UK Retailers Challenge Amazon for Holiday Shoppers

Which retail brands are competing with Amazon for online Christmas shopping?

Doing Christmas shopping online has become a normal part of everyday life for many UK consumers. Where once you had to brave the High Street rush, in particular on Christmas Eve for those less organised, now you can sit in the comfort of your home and dispatch gifts to friends and family directly from Amazon – which can even gift-wrap them for you.

Pioneered by the Victorians, the rise of consumerism around Christmas is nothing new. In fact, the Victorians leveraged Britain’s pedigree as a nation of manufacturers, industrialists and shopkeepers – plus the Christmas ‘spirit’ of generosity and goodwill – to commercialise the holiday season. This trend has continued ever since, with the advent of online shopping bringing it a whole new lease of life.

Imported US trends such as Black Friday have helped to further cement the popularity of online shopping in the UK, with shoppers spending an enormous £1.4 billion online over 2017’s Black Friday weekend.  As a result of the digital age, Christmas shopping stress ought to have diminished – but is this really the case? And what exactly are Britain’s consumers talking about when it comes to online seasonal shopping?

We took a detailed look at a broad sample of conversation data from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, blogs and forums, ranging from January 1, 2010 to November 24, 2017, to uncover trends around online Christmas shopping. We aimed to answer questions including:

  • How have conversation volumes around online Christmas shopping shifted?
  • What are the levels of positive and negative sentiment?
  • Which retailers are making the biggest impression – and are there any challengers?

Increased Volume and Positive Sentiment

As might be expected, the volume of posts related to online Christmas shopping has risen significantly over the last seven years, reflecting its growing popularity among ordinary consumers. 2016 saw the largest conversation volume so far.

Overall sentiment around online Christmas shopping has been consistently more positive than negative, especially in 2016 where it showed an increased positive spike. This is likely to reflect the efforts of retailers such as Amazon to offer significant improvements in product range, prices, convenience, and customer service compared to the average high street store.

A Deeper Look at Positive and Negative Conversation

However, a deeper dive into the keywords within both types of sentiment revealed some interesting trends. Although the proportion of negative sentiment is lower overall than positive, keywords such as ‘hate’ in the below word cloud suggest that when consumers are negative, they are strongly so. Other negative keywords such as ‘bank’, ‘debt’, ‘spend’, ‘poor’ and ‘expensive’ suggest that much of people’s negative sentiment comes from lack of money, and/or the expense of online shopping.  

On the positive sentiment side we see words relating to convenience of online ordering, and signs of satisfaction with the products purchased, in particular ‘gadgets’ and ‘tech’, with a range of keywords including ‘nice’, ‘perfect’, ‘quality’ and ‘novelty’.

Competition for Amazon from UK Retailers

Looking at the share of voice around online retailers from 2010 to 2017, we can see that Amazon is the clear winner, with 38 percent of the overall share of voice. This is unsurprising as the shopping behemoth has risen to huge popularity over a number of years, eclipsing many other online sellers while also making life difficult for a number of physical retailers.

But the data shows us that Amazon is not without competition in the UK; as we can see Tesco claiming a significant chunk of the share of voice, coming just behind Amazon at 36 percent. This hints at a slice of UK consumers who are satisfied with using homegrown online retailers for their Christmas shopping needs, as the additional presence of Argos and John Lewis (albeit limited with 9 percent of the share of voice) suggests.  ASOS, another online retailer of UK origin, comes in with 8 percent of the total share of voice.

Overall, the popularity of online Christmas shopping shows no sign of slowing down. Although there’s a certain level of negative sentiment around it, this is consistently outweighed by the high proportions of positive sentiment around key factors such as convenient ordering and high product quality.

These factors are what will keep consumers on board with online Christmas shopping for the long term. Amazon is still a highly popular retailer, but others are gaining consumer attention, in particular one of Britain’s most popular supermarket chains, Tesco.

Online Christmas shopping has brought new levels of speed and convenience to consumers, meaning no more stressful last minute trips to the high street. Boosted by overseas habits such as the craze for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Britain’s online festive shopping trend seems set to continue well into the future.

Want to read more about how social media analytics can help analyse holiday shopping trends, check out our Black Friday Report now!

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