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Holidays 2020

by Rakuten Intelligence - January 06, 2021

Image credit: Image by Yvette Fang from Pixabay

The 2020 holiday shopping season was unlike any other before.

Retailers started advertising holiday deals nearly a month earlier than in previous years to encourage shoppers to spread out their holiday shopping throughout the fourth quarter. Amazon moved its annual Prime Day event to October due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Meanwhile, buyers continue to shift their purchasing online due, in part, to social distancing measures remaining in place and the fact that many people still don't feel comfortable going to crowded stores. In turn, this caused retailers to adjust their strategies to accommodate societal changes. 

Retailers and buyers weren't alone in making adjustments. The United States Postal Service (USPS) faced various hurdles with funding and operational changes, which led to retailers rethinking their shipping strategies. Meanwhile, the ongoing pandemic further complicated the logistics of running e-commerce warehouses.

Keeping with the trend of an earlier holiday season, Rakuten Intelligence also kicked off our holiday season early. This page will be updated weekly, each Tuesday, to showcase how this holiday season does (or does not) differ from last year. 

If you have any questions about our data, please contact us via our contact form.

Overall E-Commerce View

This data represents orders made between September 30, 2019 - December 29, 2019, and September 28, 2020 - January 5, 2021.

How much larger will the extended 2020 holiday shopping season be than last year?

Amazon moved Prime Day to October because of COVID-19 and forced a number of retailers to start their holiday deals in October. The 2020 holiday season is already ahead of last year. Will that be maintained? And, if so, how much larger will this year be than last year?

E-Commerce overall growth year-over-year is 47.3 percent. The top 10 retail merchants make up 65.2 percent of the market, and their growth rates are as follows: 

1. Amazon - 37.9% growth (40.4% share)

2. Walmart - 93.6% growth (5.1% share)

3. Target - 126.1% growth (3.8% share)

4. Best Buy - 72% growth (3.4% share)

5. Apple - 89.4% growth (3.2% share)

6. Instacart - 256.4% growth (2.8% share)

7. eBay - 30.3% growth (1.8% share)

8. Home Depot - 76.1% growth (1.7% share)

9. Etsy - 137.4% growth (1.6% share)

10. Costco - 77.3% growth (1.4% share)

Specific merchant groups have seen the following growth: 

1. General Merchandise - 47.6% growth (55.6% market share)

2. Apparel/Footwear - 15.3% growth (9.6% market share)

3. Consumer Electronics/Major Appliances - 70.6% growth (8.9% market share)

4. Grocery/Beverage - 216% growth (6% market share)

5. Home/Décor/Furniture - 34.1% growth (4.2% market share)

6. Department Store - (-8.3)% growth (3.9% market share)

7. Home Improvement - 84.8% growth (2.8% market share)

8. Beauty/Personal Care - 40.3% growth (2% market share)

9. Health/Fitness/Nutrition Specialty - 115.8% growth (1.1% market share)

10. Pet Specialty - 67.2% growth (1.1% market share)

These ten merchant groups make up 95.2 percent of dollars in this holiday season.

Will any of the other major merchant groups be able to compete with Amazon this year?

Amazon historically has had the highest market share in e-commerce, but pandemic buyers began turning to more retailers as Amazon's shipping times went up, and inventory went down. While they will probably still have the highest market share this holiday season, this could be an opportunity for other retailers to have their highest market shares yet.


This data represents orders made between September 30, 2019 - December 29, 2019, and September 28, 2020 - October 26, 2020, and delivered as of January 5, 2021.

Click-to-door times are down across the board from last year.

This year we have seen both some of the longest and shortest shipping times of the past 3 years, so this holiday season will be a test of what shippers have learned during the pandemic about time-efficient shipping.

The extended holiday season and a global pandemic pose a new set of hurdles for shippers and retailers: more packages can easily increase shipping times. However, with extended Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, the spike in packages that usually hits around the shopping holidays in previous years could be lessened and distributed throughout the entire shipping season. 

Amazon has historically been the leader in fast shipping, but 2020 has proven that its warehouses had difficulty keeping up with demand with increased order volumes. Their delivery services could not fulfill the same percentage of their packages. 

Will Amazon have to rely on other carriers this holiday season?

Historically Amazon's share of packages they deliver has gone down at peak shopping times. Will 2020 be any different?

Expert Predictions for Holiday 2020

"We expect the holiday buying season for 2020 to be dynamic for a number of reasons.  Baseline e-commerce activity has exploded this year, with many retailers registering triple-digit year-over-year gains.  Going into the fourth quarter, retailers will need to have a good handle on every aspect of the business from supply chain to consumer returns to maximize market share and customer satisfaction."

          - Dave Gill, Vice President of Analytic Solutions at Rakuten Advertising

“Between the pandemic and challenges with just about every delivery channel, customers are leaning more and more on local pick up of orders. The 2020 holiday shopping season will look like no other. Yet a pleasant order-for-pickup experience will delight your customers - in an otherwise unpleasant period - by saving them time and stress. The time is now to perfect the technology and operations around pickup orders.”
            - Jaron Waldman, Co-Founder + CEO of Rakuten Ready

"With Prime Day delayed to October 13th & 14th and merchants like Target & Walmart offering week-long sales – the Holiday shopping season has already begun and will end earlier. Delays in Purchasing & Manufacturing will separate winners from losers in Retail Sales more than ever. Retailers have shifted delivery networks to more regional carriers to overcome potential USPS disruptions. Amazon will achieve a new record and deliver over 60 percent of their own orders."

             - Michael Manzione, CEO of Rakuten Super Logistics

For more information or more detailed data, please contact us via our contact form.

About the data

With a panel of more than a million online shoppers, Rakuten Intelligence gives the most detailed and accurate digital commerce data available and is reported daily.

Rakuten Intelligence is the only service to measure digital commerce directly from the consumer, across all retailers, at the item level, and over time. Our retailer-independent methodology precisely measures commerce as it happens. By extracting detailed information from hundreds of millions of aggregated and anonymized e-receipts, Rakuten Intelligence can map the entire Purchase Graph, connecting each and every consumer to all their purchases.

Rakuten Intelligence gets its data from e-receipts – not a browser, app or software installed by the end-user – so its measurement reflects comprehensive shopping behavior across multiple devices, over time, which are vital in an increasingly omnichannel retail world.

For more information or more detailed data, please contact us via the contact form.