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’23 online holiday shopping activity broke records, reaching $222B

Online shoppers who took to their computers and mobile devices over the 2023 holiday season — from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 — spent 4.9% more year-over-year (YoY), totaling about $222 billion, a result that Adobe Analytics described as “a new record for e-commerce.”

According to Adobe Analytics’ most recent report, $123.5 billion was spent online in November (up 6% YoY), boosted by a strong Cyber Week — the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday — which drove $38 billion in spending online (up 7.8% YoY).

In December, consumers spent $98.6 billion online (up 3.7% YoY), partly driven by discounts that persisted past Cyber Monday, Adobe stated.

The report offers a wide-ranging view into U.S. e-commerce by analyzing online transactions and covers more than 1 trillion visits to U.S. retail sites, 100 million stock-keeping units and 18 product categories.

Adobe Analytics, which is part of Adobe Experience Cloud, is used by more than 85% of the top 100 internet retailers in the U.S. to deliver, measure and personalize shopping experiences online.

Throughout the major e-commerce categories, discounts hit record highs during the holiday season. Electronics discounts peaked at 31% off listed price (versus 25% in 2022), toys at 28% (vs. 34%) and apparel at 24% (vs. 19%). Discounts were strong across other categories including computers at 24% (vs. 20%), televisions at 23% (vs. 17%), appliances at 18% (vs. 16%), sporting goods at 18% (vs. 10%) and furniture at 21% (vs. 8%). 

Although consumers showed a strong craving to shop online, many are giving themselves greater flexibility with their budgets. “Buy Now, Pay Later” (BPNL) usage reached an all-time high this holiday season, contributing $16.6 billion in online spending, up a significant 14% YoY and representing $2.1 billion more than the last holiday season.

November saw the largest amount recorded for this payment method ($9.2 billion, up 17.5% YoY), and Cyber Monday set a record day ($940 million, up 42.5% YoY). BNPL saw strong traction leading up to the holiday season as well: Year-to-date (Jan. 1 to Dec. 31), the payment method drove $75 billion in online spend, up 14.3% YoY and $9.4 billion more than 2022.  

“In an uncertain demand environment, retailers leaned on discounting and flexible payment methods to entice shoppers this holiday season,” said Vivek Pandya, lead analyst at Adobe Digital Insights. “The strategy was effective, driving record spend online during big days like Cyber Monday and Black Friday, and a record 11 days that surpassed $4 billion in daily spend this season.” 

E-commerce growth seen in electronics, apparel, furniture, groceries and toys
Of the $222.1 billion spent online, more than half (65%) was determined by five categories including electronics ($50.8 billion), apparel ($41.5 billion), furniture ($27.3 billion), groceries ($19.1 billion) and toys ($7.7 billion). These categories have become key drivers in the digital economy. 

In electronics, top sellers included TVs, smart speakers, tablets, Bluetooth headphones and smartwatches.

Apparel saw high sales in pajamas, sneakers and cold weather clothing (fleeces, sweatshirts, base layers). Barstools, throw pillows and Christmas décor were popular in the furniture and home category. The top toys this season included Barbie products, Disney Little People, Uno Show No Mercy, KidKraft Playsets and Squishmallows.

With regard to video games, Super Mario Bros. Wonder, Spider-Man 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III were hot sellers. The Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X were top gaming consoles. Other hot sellers this holiday season included skin care serums and moisturizers, as well as cordless and robot vacuums and small kitchen appliances (coffee makers, air fryers, instant pots).

Mobile shopping surpassed desktop shopping
Mobile shopping hit a new milestone with 51.1% of online sales coming through smartphones (up from 47% in 2022). Mobile shopping was highest on Christmas Day (Dec. 25) driving 63% of online sales (61% in 2022). As consumers spent time with friends and family, many used their smartphones to take advantage of final deals or to redeem gift cards. Strong mobile growth in recent years has made this a key channel for retailers moving forward. 

Curbside pickup remains prevalent
The fulfillment method was used in 18.4% of online orders for retailers that offer the service (21% in 2022). Now with roughly one in every five orders online utilizing curbside pickup, consumers have shown that this method continues to provide value, especially for shoppers who value the “speed and convenience.” This season, curbside pickup peaked from Dec. 22 to Dec. 23 (right before Christmas Eve), driving 36.8% of online orders as anxious shoppers used the service to make sure they got gifts on time. 

Retailers’ marketing investments
Across major marketing channels, paid search remained the biggest driver of sales for retailers this holiday season (29.4% of online sales attributable to that channel). Direct web visits (19.3%), affiliates/partners (16.6%), organic search (15.9%) and email (15.3%) were also major contributors. Revenue directly attributed to social media remained at less than 5% of total sales this season, but that share has grown 5% YoY. 

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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