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Adobe’s Final Holiday Tally Shows Leaps in Online Spending, Inflation

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COVID-19, inflation, supply chain challenges and stockouts didn’t deter Americans from spending big online this past holiday season.

That’s according to Adobe, the software giant, which on Wednesday released its final online shopping figures for the Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, 2021 period.

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Among the key findings:

• Consumers spent $204.5 billion from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, up 8.6 percent year-over-year.

• Apparel prices increased 16.6 percent in December, year-over-year, and 0.6 percent from November to December.

• Grocery prices rose 4.9 percent last month, year-over-year, and 0.7 percent from November to December 2021.

• During the holiday season, consumers saw more than six billion out-of-stock messages online, representing a 253 percent increase over the 2019 holiday season and a 10 percent increase over 2020.

• Electronics, appliances, computers, sporting goods, furniture and bedding all saw reduced discounting, but the discounting in apparel and toys was higher.

During the two-month stretch, there were a record 38 days when consumers spent more than $3 billion daily online, compared to 25 days in 2020.

“This holiday shopping season was the first time where big promotional moments like Cyber Monday and Black Friday took on less of the spotlight,” said Taylor Schreiner, senior director at Adobe Digital Insights. “Like we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic, e-commerce has become a ubiquitous daily activity and a flexible way for shoppers to navigate product availability and higher prices.”

Online spending during the weeks before Thanksgiving — Nov. 1 to 24 — grew 19.2 percent year-over-year, while Cyber Week — the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday — was down 1.4 percent year-over-year. The weeks from Nov. 30 to Dec. 31 grew 5.6 percent year-over-year.

For all of 2021, consumers spent a record $855 billion online, an increase of 9 percent year-over-year.

Adobe said its consumer shopper analysis covers more than one trillion visits to U.S. retail sites, 100 million stock keeping units and 18 product categories.

Among the key shopping trends, buy now, pay later saw double-digit growth this season. Revenue was up 27 percent, while orders rose 10 percent. On average, consumers are spending $224 per order using BNPL with roughly three items in the shopping cart. But Adobe also said growth in BNPL has slowed, “signaling challenges for gaining mass adoption.”

Curbside pickup of online orders has been another key shopping behavior, particularly during COVID-19 surges. For retailers offering the service, the pickup option was used on 23 percent of all online orders last holiday season. On Dec. 23, the day before Christmas Eve, usage peaked at 40 percent. On average, curbside orders amount to $91 and roughly two items in the shopping cart, according to Adobe.

Mobile shopping remains widely popular but increased modestly last holiday. Forty-three percent of online sales, or $88 billion, came via smartphones. In the 2020 holiday season, 40 percent of online sales were through mobile phones.

“Consumers still rely on desktop and laptop computers as the primary way to shop online,” Adobe reported. There were six days where more than 50 percent of sales came via smartphones: Nov. 25, Thanksgiving; Dec. 18, Super Saturday; Dec. 19; Dec. 24, Christmas Eve; Dec. 25, Christmas Day, and Dec. 26. In 2020, only Christmas Day exceeded 50 percent.

In December, online prices overall increased 3.1 percent year-over-year, and 0.8 percent month-over-month. December marked the 19th consecutive month of online inflation. Last November, online prices increased 3.5 percent.

“Inflation online is showing no signs of easing, as durable consumer demand is being met with the same, persistent supply challenges that produced over six billion out-of-stock messages online this holiday season,” said Patrick Brown, vice president of growth marketing and insights for Adobe. “As consumers contend with higher offline prices for everything from gas to rent, they are finding that e-commerce is still a less expensive option when it comes to goods like toys, electronics and even jewelry.”

In December 2021, 12 of the 18 categories tracked by Adobe saw year-over-year price increases. However, price drops were observed in electronics, office supplies, jewelry, books, toys and computers.

On a month-over-month basis, 13 of the 18 categories saw December price increases, with price drops observed in five categories: toys, pet products, home/garden, computers and flowers/related gifts.