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Q1 Shopping Index: The Impact of AI Becomes Undeniable

Q1 2019 was the first time in recent memory that the story of digital shopping wasn’t dominated by mobile. Read other findings in our latest Shopping Index.

When you analyze the online shopping behavior of 500 million consumers, you quickly learn one thing: the digital shopping journey is always changing.

In looking across the past nine quarters of shopper clicks, taps, and purchases, Q1 2019 was the first time in recent memory that the story of digital shopping wasn’t dominated by mobile. Sure, mobile continues to be a key driver of commerce growth and innovation, but our Q1 data tracked exciting new shopper behaviors across visit duration, artificial intelligence (AI), athletic apparel, and beyond.

For the complete findings, check out the latest Shopping Index.

Traffic stagnated and visits were shorter, but sales rose

This quarter, traffic to retailers’ ecommerce sites flatlined and visit duration dropped, yet sales surged. In contrast to the 10% traffic growth that we saw during the 2018 holiday season, traffic increased a mere 2% in Q1. 

At the same time, average visit duration declined more than 30%, from an average of 6 minutes and 30 seconds in 2014 to 4 minutes and 12 seconds today.

Given this decreasing window of time to win shopper attention, retailers needed to capitalize on every customer visit to drive growth, and that’s exactly what they did. Digital revenue grew 12% year-over-year, due to consumers spending 10% more per visit — a metric we refer to as shopper spend. In fact, increased shopper spend was the key driver for digital commerce growth in Q1.


Click to tweet: Shopper spend is up 10%.

The impact of AI became undeniable

So what was behind that increased shopper spend in Q1? Intelligent, AI-powered product recommendations from Salesforce Einstein. Our data discovered that 16% of global shoppers engaged with these product recommendations during their visits, and those who acted on the recommendations spent 26% more.

A growing number of retailers are embracing AI throughout the customer lifecycle with excellent results. For example, Einstein serves as a sales assistant for specialty retailer Stonewall Kitchen, which offers unique product recommendations based on browsing behaviors and previous purchases. Guided by Einstein, 78% of Stonewall’s shoppers who are served a recommendation add that item to their online cart, and 41% purchase the item.

Personalized product recommendations are a core component of an intelligent digital shopping experience, and many retailers are building on that success to explore AI in other areas as well, like customer service.


Click to tweet: AI is driving 26% higher AOV.

Active apparel on the cusp of becoming a premium category

We’ve all observed the dramatic growth of the “athleisure” category in our daily lives. Many retailers and brands who don’t traditionally play in the active apparel space are hoping to capitalize, and are starting their own lines of athletic casual wear.

Shopping Index data confirms the emergence of this category. Active apparel was the best-performing vertical in Q1, with sales growth up 18%, despite an overall decline in traffic. Digging deeper, we observed a steady increase in average sale price (ASP) on active apparel ecommerce sites ASP has risen almost 20% since Q1 2013.

These findings coincide with a broader trend of consumers being more willing to pay a premium for trendy, high-quality athletic clothing, like Lululemon and Nike. As the category becomes more desirable, retailers are steadily applying higher price points — and shoppers are willing to pay.


Click to tweet: Active apparel was the best-performing ecommerce vertical in Q1.

Brexit implications?

The political implications of Brexit may still be uncertain, but it’s possible that the economic consequences are already in motion across ecommerce. Commerce growth in the U.K. was flat year over year, up less than half of 1%, compared to a rise of 4% during the last holiday period. This data suggests that economic uncertainty in the U.K. may be leading to lower consumer confidence and fewer purchases.

Expanding our retail insights coverage with footwear and Spain

The Shopping Index team is constantly evolving our dataset to introduce new dimensions and expand our coverage of the retail industry. For Q1 2019, we added a new category vertical — footwear — representing the large number of global footwear brands using Salesforce to power their commerce. And footwear is off to a good start, showcasing 17% growth compared to Q1 2017.

In addition, we’re also extending our geographic insights further into Europe by covering digital commerce in Spain, which grew a very healthy 22% YoY in Q1. We’ll expand our coverage throughout the year with new metrics and geographies to bring you unparalleled insights and analysis, so stay tuned for further enhancements.

For more data-driven insights, check out the Q1 Shopping Index, which uncovers the true story of shopping by analyzing the activity of more than 500 million shoppers across the globe, with a focus on key markets: U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany, France, Australia/New Zealand, Spain, and the Nordics. This battery of benchmarks provides a deep look into the last nine quarters and the current state of digital commerce.


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