Back-To-School E-Commerce Sales Top $58.1 Billion, Fueled By Mobile Traffic

Back-To-School E-Commerce Sales Top $58.1 Billion, Fueled By Mobile Traffic

The 2018 back-to-school (BTS) season earned $58.1 billion in online sales this year, according to data from Adobe Digital Insights. Single-day sales peaked on Labor Day, which marked the first time 24-hour period online sales have ever topped $2 billion outside of the holiday season.

Desktop is still the platform of choice for most shoppers, accounting for $38.5 billion of total sales. Smartphones are a rapidly-growing channel, responsible for $14.5 billion in sales, while tablets are on the decline, with $5.1 billion.


Shoppers prefer desktops for finalizing their purchases, which leaves a small 3.37% conversion rate for e-Commerce visits. Additionally, tablets had a 2.34% conversion rate, while smartphones had a 1.24% conversion rate. A survey of 1,000 people found several reasons why smartphones fail to generate conversions:

  • The screen is too small (40%);
  • Mobile apps and web sites are hard to navigate (34%); and
  • Retailers don’t offer web sites’ full functionality on mobile (24%).

Consumers also prefer to complete larger purchases on desktop: the average basket size for the platform was $142, compared to $125 for tablets and $111 for smartphones. Desktop is more conducive to purchasing items like electronics, which may partially account for the difference.

“If I’m thinking about buying a box of pencils or even a backpack, I might be a little bit more apt to do that on a smaller device like a smartphone,” said Michael Klein, Director of Industry Strategy for Retail and Travel & Hospitality at Adobe, in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “If I really need to know the product specs and so many other elements of it, typically those types of experiences are better driven at the moment on a desktop.”

However, retailers can’t ignore the importance of smartphones as part of the shopping journey: the devices accounted for 45.7% of e-Commerce visits during the back-to-school season, and 49.3% of visits on Labor Day. Smartphones are expected to become even more relevant during the holiday season, Adobe reported.

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