This holiday season, from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, U.S. consumers spent $204.5 billion online, up 8.6% compared to last year. But red-letter deals took a back seat this year, as consumers started early and spread out their spending, according to numbers from Adobe Analytics.
Online spending rose 19.2% year over year during the weeks before Thanksgiving, but fell 1.4% during Cyber Week (the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday). Online spending picked up again between Nov. 30 to Dec. 31, growing 5.6%, Adobe found.
Average discounts were weaker in some categories including electronics, (8% off versus 21% off last year) and computers (10% versus 22%), while television deals were comparable. Discounts were deeper in apparel (13% off compared to 11% last year) and toys (19% from last year's 14%). Holiday e-commerce was driven by toys, video games, gift cards and books, Adobe said.
With news of the omicron variant breaking during Thanksgiving weekend, it's no surprise that many consumers would go online to get their holiday shopping done.
"This holiday shopping season was the first time where big promotional moments like Cyber Monday and Black Friday took on less of the spotlight," Taylor Schreiner, senior director of Adobe Digital Insights, said in a statement. "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."
Indeed, e-commerce, already a swiftly expanding channel, surged further in 2020 as the pandemic forced temporary store closures and kept wary consumers out of stores. Even as people returned to in-store shopping last year, the pandemic's threats and uncertainties remained at the holidays, and continue even now.
That could be, as predicted, solidifying the expectation for curbside services. Consumers chose that fulfillment option for 23% of their online orders this season, right between 2020's 24% and 2019's 22%. Adobe describes demand for curbside services as "durable," citing their value in convenience, speed and COVID-19 safety. On Dec. 23, curbside use peaked at 40%, with curbside orders amounting to $91 on average, according to Adobe's report.
The effect on the supply chain was also felt at the holidays, with retailers sending more than 6 billion out-of-stock messages to online consumers this season, a whopping 253% more than in pre-pandemic 2019 and 10% more than in 2020, Adobe said.
Fewer holiday deals may have helped boost the use of buy now, pay later options by double digits, though its growth is slowing. Revenue from BNPL payments rose 27% year over year and 475% compared to 2019, with such orders up 10% year over year and 479% compared to 2019, Adobe found.