Bloomreach Commerce Pulse: Digital Commerce Soars as Wedding Bells Ring
By Brian Walker
Note: Our Bloomreach Commerce Pulse monthly articles explore the most interesting Bloomreach Commerce Pulse results and provide key insights for e-commerce professionals and industry observers looking to benchmark and understand what is happening in the market. They reveal current trends and help businesses to fully understand the digital commerce marketplace.
Love was in the air during the month of September, as evidenced by the incredible wedding-related sales results for our Bloomreach customers.
After nearly a two year hiatus of large in-person events, the increased vaccination rate and general state of the pandemic made the return of in-person weddings possible in many corners of the world during the month of September. This was seen in our Commerce Pulse data as wedding-related sales stood out in our datasets.
The below sales numbers are all year-over-year (YoY) and are in comparison of September 2021 to September 2020:
- Wedding guest dresses were up 2,143.2%
- Wedding favors and thank you cards were up 786.46%
- Mother of the bride dresses were up 676.95%
- Save the date notices were up 562.86%
- Wedding cakes were up 441.97%
Those numbers, in addition to the huge increase in sales of tuxedo suits (309.86%) and wedding dresses (155.54%), clearly illustrate that the traditional weddings we were all so accustomed to pre-pandemic are back on in many parts of the world. Family and friends of the bride and groom were not afraid to gather together in a traditional sense during the month of September.
Interestingly we did not see the same level of large increases for engagement bands, as people were still getting engaged and married during the pandemic, but were of course not hosting large in-person events to celebrate.
This remarkable rebound for wedding-related products shows us that the days of Zoom weddings or just small in-person family gatherings may hopefully be behind us.
Digital Commerce Results Are Still Trending Positive
Bloomreach Commerce Pulse in September shows overall growth sustaining year-over-year, but we do see a tapering of that growth, likely due to the impact of supply chain disruptions affecting product availability.
Sales in North America were up 14.76% YoY in September and are now up 37.94% YTD, which is very significant when we realize this is on top of the significant growth in 2020. Average order size was up 25.89% in North America YoY while conversion rate stayed nearly flat with a slight increase of 0.41%. Elevated average order size and a stagnant conversion rate indicates that consumers are purchasing higher ticket items or are seeing fewer discounts as retailers and brands reduce sale activity in part due to the same supply chain disruptions limiting inventories.
In the United Kingdom and Europe, sales were down a modest 0.24% YoY but traffic was also up in that same timeframe (5.57%). Conversion rate was also down 14.97% YoY.
Since conversion rate and sales are down but traffic and AOS were up, we need to acknowledge that businesses are leaving sales on the table. People are searching for things they are unable to purchase right now because items are out of stock or backordered. This challenge looks like it will persist into the crucial holiday season which may impact retailers and brands ability to capitalize on healthy demand and consumer spending power.
Let’s dive deeper into interesting data points in individual industries.
Grocery Cools Off Slightly
The month-over-month numbers in the online grocery sector are very interesting as we head into the fall months.
Sales were down 7.03% when comparing September to August, and traffic was down 7.12% in that same timeframe. While sales are still growing in the online grocery sector YoY (10.75% increase) and YTD (55.42% increase), September’s month-over-month decrease points to a slight cooling off for online grocery. This is likely a result of changing consumer patterns with school-aged children going back to in-person classes and many employees now returning to in-person work and thus commuting in many locales. As a result, shoppers are out-and-about more often and are more willing to stop by their local grocery store for their items rather than shopping online. The return to school changes patterns in the lives of many.
It is interesting to see that average order size is down 5.60% YoY yet conversion rate is up 5.16% YoY. Shoppers are converting faster and at a higher rate, while on average with less items in their baskets.
One very important note to conclude with—our data does not show that inflation is having an impact on the grocery sector. If that were the case, we would likely see the opposite of what we saw in September, with higher AOS and lower conversion.
