Bloomreach Commerce Pulse: Traffic and Sales Soar into the New School Year
By Brian Walker
Note: Our Bloomreach Commerce Pulse monthly articles explore the most interesting Bloomreach customer data points and provide key insights for e-commerce. They reveal current trends and help businesses to fully understand the digital commerce marketplace.
As summer turns into fall, and we mark the unofficial end of the season with Labor Day, consumer attention is shifting too. Shoppers are prepping for the colder months and holiday season, and just as we’ve seen so far in 2021, online continues to grow as the primary channel for many consumers.
In August 2021 we saw continued strong growth number over August 2020, with direct to consumer retail and DTC brand sales up 24.98% year-over-year on relatively flat traffic, with a huge increase of 31.01% in average order size a key driver in higher sales volumes. Consumers are spending more. And year-to-date (YTD), both traffic (17.38%) and sales (34.20%) are also up, showing that there seems to be no slow down in consumer spending and continued adoption of digital channels. The convenience of online shopping is something that consumers have come to rely on and shopping online is now a part of their routine, especially as kids get back to school, schedules become packed, and folks begin to prepare for the holidays.
In particular, Bloomreach Commerce Pulse data for Bloomreach’s North American customers for the month of August indicates 46.09% year-to-date (YTD) sales growth — impressive growth over the pandemic acceleration of 2020. Average Order Size (AOS) has risen by 39.30% year-to-date (YTD) and 34.41% year-over-year (YoY) in August. In the context of back-to-school and holiday season shopping, this makes complete sense: for example, the North American region shows a year-over-year (YoY) spike of 72% in searches for backpacks, school backpacks, and school bags in August.
In the United Kingdom and European Union, year-over-year (YoY) for traffic (6.00%%) and sales (6.82%) were much more modest but year-to-date (YTD) there continues to be healthy progress for the region, with traffic (19.89%) and sales (27.65%) both up. We continue to believe a key reason for the differences in growth between North America and the UK and EU is the macro-economic situation and overall consumer confidence, with the US, in particular, showing strong overall economic conditions.
Continued Prep for School and Fall Festivities
Piggybacking off of back-to-school trends we saw in July, August continued the growth pattern and was dominated by school-related searches and purchases.
For general apparel, both searches and traffic were on the rise, with sales increasing 11.67% year-over-year (YoY) compared to August 2020 and 5.87% month-over-month (MoM) compared to July 2021. These increases both speak to increased demand for back-to-school, and a seasonal shift As shoppers are focusing on refreshing their wardrobes they are increasingly doing that online.
As we look at the top 20 most searched terms in August 2021 vs August 2020. In August 2021’s top five search terms included mainly apparel and back-to-school items and ‘Halloween’ came in as the seventh most searched term. Notably, in August of 2020, three out of the top five search terms were pandemic related: ‘disinfecting wipes’, ‘face mask’, and ‘Lysol’.
The North American region saw a year-over-year (YoY) spike of 72% in searches for backpacks, school backpacks, and school bags from August 2020 to August 2021. And when it comes to sales, backpacks and uniforms experienced the highest volume with year-over-year (YoY) sales of backpacks growing by about 48% and uniforms by 60%.
And although American consumers, businesses, and schools seem eager to spend on exciting purchases like clothing and accessories, they’re also investing in the appropriate tools needed to go back to school safely.
In August, there was a 67% year-over-year (YoY) spike of searches for kid’s face masks, presumably as parents gear up for everyday mask-wearing at school. Even B2B players, like back-to-school supply retailers, saw a heavy increase in sales and revenue in the past month, compared to July. This is seen most prominently in sales for safety and sanitation products: sanitizing products and stations, privacy shields, desk barriers for distancing, infrared thermometers, and kid’s face masks.
Both businesses and consumers alike seem eager to get back to a more normal autumn and are doing so with safety in mind.
Luxury Rebound — Time to Go Out in Style Again
As was the case in July, the Luxury segment saw another month of steady growth in August 2021.
