New Post-COVID Habits Could Push Online Spending Over $1 Trillion This Year

Woman buying online with credit card and a tablet sitting in the garden at home in holiday, Online Shopping Concept.
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The COVID-19 economy was largely a digital one in the early days, with lockdown rules forcing a large swath of the population to buy everything from food and household items to clothing and electronics online. Those spending habits have become so entrenched that annual online spending in the U.S. could exceed $1 trillion for the first time this year, according to an analysis from Adobe.

See: Despite Reopenings, Online Shopping Is Growing — And More Spending Trends in 2021
Find: Taking Inventory of Online Spending: 6 Reasons To Skip Amazon

Adobe’s Digital Economy Index projected that 2021 e-commerce spending would come in between $850 billion and $930 billion — a 20% gain from the year before. Based on recent patterns, 2022 could be the first trillion-dollar year for U.S. e-commerce.

Those estimates differ from others. For example, data compiled by Statista estimates that 2021 online spending in the United States totaled $777 billion. It projects $875.2 billion in online spending in 2022, followed by slightly more than $1 trillion in 2023. Statista’s numbers were compiled in early January 2022.

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The Adobe Digital Economy Index was based on a 2021 Adobe Analytics study of more than 1 trillion visits to U.S. retail sites and over 100 million SKUs. It found that COVID-19 gave e-commerce an extra boost of $183 billion from March 2020 to February 2021, as consumers flocked online during the first year of the pandemic. Total online spending during that period was $844 billion. During the 2020 calendar year, $813 billion was spent online, up 42% from 2019.

The analysis also found that Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) spending saw a major increase during the pandemic, as did online grocery shopping and online orders for pickup or delivery. Branded shopping became less important.

Many online shopping trends are being driven by Gen Z spending habits. As GOBankingRates previously reported, GenZers are more likely to use BNPL apps – but less likely to use credit cards.

See: How Gen Z Is Reshaping Online Shopping
Find: Attitudes Toward BNPL Differ by Generation, but Use Is Similar

Meanwhile, a study from Alliance Data found that nearly 80% of Gen Z wants to manage all of their accounts in one place and digitally pay from platforms such as PayPal and Venmo.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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