Luxury Sales Boom
If it wasn’t blatantly obvious before, it is now: the luxury sector is back.
Luxury sales were up 77.59% YoY in September. This was after a rough 2020 in which pandemic restrictions limited the number of reasons one might shop for and wear luxury items.
Now that people have important public occasions once again — including the weddings we covered above — luxury sales are responding accordingly.
Luxury sector online traffic was the big driver of these sales increases, up 52.67% YoY. This is picking up speed from the 33.14% in traffic growth we have seen YTD. That tells us that shoppers aren’t just converting more, there are more shoppers re-entering the search for luxury items online and they are finding what they are looking for.
Average order size is up 7.61% YoY and conversion rate is up 8.2% in that same timeframe, so all lights are green in the luxury segment as high-income shoppers look to splurge on goods they can now enjoy and show off.
Home Improvement Numbers Continue to Soar
Home improvement sales were up 57.32% YoY in September and are up 123.41% YTD.
One statistic that stood out in a major way in this sector—average order size was up 126.49% YoY in September. That means basket sizes have doubled and then some in comparison to September 2020.
One theory as to why? Natural disasters. September was a tough month in many parts of the world with storms, flooding, and fires causing people to prepare for the worst, deal with electricity being out, or recover from damage to homes. The need for larger ticket home improvement items such as generators would explain the massive increase in average order size compared to the 21.16% decrease in conversion rate YoY. That decrease in conversion again may be related to those important items they were looking for not being available everywhere these consumers shopped.
Regardless of the reason, the sales numbers show that the home improvement sector online is still going strong.
Apparel Numbers Stay Steady
Online apparel appears to be holding steady and on trend. Traffic was up 4.1% YoY in September while sales were up 4.86% YoY. One statistic of note for apparel is a 10.86% decrease in conversion rate YoY compared to a 14.13% increase in average order size YoY.
As was mentioned earlier, this could be inventory-related issues with apparel companies struggling with out of stock items because of supply chain troubles with much of their inventory coming from off-shore. Apparel in particular has been impacted by COVID-related factory shutdowns in Vietnam. If people are searching for items in a particular size, color, or style and cannot find them, that explains the drop in conversion rate.
B2B Experiences A Great September
It was a very strong September for Bloomreach’s B2B customers.
Sales were up 20.60% YoY in September, a number that projects strength over the annual trend for B2B. B2B sales had been struggling to show the same type of growth we had seen in other sectors, but this strong result in September now has B2B sales up 9.42% YTD.
Also of note in B2B:
- Average order size was up 24.17% YoY
- Traffic was up 1.66% YoY and is up 9.06% YTD
- Conversion rate was down 4.47% YoY
Interested in More E-Commerce Insights and Trends?
If you are interested in going deeper on these data points and other interesting ones just like them, register for Commerce Pulse Quarterly: Holiday 2021 on December 14. With my special guest Jason Goldberg, we will explore insights in digital commerce and discuss changes in consumer behavior and purchase patterns across the landscape, including a pulse on Holiday 2021. Don’t miss it!
You can also hear more insights about the top trends in commerce today by listening to my podcast, The State of Commerce Experience, which features meaningful discussions with commerce industry experts and thought leaders from around the world. Learn more about that here.
Bloomreach is the leader in Commerce Experience™ — empowering brands to deliver customer journeys so personalized, they feel like magic. Bloomreach Experience, the digital experience platform built for commerce, includes three pillars: Discovery, offering AI-driven search and merchandising; Content, offering a headless CMS; and Engagement, offering a leading CDP and marketing automation solutions. Together, these pillars form the only platform that combines the power of unified customer and product data with the speed and scale of AI-optimization, enabling measurable digital commerce experiences that drive real results. Bloomreach serves over 850 global brands including Albertsons, Bosch, Puma, FC Bayern München, and Marks & Spencer, and powers over $300 billion in commerce annually. For more information, visit Bloomreach.com.