Rachel Lund, Head of Retail Insight and Analytics, British Retail Consortium: “December set a record for online activity with nearly 63 billion pages, up two per cent on a year earlier, so it’s no surprise that online took its highest share of Christmas spend ever.

It’s a well-worn observation that online is consistently outpacing store growth and we expect to see that continue for years to come. However, Christmas presents some interesting challenges for e-retail. The constraint of delivery means that as the day itself approaches, shoppers prefer to spend in stores rather than via the web. Consistent with this we can see browsing activity slowed as the 25th got nearer as total sales picked up. It’s the same pattern we saw last year, but as retailers evolve their online delivery strategies in the future we could see this trend change.

Browsing activity picked up again in the final week of the month and was considerably higher than last year. This was at least in part due to Boxing day which fell on the most popular shopping day of the week, Monday, and served up weather that encouraged people to stay indoors browsing the sales, but may also suggest a wider shift towards combining shopping with other family activities on the day after Christmas.  

“Overall, it was a solid end to a challenging year for retail; a year which was carried by growth in online sales. This only serves to highlight the importance for retailers of continued investment in their digital platforms”

Christian Marsden, General Manager, Hitwise: 

“December was a solid month for online shopping, seeing a 3% increase in total visits to the industry compared to the same period last year. The clear winners were Healthy & Beauty and House & Garden, which grew by 12% and 9% respectively over this period.

“Whilst total visits to the industry was slightly lower in the first three weeks of the month, a revival was seen on Boxing Day with 197 million visits to retail websites, a 45% increase from the previous year. With this in mind, the key theme for 2016’s festive season was that promotions started earlier, well before Black Friday from several leading retailers, and lasted longer throughout December. For the first time for the industry as a whole, visits on mobile had also overtaken desktop at a ratio of 52% to 48% in December, with categories like Healthy & Beauty and Apparel leading the way.    

“Entering 2017, the agility and personalisation of retailers’ digital marketing efforts will be tested. Retailers will need to deeply understand and connect with their audiences more than their competitors do, in order to capture the consumer’s attention amidst the increasingly sophisticated and saturated multi-channel market.”