Oodles Of Sales -- Online Revenue Hits $204B During 2021 Holiday Season: Adobe

Email marketers working at ecommerce brands need not worry about their jobs for now. Consumers spent $204.5 billion online during the recent holiday season — representing 8.6% growth YoY, according to figures released on Wednesday by Adobe.  

This is despite the fact that consumers saw over 6 billion out-of-stock messages online — a 253% increase over the pre-pandemic 2019 season, and a 10% hike YoY.  

Moreover, with people now shopping well before Cyber Weekend, 38 days surpassed $3 billion in daily spend, up from 25 days in 2020 — a new record. Cyber Weekend sales — purchases made from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday — dropped by 1.4%.  

“This holiday shopping season was the first time where big promotional moments like Cyber Monday and Black Friday took on less of the spotlight,” says Taylor Schreiner, senior director, Adobe Digital Insights.



If there is a threat, it is inflation. Online prices jumped by 3.1% YoY, Adobe says in a separate report released Wednesday. December marked the 19th consecutive month of online inflation, Adobe says.  

“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,” says Patrick Brown, vice president of growth marketing and insights, Adobe.

Still, inflation may actually be helping online sales: consumers coping with higher offline prices for everything from gas to rent are finding that “e-commerce is still a less expensive option when it comes to goods like toys, electronics and even jewelry,” Brown adds. 

Looking at sales, online purchasing grew by 19.2% in the weeks from November 1 to November 24, and by 5.6% from November 30 to December 31 YoY.  

Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) revenue rose by 17% and orders grew by 10% YoY, although sales growth has slowed from the 475% indexed to 2019 and the 479% increase in orders.  Consumers are spending an average of $224 per order with BNPL, with three items in the shopping cart.   

Meanwhile, curbside pickup was utilized for 23% of all online orders, although there was a lack of growth compared with 24% in 2020 and 22% in 2019. Christmas Eve peaked at 40%. The average curbside order is $91, with two items in the shopping cart. 

Of all online sales during the season, 43% came via smartphones — $88 billion overall. But that is only a small increase over the 40% recorded in 2020: desktops and laptops still dominate. But there were six days where 50% of sales came via smartphones. 

The big category winners were: 

Toys — 5.4x more online sales compared to pre-season levels last September 

Video games — 4.5x

Gift cards — 3.6x 

Books — 3.0x 

Groceries — 2.7x  (driven by holiday meals)

Jewelry — 2.2x 

Electronics — 2.2x 

Baby/toddler products — 2.1x

Appliances — 2x 

As email copywriters must well know, discounts were weaker this year across the board. For instance, they averaged -8% in the electronics sector, down from -22% in 2020. Computers came in at -10% (compared to -22% in 2020).  

The appliances category saw -4% discounts (versus -14%),  Sporting Goods -6% (versus -14%),  furniture/bedding at -2% (vs -4%). 

In contrast, apparel discounts rose to 13%, compared to 11% in the 2020 season, and toys (-19% vs. -14%). TV discounts held steady at 14% from year to year.  

In terms of inflation, 12 of 18 categories saw price increases, with apparel rising faster than the others. But decreases were seen in the  electronics, office supplies, jewelry, books, toys and computer categories. 


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