contributor to the overall growth in online retail for back to school, but also specifically around the holidays as well,” said Costa Lasiy, an analyst at ADI.

In fact, Labor Day clocked in as the first holiday of the year–outside of the November/December holiday period–to surpass $2 billion in online sales in 2018, a trend that points to a strong online holiday performance this year.

Labor Day’s 23.4% year-over-year growth in online sales can be attributed to discounts offered in high-priced product categories, such as electronics, appliances, and home and garden.

“We are finding that more and more retailers are focusing their sales and discounts around key holidays,” said Lasiy. “As such, consumers are waiting for holidays to make big-ticket purchases. We are also seeing that smartphones are continuing to gain share of consumers’ online shopping spend, and so we are predicting that smartphones will be more relevant than ever in the upcoming holiday season.”

Even though most visits to retail sites today come from smartphones, the majority of revenue online is still spent through desktop. The reason? As part of its analysis, in May ADI also surveyed over 1,000 U.S. consumers, 40% of whom stated that their smartphone screens are too small for the checkout process. Additionally, 34% reported that mobile websites/apps are hard to navigate, and 24% said they lack the full functionality.           

As for which channels are influencing the most online spend, email emerged as a clear driver. Indeed, a third of all online purchases on Labor Day began from a message in a consumer’s inbox. Search still leads in sales attribution, with about 40% share of e-commerce spend, but that is made up of organic (19.6%) and paid (20.3%) efforts.

“Last year we saw a strong correlation between how well a retailer did on Labor Day and how well they did during the holiday season,” Lasiy said. “My advice for retailers as we head into the holidays is to consider the role of smartphones because it will be bigger than ever before and key for success. The focus should be on mastering that transition from a smartphone visit to a desktop purchase, and making it smooth. And, of course, do not forget about e-mail because it’s still one of the main drivers of online purchases.”

View the full report below, or click here to view it on SlideShare.

Up Next


IDC Analyst On How Businesses Are Adjusting To GDPR

Customer Story

Edward Jones Fully Vested In A People-First Approach

From the Blog

Dig Deeper