Current & Projected Online Holiday Shopping Sales Trends For 2022

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What Are We Seeing Now?
There are some notable online sales trends surfacing for bookstores in the lead up to the holiday season. The graphs below are based on reports generated from over 580 bookstores with websites hosted on the IndieCommerce and IndieLite platforms.

To get a better idea of what we are seeing in the data from these reports, it can be helpful to compare it to what we saw during the same period in 2021.

As online sales were projected to rapidly trend upwards over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a much more reserved increase in online sales this year. In the chart above, November 2022 sales between November 1–18 (blue graph) were down 38.50% compared to the same period in 2021 (orange graph). That shift in online sales this year is likely the result of increased in-store sales.

Even though we are currently seeing a drop in online sales compared to last year, when you compare 2022 sales between October 1 and November 18 (blue graph below) to pre-COVID 2019 sales for the same period (orange graph below), online sales revenue is up 147.21%.

Note: The graphs in the chart above have been adjusted so that the days of the week align for 2019 & 2022

This increase represents a huge shift in the behavior of independent bookstore customers. These additional online sales may be coming from customers who previously purchased from online retailers such as B&N or Amazon, but during the pandemic they shifted their online purchasing to support local independent booksellers.

What Are We Expecting?
The moderated sales over the past few weeks are an interesting twist on what the IndieCommerce team was projecting. We estimate two possible scenarios for online sales during the rest of the 2022 holiday shopping season:

  1. Online sales continue at the current lower rate (-38%) compared to 2021
  2. We may be observing a late start to the holiday shopping season online. If that is the case, online sales revenue numbers may get closer to what we saw in 2021, but that probably won’t occur until after Thanksgiving (if it does happen).

What Are The Big Online Shopping Days?

In the chart below, the orange graph represents daily sales revenue between October 2 and December 31, 2021. The blue graph shows sales revenue from October 1 through November 19, 2022.

Note: The graphs in the chart above have been adjusted so that the days of the week align for 2019 & 2022

Based on what we experienced last year, online sales revenue will decline this coming Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) followed by a very significant increase in revenue that will continue through Wednesday December 14, 2022. A slow decline in sales will follow due to shipping deadlines for online order delivery before Christmas.

Keep in mind that the above graphs represent total sales at 580 websites. Your store’s online sales may not be as dramatic when it comes to those peaks and valleys, but those specific peak shopping days indicated are probably going to be similar good days for your website and opportunities to market to your customers.

Consider using more frequent email marketing during this holiday season that corresponds to those key sales days. Note that customers are going to be price-sensitive this year, but are willing to pay for good values, such as books and gifts that personally resonate with your customers as well as the people who are receiving gifts from your customers.  

Here are some thoughts on popular incentives consumers engage with when shopping online:

  • Free shipping. Many stores set a minimum purchase amount (around $75+) per order, to get free shipping.
  • Sales and clearance items — not necessarily books.
  • Discount coupons. Go through your customer list and​ offer discount coupons to your best customers as a thank you for supporting your store this year.
  • Free gift with purchase — maybe gift wrapping as a free option?
  • Promote in-store pick-up of online orders. Do this on your website and in your email marketing. This will also help extend the holiday shopping season for your store.
  • Gift Cards and Digital Gift Cards. These are hugely popular with online bookstore customers. You should promote them at checkout in your physical store, in all of your marketing emails, website home page, social media, paid ads, and any other place you can think of. The beauty of online gift codes is they make great last-second and Christmas Day gifts for all of those who put off their holiday shopping until it’s too late.

Along with the seasonal increase in online orders, your website may also see an increase in fraudulent credit card transactions. We’ve prepared an article on credit card fraud that may be helpful.

From the entire IndieCommerce Team, we hope you have a wonderful, successful holiday season.