U.S. consumers have shelled out an extra $183 billion online—equivalent to an entire holiday shopping season—during the Covid-19 pandemic so far.
That’s according to Adobe’s Digital Economy Index, which found ecommerce sales hit $844 billion from March 2020 to February 2021. “That’s roughly the size of the entire Dutch economy right there, just in online commerce,” said Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights.
In 2020, the total figure was $813 billion, which is an increase of 42% over 2019.
‘We’ve hit the fast-forward button‘
In the first two months of 2021, consumers have spent $121 billion online, marking 34% year over year (YOY) growth.
“These are changes that we don’t expect to see go away,” Schreiner said. “We’ve hit the fast-forward button and we’re going back to play and not rewind.”
As a result, Adobe expects ecommerce spend to land somewhere between $850 to $930 billion in 2021—and it projects 2022 will be the first-ever trillion-dollar year in U.S. ecommerce.
“What this year is going to be like is a little more ambiguous,” Schreiner said. “That will depend a lot on vaccine rollout and how people respond. We’re definitely talking about roughly a $900 billion year, give or take.”
Meanwhile, consumers are increasingly gravitating toward more buy now, pay later (BNPL) payment options. In the first two months of 2021 alone, Adobe has seen 215% YOY growth as retailers offer the option more frequently and consumers deal with financial uncertainty.
“[As] people are making decisions about making larger purchases, they’re seeing this as a very clear and useful solution to their challenges,” he said. “And they’re making more and more use of it, so expect to see more of that in checkout lines going forward.”
The digital economy is forever changed to one that is representative of how real people shop for real things in the real world
-Taylor Schreiner, Adobe
In addition, digital baskets are looking quite different than they were a year ago, featuring “more staples … more goods that you’d normally associate with the offline economy outside of gas and rent in there,” he added.
Not surprisingly, online sales for home improvement products were up 60% YOY in January and February while apparel sales grew 22%, lagging other major categories.
But as we return to normal, Schreiner expects to see an increased shift in spending from consumers’ home improvement projects to travel and entertainment activities.