Mondays and Thursdays are the most popular days of the week for online shopping, while the peak hour for ecommerce occurs between 8pm and 9pm.
Using a wealth of ecommerce data from 2019, 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.
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.
The peak hour each day is between 8pm and 9pm, though sales volumes are consistently high from 3pm, only beginning to drop off after 10pm.
Other data similar to this has often found Monday to be the busiest day of the week, 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.
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 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.
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, November and December are the biggest two months of the year by some distance in terms of sales volumes.
The biggest online sales events occur during this two month period. Singles’s Day (11.11) (worth $38.4bn in 2019), Black Friday ($7.4bn) and the Christmas shopping period all combine to make these the peak months for online retail.
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’ or Mothers’ Day.
Whenever peak periods fall, there’s a lot ecommerce sites can do to adapt.
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.
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.
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 2020 Ecommerce Stats Report.
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.