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Online retail growth lower than average in pre-Black Friday lull

Despite showing a year-on-year growth of 12.6%, online retail sales figures in October were lower than average suggesting a pre-Black Friday lull.

According to the latest figures from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, this was lower than both the average YoY growth rate of 14.3% for the last 3 months (Aug-Oct), and the 5-year October average of 14%.

In particular, the high street’s poor performance in October would have usually suggested a boost for ecommerce sales, yet online retail spend remained more subdued than expected.

Further evidence of this lull could be seen in the average conversion rate (the percentage of site visitors that complete a purchase) for October, which stood at 4.4%.

This was higher than last October (4%) but -0.4 percentage points lower than the three-year (2013-2015) average of 4.8%. IMRG say that fewer people converting on retail websites strongly suggests a more research-led focus in the lead-up to the year’s biggest discounting event.

More positively, October’s Average Basket Value (ABV) was the highest for the month in nine years – ringing in at £94. This may indicate that shoppers were spending more per visit, suggesting that they were checking out with multiple items driven by ongoing discounting.

Justin Opie, managing director, IMRG: “October was a very average month in the context of 2017, with growth of 12.6% exactly in line with the Jan-Oct year-to-date rate. As the fall in conversion rate suggests, shoppers have been well trained to expect the best deals to be available during the Black Friday period, so we can anticipate that November will convert a degree of that early research into sales – last year, the conversion rate was 5.1% in November, while it was just 4% in October.”

Bhavesh Unadkat, principal consultant in retail customer engagement, Capgemini, added: “Black Friday and the Autumn Budget are both important factors in this, so hopefully we will see Philip Hammond outlining some form of catalyst to boost consumer confidence this November.”

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