Sales across Rakuten Advertising’s affiliate network showed a 27% growth year-on-year (YoY) between 1st – 24th December 2021, following a strong 2020 sales performance of nearly 50% growth YoY for the same period.

Do we now know for sure that online shopping is here to stay?

In order to avoid sounding like a broken record, the effects of lockdown, specifically during the Q4 lockdown in 2020, meant that shoppers keen to bag some gifts for their loved ones were wholly limited to e-commerce sites.

This fact meant that the innovation in e-commerce has sped up, and this could be the reason for this new data. Despite there being fewer restrictions in December 2021 – aside from some concern over the emergence of new Coronavirus variants – this trend continued, revealing that an ‘online first’ mindset is now embedded in UK shoppers’ brains.

Across the Rakuten Advertising UK affiliate network, apparel and accessories continued to perform well, with a 31% YoY growth in orders in 2021 (after a 60% YoY growth in 2020). This perhaps highlights an increased trust in the quality of returns and delivery services provided by fashion retailers. This performance could also be driven by the return of travel bookings, which were up a whopping 100% YoY, highlighting the eagerness of UK consumers to book vacations during the winter season. 

Customers take a more considered approach

Some interesting data also arose in the realm of consumer behaviour. Content publishers continue to be a valuable channel for retailers, as sales showed strong growth in 2021, even after a bumper year in 2020 (45% growth YoY in 2021 after 80% growth in 2020). This indicates that customer behaviour online has fundamentally changed, as more time is being spent visiting trusted publisher sites or channels to discover new brands, read recommendations and compare prices before making the final purchase.

Regarding the findings, Nick Fletcher, Senior Vice President, Northern Europe at Rakuten Advertising, commented: “E-commerce has been on the rise for years and the wholesale shift to online shopping is inevitable. The pandemic accelerated this, and brands have responded by adopting sophisticated delivery and returns processes to cater to the ‘at home’ consumer. As a result, we’re seeing the entire customer journey now happens online more and more frequently.

“This trend will continue into 2022 and brands must ensure that they’re optimising their online presence, focusing on their USPs and delivering value for customers. The competition to capture the attention of online shoppers and build customer loyalty will be fierce and those brands which smartly leverage publishers and adopt a full funnel approach for their affiliate marketing strategies will reap the benefits.”

The innovation we’re experiencing within the e-commerce industry, as well as the rise of social commerce, means that this trend is unlikely to plateau. Make sure to stay up to date with the latest news and opinion by signing up to our newsletter.