The pandemic boosted US e-commerce spending by $183 billion - equivalent to an extra holiday season

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The pandemic boosted US e-commerce spending by $183 billion - equivalent to an extra holiday season
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
  • E-commerce spending increased $183 billion over expected levels because of COVID-19.
  • The extra spending was nearly equal to the $188 billion in e-commerce for the 2020 holiday season.
  • Grocery and home improvement saw the biggest growth.
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The COVID-19 pandemic boosted online shopping by $183 billion over the last year, Adobe found in its new COVID-19 digital economy index.

The pandemic forced greater e-commerce adoption for total online spending of $844 billion between March 2020 and February 2021. The COVID-19 bump was significant - Adobe says it was nearly equivalent to the $188 billion in 2020 holiday e-commerce spending. The holiday shopping season in 2020 was itself equal to two years' growth, with an increase of 33% over 2019.

Growth has been biggest in home improvement, groceries, sporting goods, and books, Adobe told Insider in a phone call. Home improvement sales grew 60% year over year. Home Depot and Lowes, two of the biggest companies in the sector, both reported strong sales last year, which analysts have attributed to people spending more time at home, especially during the warmer months when customers took on more ambitious projects.

Online grocery orders have grown massively, with a 230% increase year over year according to Adobe. Grocery retailers have improved online ordering in the past year as more Americans than ever placed their first online grocery orders. Last spring at the beginning of the pandemic, Instacart president Nilam Ganenthiran said, "Every day is a new Black Friday for us...We are now achieving our biggest days every day."

Americans were also thinking of e-commerce giant Amazon as a grocery store, and it was dubbed America's favorite grocery store by the fourth annual Dunnhumby Retailer Preference Index for speed and perceived safety by customers.

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Consumers are more comfortable buying essentials online, with 42% growth in online spending in 2020 over 2019 as mass brick-and-mortar store closures continue. In 2020, more than 8,300 US stores closed, following 9,300 in 2019, according to Insider analysis. Research firm Coresignt predicts this trend will continue into 2021 even as online orders surge.

Based on current trends, Adobe predicts between $850 billion and $930 billion in e-commerce spending in 2021, with 2022 as the first trillion-dollar year.

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