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When Are People Most Likely to Buy Online?

When Are People Most Likely to Buy Online?


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Using data from our 2021 Ecommerce Stats Report, we look at traffic and buying patterns from online shoppers. We also suggest ways you can improve your conversion rate optimisation strategy.

In 2019 Mondays and Thursdays were the most popular days of the week for online shopping and the peak time of day for ecommerce occured between 8pm and 9pm.

2020 tells a different story, the pandemic changed the way we live our lives, which has had a direct impact on buying habits and online shopping behaviours. 

In 2020 Wednesdays and Thursdays were the best days for ecommerce sales and the peak hour for ecommerce was between 10am and 11am with a second peak at 8pm and 9pm. 

We can see that online consumers are purchasing earlier in the day, perhaps down to new working patterns like remote working and a change in the items that are being bought. For example online travel industry marketing statistics look very different in the space of 12 months.

Using a wealth of ecommerce data we compare 2019 buying and online shopping behaviour with 2020. We’ve been looking at how sales patterns change during the day, which days of the week are busiest online, and how sales trends look across the whole year. 


Peak Online Shopping Hours 

In 2020 there are two peak hours for online shopping 10am to 11am with a second peak at 8pm and 9pm. The evening peak is the same as 2019 but we see an initial spike in the morning.  

The peak hour each day is between 8pm and 9pm, though sales volumes build from 8am and remain at a consistent level. There is a dip between 2pm – 5pm before building into the peak hours. There is a big drop off at 10pm.  

Online sales broadly follow people’s daily patterns, with sales dipping overnight before beginning to build up from around 6am, and growing throughout the rest of the day. 

However, with more remote working in 2020 we see an opportunity to become agile with marketing campaigns targeting morning shoppers. These new online buying habits such as the new online fashion retail trends that we see also look set to continue. According to research by Deloitte there was a 26% increase in remote working and they predict home working levels will remain very high after the pandemic is over.  

Peak Hour Online Sales in 2020
2019 (below)
Peak Hour Online Sales in 2019

Best Day of The Week for Online Sales 

In 2020, SaleCycle data found Wednesday and Thursday saw the busiest retail days online for online sales with Saturday being the worst day of the week for online sales. 

Other data similar to this has often found Monday to be the busiest day of the week in 2019, but we found that Thursday was the peak day, just narrowly beating Monday into second place. The weekend is certainly the quietest time for ecommerce activity, when people have more leisure time. 

Best Day for Online Sales in 2020
2019 (below)
Best Day for Online Sales in 2019

Monthly sales patterns are heavily influenced by pay dates, with the peak days for sales coming at the beginning and end of each month, when people are more likely to have money to spend.

Our 2019 data shows that the 29th of each month was the busiest day online in terms of sales, while the 21st was the quietest. The 29th has 25% more sales than the 21st. This is largely the same in 2020 with the busiest day being the 27th around payday and the 19th being the quietest day, a week before payday.

Busiest Online Shopping Day of the Month in 2020
2019 (below)
Busiest Online Shopping Day of the Month in 2019

Busiest Retail Months 

Looking at sales trends across the calendar year, we can see the effect that big online sales events have on ecommerce sales volumes. 

January, a traditional period for post-Christmas discounting, produces the third biggest sales peak, as shoppers go bargain hunting. With stock and sales periods time limited, it can encourage people to make faster decisions to buy.

However, in 2020 there was a large spike in online sales in May, which comes after most countries announced a total or partial lockdown and restrictions due to the pandemic.

Most Popular Months To Shop Online in 2020 vs 2019

However, November and December are the biggest two months of the year by some distance in terms of sales volumes in both 2019 and 2020.

The biggest online sales events occur during this two month period. Singles’s Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday and the Christmas shopping period all combine to make these the peak months for online retail. And as we can see below, Black Friday and Cyber Monday show enormous growth from 2019 into 2020.

Black Friday Online Sales 2013 - 2020
Cyber Monday Online Sales 2013 - 2020

What Can Retailers Learn From Sales Patterns? 

For retailers, knowing the busiest times of each day, week, month, or time of year can help to improve service, performance and build an optimised basket abandonment strategy.

These are general stats across several sectors of ecommerce, and of course some business types will experience different peaks. For example, florists may have their strongest sales periods around Valentines’ Day or Mothers’ Day.

Whenever peak periods fall, there’s a lot ecommerce sites can do to adapt.


Website & Marketing Best Practice For Peak Online Shopping Times 

Knowing When to Provide Help to Customers

Our data shows that the evening is prime time for ecommerce sites, but this is also when many customer service departments are winding down or already closed until the following day. 

To avoid lost sales, it may pay to provide help at this time, and around busy periods in general, when most customers are online, and may have questions about potential purchases. 

Schuh customer service email example

Planning Stock Levels

If retailers know when most sales occur, they can plan inventory around this data, so you don’t run out of stock during key sales periods.

Testing Sites for Performance

Busier periods, especially huge sales events like Black Friday, can test websites to the limit.

Load test to ensure that your site can handle traffic spikes. Even a slightly slower site can deter shoppers through poor usability.

Timing of Marketing Campaigns and New Products

Knowing when people are more likely to be buying can inform marketing activity. For example, it’s important to time the market because this allows you to increase your ROI. For example, busy periods is a prime entry for your cross-selling and upsell strategy to feature in your basket abandonment emails, likewise when you know there will be a greater digital footfall make sure you are ready to make the most of it.

For example, it may be wise to release new products or campaigns towards the end of the month around pay day when people are more likely to buy.

Jo Malone new product email marketing example

Also, in periods that are traditionally quieter, marketing may need to work harder to drive customer interests and boost sales away from peak periods.

Know When to Plan Site Updates

Finally, if you’re redesigning a website, changing platforms, or carrying out some key updates, then knowing sales patterns can help you to do this when fewer customers will be affected.

For more on sales trends, along with a wealth of data on ecommerce, download our 2021 Ecommerce Stats Report.

Reviewed by Brad Ward
Written by Graham Charlton
— Updated on 11/05/2021

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Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is Editor in Chief at SaleCycle. He's been covering ecommerce and digital marketing for more than a decade, having previously written reports and articles for Econsultancy. ClickZ, Search Engine Watch and more.