Salesforce Releases 2021 Holiday Shopping Report Including Interesting Key Canadian Data

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The 2021 Holiday Shopping Report, by Salesforce, a global leader in CRM, indicates consumers spent $1.14 trillion online globally and $257 billion in the U.S., compared to $1.1 trillion and $236 billion in 2020. 

Rob Garf

While Cyber Week saw muted digital growth in 2021, early November and late December surges helped retailers break new sales records. 

“Despite the lingering pandemic and countless obstacles such as supply chain logistics, low inventory, and fewer discounts, consumers flocked online to close out this holiday shopping season with a bang,” said Rob Garf, VP and GM of Retail, Salesforce.

 “As we move into a new year, retailers must push their brands to platforms such as social, gaming, messaging, and the metaverse to engage shoppers where they are discovering and buying products. They must also double down on efforts to reimagine physical stores to support continually changing digital experiences.”

Key Canadian insights from the report include:

  • Canadians shopped early this holiday season: In an effort to beat the retail rush and avoid late shipping, Canadians began holiday shopping earlier. This season, 19 per cent of Canadians began their online shopping during the first week of November, a six per cent increase year over year;
  • Cyber Week looked different in 2021: Online orders in Canada decreased by 14 per cent year over year during Cyber Week. Pre-Cyber Week online shopping also decreased by 22 per cent, and post-Cyber Week online shopping decreased by 18 per cent;
  • Shopping Carts were affected by inflation and supply constraints: Merchandise prices in Canada grew by six per cent year over year in December 2021, causing basket sizes to drop by approximately 10 per cent; and 
  • Canadians financed the holidays: From credit cards, to gift cards, to PayPal, Canadians predominantly financed their transactions over the holiday season. In fact, there was a 92 per cent increase in buy finance transactions year over year. Apple Pay followed, with a 39 per cent increase in transactions year over year.
Garage Pop-up on Queen Street West (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Garf said it was a really interesting holiday shopping period. 

“There was a new holiday calendar that emerged. In the past, decades upon decades, holiday was really focused around some tent pole moments most of which by the way were manufactured like Cyber Week in the States that was coined by the National Retail Federation as a way to really signify people going back to the office, getting high speed connectivity and because of that demand was being created,” said Garf.

“So consumers, given that, were really conditioned to wait for these big holiday peaks to get the best and biggest discounts. What we saw this holiday season is more a smoothing out of demand which started earlier in the holiday.

“Last holiday season, the headline was all about the last mile. How are you to get products to the doorsteps? This year was as much about the first mile. How are you getting products in through the ports to the inbound supply chain through the retailers’ distribution network and ultimately to the customer? And because of that, retailers started to promote, as they always have, and they stuck to their promotional calendar, and consumers really engaged and they took the bait. They saw headline after headline of increases of pricing, decreases of inventory, and they purchased earlier.

“In Canada, while it was a somewhat muted holiday season. For the first week of November we saw a 19 per cent year over year increase in digital sales and it was because consumers really started their shopping journey and clicked the buy button earlier than ever.”

Chapters Online Order Sign (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Because of supply chain issues and uncertainty around inventory and pricing, Garf said consumers were paying a six per cent higher retail price compared to the year before as well as fewer discounts.

“Retailers didn’t feel compelled that they had to promote early and often and throughout the holiday. They were really sticking to their initial promotional calendar and it worked,” said Garf.

The Salesforce global report found stores played a critical role this holiday: While consumers continued to embrace digital this holiday, physical stores proved to be key throughout the shopping season. In fact, 60 per cent of global digital sales were influenced by brick-and-mortar – from generating to fulfilling demand. The evolving role of the store – and associates – helped to break down friction across digital and physical touchpoints, it said.

“While we’ve seen a surge in the last two years in digital, largely because we’ve lived our lives in digital whether it’s shopping or entertainment, dining, meetings, education, the store doesn’t go away,” said Garf. “In fact, the store becomes more important, and the store associates who are the biggest brand ambassadors.

“Sixty per cent of digital orders over the holidays were influenced by the store – whether demand was being generated from the store because associates were on social media, or associates were fielding emails, texts or calls either at home or in the store, rather than just a service agent, or demand was being fulfilled from the store, whether that’s buying online, picking it up at store.

“The store is now the critical component of your digital business. We talk about obviously the surge in digital and we have a lot of data at Salesforce . . .  but the store becomes even more important than ever.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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  1. It’s great that “…60 per cent of global digital sales were influenced by brick-and-mortar – from generating to fulfilling demand.” Putting my LL hat on now, the LL has to make sure they capture part of this sale. In the case of instore fulfillment at a mall, the LL will want the sales recorded on site. However, this doesn’t apply too much to the Power Centres that do not collect % rent. Tough call. I see both positives and negatives with this.


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