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Bigcommerce just released our inaugural interactive Ecommerce Report for Q3 2014. Representing small- and mid-size ecommerce merchants in the U.S., the data was pulled for July through September 2014 from the Bigcommerce platform, home to over 55,000 stores across a diverse range of industries. The trends we found prove that independent ecommerce businesses are coming out on top as the economy improves.

Here’s a brief summary of some of the top trends we saw in Q3 2014. Check out the full report for more on the industry health of each vertical, seasonal trends and top ecommerce cities.

Back-to-school shopping season is gaining ground

In 2014, back-to-school spending started in July and remained steady through August and into September. That is a noticeable shift from 2013, when sales didn’t trend up until August and then immediately dipped in September. On average, Q3 revenue was 25% higher in 2014 than 2013.

While the holidays still dominate ecommerce and retail sales, back-to-school is officially the second largest shopping season of the year. And like the holidays, it has stretched into three months of strong spending. While earlier start dates have prompted many parents to start shopping in July, a National Retail Federation survey found that by mid-August, 24% of families with K-12 students hadn’t even started their back-to-school shopping.

September sees biggest gains of the year

Overall, 2104 has been a strong year for ecommerce, with merchants averaging 20% more revenue per month over last year. But September was truly the high point with 30% year-over-year growth from 2013.

Heavily influenced by a late surge of back-to-school spending, many of these last-minute shoppers were also waiting for sales and coupons. Smaller online merchants are especially well positioned to take advantage of this trend, easily creating and promoting savings through digital marketing channels. Back-to-school sales are also a great opportunity to build customer loyalty going in to the competitive holiday season.

Lifestyle and home products are leading the pack

The improving economy is having a major impact on consumer behavior. Shoppers are buying big ticket items again, most notably homes and cars. They are also spending more on products that support those major investments.

The Lifestyle & Home category topped our Q3 Industry Health Index. New-home sales reached a six-year high this summer, driving demand for furniture, decor, appliances and more. The result was a 71% jump in industry-wide revenue, a 41% increase in average merchant revenue and a 6% rise in average order size.

Given the strong back-to-school season, it is no surprise that Computers & Electronics took the second spot in our Industry Health Index. The average order value for Computers & Electronics had by far the biggest year-over-year gains, up 25% in 2014. This trend indicates the growing importance of digital devices in the classroom, with parents investing in better laptops, desktops and tablets for their students.

To learn more, check out the full, interactive Ecommerce Report. In addition to seasonal growth trends and benchmarks for your industry, we feature the 10 best cities for ecommerce entrepreneurs, as well as the top cities that support independent online businesses.


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