As economic uncertainty from 2020 continues to fade, the luxury market has made an incredible comeback. Traffic is up 47.58% year-over-year (YoY) and sales are up 50.41% in the same timeframe. As more Americans get back to work and out into the world, they’re eager to spend their money on non-essentials (or at least search and plan for when they are ready to make the investment in luxury products).
This could also be a direct reflection of our new stage in the pandemic: events and special occasions are happening more and more. Now, we’re learning to put on safe, COVID-conscious events — just take New York Fashion Week for example — which will showcase the best of luxury in person this September. Average Order Size (AOS) was up month-over-month (MoM) by 4.70% and year-over-year (YoY) by 8.69% in August.
Consumers and fashionistas alike are looking to add to their luxury collection, and the positive growth in this sector is definitely an indication of that.
Home Improvement Isn’t Cooling Down for Fall
Similar to July, August has seen a great deal of positive movement for the Home Improvement category. While traffic may be down by -13% month-over-month (MoM) when compared to July — the category is most definitely heating up. Both sales and Average Order Size are up month-over-month and year-over-year.
Sales of Home Improvement goods increased by 1.80% month-over-month (MoM) and by a whopping 94.70% year-over-year (YoY) in August. Additionally, Average Order Size has spiked by month-over-month (12.30%), year-over-year (198.55%), and year-to-date (22.40%).
It’s possible that the items consumers were searching and saving for during the summer months have finally been purchased — and as consumers head home from vacations and time away, they’re eager to invest in their properties and get into home improvement projects before winter chills set in.
Grocery Continues Its Ongoing E-commerce Growth
The Grocery sector is continuing to see stellar growth — and riding on the massive gains it saw during the peak of the pandemic. For many, the Stay-At-Home orders meant needing to use popular grocery shopping apps, like Instacart or other store-specific services, for the first time and depending less on take-out.
The novelty of these apps and services may have worn off, but consumers are still flocking to grocery stores online to get their shopping lists taken care of. Grocery sales are up year-over-year (YoY) by +97%, on top of the already sizeable gains we saw in 2020. And while Average Order Size (AOS) has remained mainly unchanged, there’s been a jump in conversion rate — it is up by +72.78% year-over-year (YoY).
What the August Data Tells Us
Overall, August has closely resembled July in numbers, but with a few key trends:
- Search trends like household essentials, face masks, and apparel have held over from July and continue to be ranking highly. And, we’ve also seen slight upticks in the past month for North America (both including and excluding B2B), Apparel, Grocery, and Luxury segments, pushing up YTD numbers.
- B2B and General Merchandise have continued to show stagnancy, with numbers in the negatives — possibly a result of delayed ‘return-to-office’ plans by most businesses and large players announcing permanent “work from home” or “work from anywhere” policies.
- Halloween has already shown up as a top search within our August 2021 data, and consumers seem eager to start planning for the holiday already. It remains to be seen if the buzz around Halloween will also roll over into early shopping and preparation for the Holidays.
- The North American region shows the most prominent trends when it comes to back-to-school — which might be a result of consumer and cultural differences, but it’s also worth noting that the UK + EU region opened many of their schools last year, whereas the United States has seen more schools re-opening for the first time this fall instead.
If you’re interested in learning more about these data points or others like them with industry experts, register for Commerce Pulse Quarterly: Summer 2021 on September 28. Our experts will explore unique insights in digital commerce and discuss changes in consumer behavior and purchase patterns across the landscape. Don’t miss it!
If you’re looking for even more on the overarching state of digital commerce, download The State of Commerce Experience on-demand. Experts from all corners of e-commerce gathered to discuss their best tips and tricks for capitalizing on this unique time in digital commerce history and the learnings from this two-day event are essential for any e-commerce business.
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 700 global brands including Albertsons, Bosch, Puma, FC Bayern München, and Marks & Spencer, and powers over $250 billion in commerce annually. For more information, visit Bloomreach.com.